Caring For Your Roadtrek in Dec 2020 - RVLives.Com

Your Roadtrek requires two plans of care. Caring for your Sprinter is a completely separate maintenance schedule from your Coach. Think of them as two completely different animals and that will set you well on the path on how to properly care for your RV.

Sprinter Model Codes

The 2015 Sprinter I have is what’s called a NCV3 model. The generations of models are summarized below:

CODE NAMEGENERATIONYEARS
T1NFirst Generation1995 – 2006
NCV3Second Generation2006 – 2018
VC30Third Generation2018 – Present

Before we dive into caring for a Sprinter, we should identify which one you have.

Which Sprinter Do I Have?

When looking at a Sprinter based RV, there are 2 manufacturers involved, Mercedes-Benz and your RV builder.

This is an important point to note, as when it comes to RV’s, manufacturers order a Sprinter, then queue them up to upfit them into an RV.

So let’s an RV builder gets 100 year 2006 T1N Sprinters delivered to the RV manufacturer. By the time they finish your RV in 2007, the RV manufacturer usually would list it for sale as a 2007 RV manufacturer model.

Most people would assume they have a 2007 RV and a 2007 NCV3 Sprinter. When in actuality, they have a 2007 RV but a 2006 T1N Sprinter.

Sprinter VIN Decoder

The most precise way to tell which model year Sprinter you have is to look at the VIN.

There’s all sort of codes behind each position in the VIN, but there’s really only one you need to know to determine the model year.

If you believe you have a 2010 model year or newer Sprinter …

The easiest way to tell the correct year of your Sprinter chassis is to count back 8 digitson the dash VIN

Sprinter VIN Decoder For 2010 Or Later

8Th Digit Of VINYEAR
A2010
B2011
C2012
D2013
E2014
F2015
G2016
H2017
I2018
J2019
K2020

My Sprinter has the Vin: WDAPF4CD3Fxxxxxxx, so using the Decoder above, that means it is a 2015 model year Sprinter.

Is Getting An Older Generation Sprinter Based RV Bad?

Not necessarily. These Sprinters are what’s considered Fleet-grade Vehicles. Car’s that we drive are considered consumer-grade vehicles. That’s a big difference to consider.

Putting new technology aside like crash avoidance, blind spot monitoring, rear camera, etc, and just look at the Sprinter chassis and shell as a vessel for your RV, the real concerns mean less and less.

Durability

I’ve only owned one Sprinter that was used to build my RV, and that is an NCV3. So I don’t have any other personal experiences with the 1st or 3rd gen Sprinters.

But what I have heard, the 1st Gen T1N’s are known for being indestructible. Old ones with 300,000, 400,000 or 500,00+ miles on them are sought after by tiny home builders or those living the #VanLife. They’re cheap to buy, maintain, and just plain work.

In fact I have a buddy that flew from Oregon to Florida to pick up a T1N with 350,000 miles on it. It was a work van and it showed it’s age. But he didn’t care, mechanically it was sound. He was going to cover up the interior sheet metal anyways to build his family a day-tripping, kid sporting event, RV that had a bathroom and several rows of seats and a place to hold all their gear.

NCV3’s have a reputation for being just as robust and indestructible capable of insanely high miles.

Most consumers avoid cars with 100,000 miles on them. In the 80’s or earlier, that may have been a good thing to believe. But the 90’s and later, cars have gotten much better at longevity. The gas engine and transmission though are weak spots.

When it comes to Sprinters, these are not consumer-grade vehicles. They are Fleet-grade vehicles. Think of buses, they are used everyday, run 10+ hours a day, everyday for 365 days a year. They put hundreds of thousands of miles on these vehicles doing the worst kind of driving you could do, start-stop-start-idle-etc.

Same goes for Sprinters. FedEx, UPS, and many service workers like plumbers, etc use Sprinters

High Mileage Sprinters

One thing I’ve learned after owning this Sprinter based RV for 5 years and nearly 100,000 miles is that Mercedes-Benz knows how to maintain their vehicles. If you follow their ASSYST maintenance system and let a Mercedes/Sprinter dealer or qualified mechanic perform the maintenance, these vehicles will last a long time.

The secret here is proper maintenance.

If I were looking at 2 Sprinters, one 5 years old with 100,000 miles but they followed Sprinter maintenance, or a 5 year old one with 10,000 miles. According to NADA, they don’t consider mileage when specifying a value on a diesel-based Sprinter. Wow! Check it out for yourself with the button below.

When you get to that page, you’ll see this in the middle:

NADA Does Not Value Sprinters Based On Mileage!

If I had never owned one, I’d probably think this was an oversight.

If this were a car, the 100k car would have a huge discount in the valuation. Conversely, the 10k car would have a huge credit in the valuation. But that’s not even a consideration in a Sprinter based RV.

Personally, as long as a previous owner had obviously maintained their Sprinter, I’d have no problem buying one with 100k, 200k or even 300k miles. Of course, knowing the average consumers negative sentiment on any vehicle having over 100k miles, I’d try to get a discount for that mileage. But according to the experts at NADA, that isn’t justified.

High Mileage Roadtrek

Now let’s talk about the same 2 RV’s mentioned above, both 5 years old but one with 100k miles and the other with 10k miles.

When it comes to the RV portion, or what some call the Coach, mileage on the Sprinter doesn’t directly correlate to how much wear and tear the Coach has received. Let me repeat that,

mileage on the Sprinter does not directly correlate to how much the Coach has been used

For example, the 100k mile RV definitely has been driven alot. But that doesn’t mean the coach has been used alot. Perhaps they used it as a convenience vehicle and didn’t really sleep/shower/eat in it? If they were driving that much, how much time did they actually spend using the bathroom, kitchen, bed?

Now look at the 10k mile RV, that’s just 2.5k miles/yr. Highly desirable to a lot of newbie RV’ers out there. What’s hidden in that low mileage could be deceiving. Consider the comparison below:

ASSUMPTION BASED ON MILES10K Mile RV (over 5 years)100K Mile RV (over 5 years)
Sprinter ConditionIt’s like new! Yes, but only if it was properly maintained during that time? It sat months on end, did they trickle charge the starter battery? Maintained brake, antifreeze, and other fluid flush schedules? Put the RV on jackstands to relieve pressure and wear on the tires?It’s been abused. That may be true. What really matters though is if it was maintained properly. If yes, it shouldn’t be any worse than a 10k Sprinter.
Coach ConditionIt’s like new! Maybe, maybe not. A lot of people will full-time in their RV’s. They buy, park it in a spot, and live in it. There could be a lot of wear and tear in that RV.It’s been abused. Maybe, maybe not. If they drove that much, how much time did they actually spend using the Coach? They probably sat in that drivers seat a lot more than they did the rest of the Coach.

As you can see, mileage tells one story on a Sprinter based RV, but it’s only half the story.

How Can I Tell If A Used RV Is Good Then, If I Shouldn’t Use Mileage?

Service records are nice to have, but don’t trust them as gospel. They can be faked. And they only tell you the history of care for the Sprinter.

Considering the Coach, there should also be service records done at an RV repair center. But again, it’s nice to have, but they have little meaning to me.

The only reliable method to finding out the condition of the Sprinter and the Coach is to take it to an independent, third-party, repair center for an evaluation. Most likely, you should:

  • Sprinter: Take it to a Truck repair shop knowledgeable in Sprinters. Have them do a PPI, pre-purchase inspection on it. They can tell what’s currently wrong with it and give you their opinion how well it was maintained. Shocks, springs, brakes, frame, those should be checked thoroughly.
  • Coach: Take it to an RV Repair center, knowledgeable in your kind of RV. Have them check out the house systems from front to back, much like buying a home and having a house inspector do an inspection. They need to check the refrigerator, microwave, hot water heater, check the roof for leaks, check the AC, etc, etc, etc. You’re buying a house on wheels, treat the inspection like one.

How Can I Identify A Well-Maintained RV?

I usually look for little things. When a seller says they’re “meticulous” or have “all the records”, did they really fix everything and be maniacal in keeping this RV in tip top shape? I want a vehicle that I can jump in tomorrow and drive 3,000 miles across the country.

For the average person without alot of tools or expertise, there are a lot of signs to check for a well maintained Sprinter and Coach. For example:

Sprinter

  • Duct Tape: any duct tape anywhere? Or electrical tape in spots where there shouldn’t be any?
  • Paint Chips: are there any on the bumper or hood? A meticulously maintained Sprinter would be touched-up. It’s cheap and easy to do.
  • Paint Condition: is it shiny and smooth? RV’s are a pain in the butt to wash and wax or to find a place that can do it that won’t damage the roof-top AC, solar panels, TV antenna, etc. If it ain’t shiny, I wouldn’t trust they were meticulous.
  • Tires: I don’t care how much tread is on them or how shiny black they are. The first thing to look at is the date code on the tires. RV tires are not like car tires, these are truck tires that carry 2x – 5x more load than a typical car. Tire manufacturers have age recommendations for each model of tire, look that up. A meticulous owner would replace tires based on age first, cracks in sidewall, then tread depth. This is that danger zone of buying that 5 year old RV with 10k miles on it, the tires may look great with lots of tread but may be expired and could be a real danger to you and any occupants.
  • Rust Underneath: There’s a lot of RV components under the Sprinter. Did they take care when driving in salty winter weather? If the Sprinter components like springs and shocks are showing rust, your other RV stuff may be compromised as well.
  • Start The Engine: You may think this is ridiculous to put here. But so many RV’s sit, and sit, and sit. The starter batteries get drained and oftentimes get permanently damaged. Make sure it can start and doesn’t require a jump start. I assume, if it needs a jump to start, the battery is fried and I’ll have to replace it.
  • Windshield Wipers: Do they clean the windows properly when you wet them? These are often overlooked and never replaced. Sometimes you’ll even see the rubber strip falling off.
  • Tire Pressure: Check all the tires and see if they are in range of the recommended pressure. Why? An RV owner that isn’t watching their tire pressure like a hawk, may not be as meticulous as you think.
  • Keys: Most keys are made of plastic components or rubber ones. Do the keys still look good and function well? A meticulous owner wouldn’t have dirty, janky, nasty keys. Are there 2 of them?
  • 2 Keys: Most Sprinter based RV’s are given 2 keys. Make sure they have both of them. If they don’t, why not? Is one of them janky so you don’t want me to see it? Also, these keys are EXPENSIVE! You want 2 keys!

