Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, Producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here in beautiful Vancouver, where it's getting cold and rainy finally, had a fantastic October. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 18-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. We're talking vans today. How are you doing, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So we're talking about a 2008 Sprinter van. Now, I don't know if this is a Dodge or Mercedes because I think this might have even been when they were both as one.
Bernie: Yeah, this one was actually a Dodge, but they're essentially the same vehicle.
Mark: This had a gear shifter replacement. What was going on with the Sprinter van?
Bernie: Actually, the vehicle came to our shop for actually a different issue. Came in for a noise in the engine. We looked at it, diagnosed it, found the alternator was worn out, causing a noise. So we replaced the alternator, successful repair, road tested the vehicle, drove it around a few times, started, stopped, shifted it, and parked the vehicle out back of our shop. When the customer came to pick the vehicle up, started the car, went move it out of park, it's an automatic into drive and the gear shifter was just locked in park. So, that was kind of a surprise because there's nothing that happened before and just suddenly, all of a sudden, this issue occurred.
Mark: Okay. How did you, guys, break it?
Bernie: How did we break it? Well, that's the first question. Of course, for the customer to go, "Hey, what did you do to my van? My van was shifting fine beforehand." For me, I'm always going, "Well, what do we do? I actually do something wrong here." So, I mean, that's the first place I always stand in when something happens because over the years, I've had many cars where someone comes in, they need something to do awesome their battery just dies, like it just won't start the car. It's like, "Well, it's working fine when it came in." These are kind of things that just happened for us and more often than not, to me, I have to explain to the client, "Hey, by the way, this is nothing to do with what we did. But I'm always curious to go, "Hey, could it have been?" So, we looked at it and found, "No, clearly, there wasn't anything related." This van has about 300,000 kilometres. So it's got a lot of mileage on it, so it's old. At that point, anything could go wrong. It just so happened to have died when it was here, which is possibly fortunate because then the owner doesn't take it home an hour later or a day later. "Oh, it won't shift and has to come back." So, whether that's of any comfort or not, it's not usually, but to me, it helps at least saying, "Hey, at least it was here when it happened." So, yeah.
Mark: And so, what did you find? What was going on?
Bernie: So yeah, from there, of course, we did some tests with a diagnostic scan to see if there's any codes and systems, sure enough, there was related to the gearshift module. And then from there, we did a little research, and testing, and found basically the gearshift module itself packed. It packed it in. So, we'll just go and do a couple of quick photos right now.
There's our 'O8 Sprinter van in good shape considering the amount of mileage. This is the gear shifter unit itself. So when we say shifter module, it's an electronic piece that was defective, which is this piece here but of course, it's not sold separately. There's a number of you can see there's a plug with about, I don't know, eight or 10 pins here. There's another wire that comes off here. There's a lot that goes on in these things surprisingly. Then the gearshift handle, of course, so the whole mechanism is replaced, the cables attached here, and this thing is if you have a Sprinter van, it's going to mounted on the dash. So, takes a bit of work to remove it, reinstall it. What is inside the shifter, of course, is as you move the gear shifter into different speed, you also have the ability to move the shifter. It just goes into drive at the bottom, but you can also manually shift gears at that point, so you move the shifter sideways and, yeah, you manually shift the gears up and down. So that's what adds some of the complexity to the shifter. There's also the interlocking mechanism, of course, that prevents it from unlocking from park.
Mark: So, were there any other items you had to look for or look at while you were diagnosing what exactly the problem was?
Bernie: Well, we work on a lot of Sprinters. This is the first time we run into a shifter issue like this. So, of course, we want to make sure we get the diagnosis right because that part is pretty expensive. We don't want to say, "Hey, replace this piece," and it being the wrong item. With a lot of Mercedes or any more modern vehicles, a lot of these modules, they talk to each other, they need to be programmed to speak to each other. So we did some research on what possible cause shifter problems. And so, came up with a variety of things through various forums and some of the search data, some of the repair information data we have, where you could simply do a flash reprogramming and it would make the module work again. I look at forums just for bits of information, but I find most of the stuff there is, quite frankly, useless. There's so many people, "Oh, your brake light bulb could be burnt out," and this and that happens. These are all things we look at to make sure and those are good things to test, but of course, in this case, what it really came down to there wasn't, let's say, a Technical Service Bulletin from Dodge. But that bulletin was issued almost right after the vehicle is manufactured and I'm thinking, "You know, this vehicle, it's 10 years old, over 10 years old now, 300,000 kilometres, that gear shifter has been moving around a lot." Clearly, the part is just worn out from age. So, some of the tests we did, we verified. It was communicating in some areas but not in others. There's something wrong and broken inside the gearshift module. So that's how we determined it. But just a word of caution, if you're looking on forums, just be careful that you're getting the right advice because there's so much opinion out there that's really not of any value. It's like just falling down a rabbit hole of useless conversation.
Mark: So, how complex is this repair job?
Bernie: Well, I mean, it involves removing some of the dash to take the shifter out and then installing the unit. Fortunately, there's no reprogramming to do. Although, we did have to clear codes and there were some relearn procedures that take place in the vehicle with the communication system. So that's something that takes a bit of time, but there's no reprogramming or reflashing of this module. So that was actually a surprisingly nice thing to find because so often on Mercedes' products, you change any one thing and you have to reprogram that module so it speaks to the other modules. So, that made for a bit of an easier repair.
Mark: You mentioned you worked on lots of Sprinters. How are they for reliability?
Bernie: They're pretty good. Although, of course, a lot of these have the three-litre diesel in them and we talk about the reliability of that particular engine. There's the other with the smaller diesel before the three-litre. I mean, those are pretty good. We don't run into a lot of problems with them and …
Mark: As long as the oil has changed?
Bernie: As long as the oil has changed, of course. I mean, regular maintenance is key, but really, they are pretty good vans, but the three-litre diesel, of course, you can look at our other podcast or you can look around, you'll see all the things that tend to go wrong with them over time. But generally, if you service the vehicle regularly and you use it hard, they're actually pretty good, and they're very practical design. One thing I do like about them is the size and the shape. You can stand up inside and it's a great tradesman's van and for many other things, for a motorhome, too, because a great vehicle overall.
Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for a service for your Mercedes, Dodge Sprinter van in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead, they're busy, or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, hundreds of videos on there including many on three-litre Mercedes, Dodge diesels as well. Thank you so much for watching and listening to the podcast. We appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching and listening.