2007 Dodge Sprinter 3L Diesel – Hard Starting Issue
Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert here from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. 21 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. These are online polls that customers, some of the magazines and newspapers in Vancouver create every year and Pawlik has won 21 times Best Auto Repair. They're not involved in it. They're just getting voted for by their customers. How're you doing this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well, doing very well.
Mark: So a 2007 Dodge Sprinter 3 litre diesel. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: So this vehicle came to our shop, the owner had a couple of concerns. There was a suspension clunk but her primary concern was the vehicle is hard to start sometimes. The weather's been getting a little colder in Vancouver and there's been a couple of times where she had to crank the engine over, it wouldn't start and then back a little later and it started up. So that was the primary concern of the vehicle.
Mark: So what, where do you start to test for that? What did you find?
Bernie: Yeah, well for starting of course, is just to actually try the vehicle. So we left the vehicle overnight and tried it the next morning and I actually looked at it myself just briefly and cranking it over I could hear that the engine was a little laboured and I noticed a glow plug light on the dash stayed on for a very excessively long time which is kind of unusual in these vehicles. It's usually a few seconds and then it shuts off. So ok there's something going on there. You could just tell by the way it was cranking over that the battery may have been a bit weak or the glow plugs were bad or something of that nature. So I mean that's the first step is just to verify the clients concern. It did actually start for us. Ran a little rough for a bit and then picked up and smoothed out. So the next step is to hook up a diagnostic scan tool. We have a really good one for European vehicles, and just do a full vehicle system scan and from that we've got a nice report and a lot of really good information which I will actually share right now.
So this is just the engine module. There's a screen capture of what our scan tool prints out for the engine module. These are a list of stored codes. You can see, a lot of this stuff will look like gibberish, but I'll go through it step by step. So again, some codes stored, current and stored MIL means the check engine light is on. Interestingly enough and I have to verify that because we're still in process of looking at this vehicle. I didn't notice the check engine being on which is interesting. Either the bulbs burned out, someone removed it because this vehicle was purchased about a year ago. It's possible someone actually removed them, removed the bulb or it just burnt out or there's some other malfunction of some sort. But anyways these are you know, this is an interesting issue. Its something definitely to be looked at. But there's codes, glow plug cylinder three, cylinder 5, cylinder 2. Open circuit, basically means a glow plug isn't, the circuit's open. It doesn't necessarily mean the glow plug itself is bad. It probably is the glow plug. There's also another code here, Mercedes uses all these interesting codes and you've got, there's a lot of studying we have to do to get knowledgeable in these vehicles but glow plug output stages excessive temperature and the output stage is basically the module. Again here output stage supply voltage is low. So I mean, this could indicate that the battery is weak but a very common problem with these vehicles is the glow plug modules go bad. As well as the glow plugs. You know, this vehicle is a 2007, that's 12 years old. Perfectly legit that you'd have a few glow plugs worn our at this point in time and they usually do wear out sooner. Couple other interesting codes here. Not likely going to affect the starting of the vehicle but definitely the running condition, right EKAS end position sensor and the left, and these are on the intake manifold runner indicating that the actual intake manifold runner valves are not opening properly. And then this last code down here, diesel particulate filters, soot content of the particulate filter is too high for regeneration. So that again is an issue that might be a plug particulate, sorry, a particulate filter but it could also be that the vehicle has just not been run hot enough for a long period of time.
Mark: Wow, looks like there's a lot to repair there. Where would you start?
Bernie: Yeah, of course with the clients concern, where we start is with the glow plug issues. I mean that would be the place to start. The battery test is something we haven't done yet but if the battery is weak, absolutely replace that, replace the glow plug module and the glow plugs and then these other codes of course are issues to be dealt with. But in a separate manner. I'll just share some more pictures here.
Here's a picture of some glow plugs. This is actually not for this particular engine but it's a kind of similar. It's a you know, the power wire connects up here, the glow plug is grounded through the threaded body of the glow plug through the engine and then this is a heating element and if you actually test this on a bench, it gets very red. Almost instantaneously. So this thing heats up and in like you know a second. You have like red hot heat to warm the cylinder. The glow plug control unit is, basically this is a view of what a new one looks like. There's a main power wire and then there's wires that go off to each glow plug. And this unit monitors, not only powers the glow plugs, but it monitors the resistance in the circuit. And so it can tell whether these glow plugs are actually doing what they're supposed to be doing and set a code back to the computer if it's not functioning properly.
And finally, there's those codes at that EKAS sensor and this is actually a view from a different engine but the same design of engine with the intake manifold off. And this is the intake manifold runner valves. This is a very common problem on these engines. There are plastic intake runners and there's a little motor here called a swirl valve motor. It basically actuates this rod here. There's two of them. One on each manifold. It changes the intake manifold porting, depending on what speed the engine is going at. And there's a sensor right here and this sensor will actually tell whether this rod is being moved to the proper position because of that code, to me it would indicate that this rod is probably worn out. Happens all the time. Carbon buildup is a common problem. There's a few ways to cure this one. It's often to replace a complete manifold. It may also mean that the sensor is bad. We'e had them where the rods work but the sensors are bad. So that's another issue. So those are a few things. But this is a very expensive repair. It's common on these engines. That kind of soot and carbon deposit is common and it's just something that kind of happens with engines. And seeing as there was a code for soot particles, a particulate filter to soot it up, chances are that these are probably pretty sooted too on this vehicle. It's not driven a lot.