RV

  • Cabinet Latches: tug on them when they’re supposed to be locked. Do they open with ease? A properly maintained coach would have solid locking latches so they don’t go flying open when you drive.
  • Cabinet Hinges: For those that open vertically, do they stay open? A properly maintained Coach would have these adjusted to stay open. They always change due to temperature in hot or cold and humidity, so these are constantly being adjusted. Did they do that?
  • Smell: do a smell test. It’s often an indicator of how much usage the Coach got.
  • Water: Turn on the water pump, let it pressurize, and see if any faucets are leaking. If there are any, wouldn’t a meticulous seller have fixed that?
  • Electrical: Disconnect from shore power. Turn on the Battery Disconnect and turn on as many 12 volt items in the coach you can. See if it can sustain that load. Same goes for AC, turn on the inverter and use each of the AC items such as the AC, microwave, etc. You may have to check with the Owners Manual if it was designed to run the AC off of battery power. This is a quick self-test to see if the Coach batteries are still good.
  • Lights: do they all work? A meticulous owner would keep on top of the lights.
  • Damage: Any damage on the cabinets, countertops, broken switches, etc? If there is damage, was it repaired? That’s a sign of someone at least making an attempt to stay on top of repairs.

Documentation

  • Title: Do they have the vehicle title you can see? To me, this is a better sign of an owner that takes care of paperwork than one that has a file full of repair records.
  • Owners Manual: Do they have one for you to look at? They may be old pro’s with their RV, but you’re not. You need an Owner’s Manual from them. If you’re looking at a custom van or a self-built van, that’s no excuse not to have an Owners Manual. They will probably know how it was built, and how to get the heater working again when it’s 3 am and it dies in Michigan in December. But you won’t, and I bet you won’t be able to contact them for help at that time either.
  • Modifications: RV owners love to modify their RV’s. That’s all fine and dandy, but did they update the Owners Manual so you know what doesn’t work any more from that manual. And more importantly, the modifications they did, if it breaks, what to check and how to fix it.
  • Next Service: When is the next service due? What type is it and what’s it going to cost me? They should know this, just ask and see what they say. If they shrug their shoulders, and don’t have an answer, maybe they’re not on top of their meticulous maintenance schedule as they’d like you to believe.

Summary

In summary, the best way to care for your RV is to think of maintaining your Sprinter completely separate from maintaining your Coach.

We talked a lot of stuff here as if you were shopping to buy an RV. The point of that is if you think about what it’ll take to sell your RV, you’ll be well-prepared when the time comes to sell it. So understanding what to look for when buying one, is a good guide on what you should do now to maintain and care for an RV.

It’s All In The Little Things

There are big things and little things that need to be taken into any owners care schedule.

When you don’t fix the little things as they come up, they often get overwhelming and owners often just ignore them. That’s the tell-tale sign that they may have all these repair records from the dealership, but they neglected the little things, and probably didn’t really care for the RV as well as you think they did.

I recommend:

  • Sprinter: Follow the Mercedes-Benz maintenance schedule like a hawk.
  • RV: Repair all the little things as they come up. Don’t wait.

Buying A Used RV

If you’re looking to buy a used RV, the only real way to get a definitive answer if the one you’re considering buying is a “good one” or not cannot be based on mileage. I don’t care if it has 10k miles or 100k miles, always, always, always take it to a Sprinter repair shop and an RV repair shop and have them do a pre-purchase inspection.

Think of it this way, would you ever buy a house based on your own opinion? Would a bank loan you money based on your opinion the house is a “good one”. No way.

Always bring independent parties into your decision making process. They aren’t emotionally attached to the deal and will give you an honest, unbiased opinion.

Hope that was helpful! Happy trails.


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