Mark: So this vehicle, you've mentioned that this is a Mercedes engine, a couple time which might puzzle some folks. This is from the generation when Dodge Chrysler was owned by Mercedes and they were sharing some of their technology back and forth. So that doesn't occur anymore, I don't think because it's Fiat that owns Chrysler at this point.
Bernie: They now use Fiat diesels. I don't know if that's better or worse.
Mark: So why would there be so much carbon and issues on this engine? Just a bad engine design or is there something else?
Bernie: It's just typical of any modern diesel with and EGR system and carbon buildup just happens. It's a part of how these things work. There are specific cleaning tools that are available. We don't own any. They're difficult to use and actually in Canada they're not so commonly sold anyways. But there are actually ways you can actually remove carbon deposits without taking the engine apart. But it's just a function of how these modern diesels work with the EGR system. I mean this is why we have clean diesels, "Clean Diesels" but cleaner that they used to be. You don't have a lot of particles and soot and stench coming out of the tailpipe. This is what makes that technology possible. But on the downside, we end up getting a lot of plugged passageways and things that would not have happened a couple of decades earlier on a diesel engine.
Mark: And is there a way to mitigate against that buildup?
Bernie: Well usage, you know, proper usage of a diesel is really the most important thing. And what I found out and talked with the owner of this vehicle, is that this vehicle is not driven a lot. It's only like a sort of three kilometre trips on a daily basis is how it's being used for the owners business. So this is really not a good use of a diesel engine. A diesel needs to be started up, driven long distances, nice and hot. Ideally, if you started up in the morning and you just left it idling all day long. Well not idling, but drove it around for a lot of the day and good hot drive then shut it go. That would be the best use for this kind of engine. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't do that. They just drive it around like a regular car. Maybe you know drive 5 or 10 kilometres to work, shut it off, come home and that's really not a great use of an engine like this.
Mark: So with all this list of repairs, what kind of price range? What's this going to cost to get it all fixed up?
Bernie:Well I'm just going to shoot out some random numbers. So please don't call and quote me and say, "Hey you said on your video this is what it is", but just some random numbers, you know like glow plugs could be in and around a thousand ish dollar type of repair. With he control unit, maybe a bit more. I mean the other risk with the glow plugs is that they do seize in place and these are very small items and they're very small threaded passageways. Carbon deposits build up and they can seize up from time to time. Most of the time we get lucky, but sometimes they seize up, then you have to drill them out. That can add a huge amount of extra cost to repairing it. So that's another risk and that's not factored into that cost I made there which you know can add an extra several hundred to a thousand dollars depending on what happens. This intake manifold issue, again I mean it's a few thousand dollar type of repair depending on how we do it.
There are alternatives that someone kindly actually called me, had seen one of our videos and said, "Hey have you actually seen this repair kit?" You can actually buy metal repair rods for these things. It's actually a fantastic repair. So we can actually, instead of replacing the whole manifold, actually clean all the carbon out. We have really good ways of cleaning that out when it's out of the vehicle and put these metal repair rods in which saves a lot of money over buying the complete manifold.
And you know, I hate throwing away stuff that's good. So I mean, the rest of the manifold is aluminum. It can tend to last a long time. So that is an alternative some of the times that we can do. But again either, no matter how you slice it, it's a you know a few thousand dollars to repair. And then of course, the particulate filter that one again can be in the thousands of dollars of range. So you know, we've had people, bills are way over ten thousand dollars for plugged particulate filters, turbochargers and the list can go on and on. So when I meet someone who's going, "Oh I don't have quite enough money to spend on this diagnostic." I'm going you probably want to get a different vehicle because you could be in for a very pricey journey.
Mark: So other than engine issues, how are Sprinter vans?
Bernie: They're really good and I know why people buy them. I mean it's a fantastic vehicle in terms of you'e got the nice excessive height inside. There's a variety of options in Sprinters. You can get a half ton Sprinter or you can get a dually one ton, so you can haul a lot of weight. They all have pretty much the same engine give or take the year. I've seen camper vans with Sprinters. So they're a good size vehicle. I mean the brakes tend to wear out like any other vehicle. Nothing excessive and they're not outrageously expensive to repair. The steering suspension systems are generally pretty good. So you know, there are things that go wrong but they're not, nothing worse than any other type of van. But they're a really practical van and there are some gasoline engine models available. Although I can't think of ever having repaired one, had one come in our shop. But that might be a better alternative for a lot of people. The great thing about the diesel is it is very economical fuel wise. It's just that when things go wrong and they do, you're going to be spending a lot of money to repair it.
Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for repairs for your diesel vehicle in Vancouver, the experts in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead because they're always busy. Check out the website pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds of videos on there and blog posts about all makes and models and types of repairs including a lot on diesels. Of course, there's our YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair and of course, thanks so much for listening and watching, we really appreciate it. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching.