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Old 08-24-2012, 05:05 PM   #1
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The Sportsmobile Sprinter design and build checklist

The Sportsmobile Sprinter Van Conversion Mental Checklist

I would like to try something here in this forum and start a living thread that will act as a checklist and prompt for a future Sportsmobile Sprinter buyer to stop and think about different aspects of the Sportsmobile van conversion process. The thread is intended to capture common and not so common build questions and issues that might not appear obvious and may have been learned by others the hard way. We’ll highlight them here so one might pause and ask questions or do some more research.

Everything that is posted here is intended to provoke a thoughtful approach to the complex process of building a Sportsmobile van conversion. Everything is subject to change, from Mercedes specifications to Sportsmobile details. Nothing is meant to be absolute and may not have been fact checked so double check what you read for your own good. It should be noted that the different SMB shops operate independently with different owners. Not everything is available across the entire set of shops so address your build accordingly. This is intended to address newer builds and should apply to the NCV3 model of Sprinter from Mercedes whether badged as such or Dodge or Freightliner.

The checklist is a living thing and hopefully it will evolve and become more relevent and correct over time. To help those who regularly visit this post in the thread I will try to maintain a list of updates and the date of revision so that you can just look for new information if that is your interest. I will place this revision list at the end of this first post so those new to the thread do not become confused right off the bat.

This is a checklist to get you thinking about your build.


The Sprinter Van Itself:

1. What size, length?
a. Regular wheelbase. SMB RB= 144” wheelbase, 79.7” width (all models) x 232” overall length, 45.2 ft. turning radius. Please Note: Mercedes 144 WB = SMB "RB".

b. Long wheelbase, SMB EB = 170” wheelbase, 273” overall length, 52.5 ft. turning radius. Please Note: Mercedes 170 WB = SMB "EB"

c. Extended wheelbase, LB = 170” wheelbase, 289.2” overall length, 52.5 ft. turning radius. Please Note: Mercedes 170 Extended (EXT) = SMB "LB"

d. Inside headroom: standard (low roof): 65”, high roof: 78.2”.

e. Low roof is only available in RB, also the only model allowing the penthouse roof top modification by SMB.

f. Standard parking stall (fairly typical): 9’ (108”) x 18’ (216”) in a parking lot, parallel parking typically 9’ wide by 22’ (264”) to 24’ (288”) long.

g. Think about how much you will be operating in an urban environment and needing to park in congested areas versus the benefit of additional interior space.

2. Standard 2500 or heavy duty 3500 model?
a. RB 2500 is the only model available with the low roof, therefore the penthouse conversion can only be a RB 2500.

b. GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating – maximum allowable legal weight of loaded vehicle): the 2500 is 8,550 lbs., 3500 is 9,990 lbs standard and with option package up to 11,030 lbs. Check the forums to see where the Sprinter outfitted like yours may fall. The weight can add up quickly.

c. Standard rear axle ratio gearing for 2500 models is 3.92. Standard rear axle ratio for 3500 is 4.18. The lower the gearing (higher the number) the more “grunt” you will have for moving out more briskly and getting up hills with a heavy load as well as towing. This will also possibly reduce your fuel mileage by somewhere between 1-2 mpg and reduce your comfortable cruising top speed. Note: Roadtrek orders their 2500 models with the lower, 4.18 rear axle ratio, as stock equipment specification.

d. Heavier suspension settings on the 3500 may reduce some of the “porposing” (mild bouncing from front to rear) noted in heavy vans. Also high roof models may benefit from the “suspension package: high center of gravity” option which includes HD sway bars at both ends and reinforced suspension mounts. Look around here on this site since SMB tends to not address these issues.

3. Body/Exterior Options:
a. Roof rails. These will be needed for the awning addition option.

b. Privacy glass. This option will provide the dark tinted glass which will match any windows added by SMB. The aftermarket windows appear to be available in only one tint and they match the Mercedes “privacy glass” tint. Aftermarket windows are by CR Laurence Co. and are 28% tint (Mercedes calls theirs 90% tinting –grey, that’s what the website says). The factory privacy glass option is not on the SMB options list so you will have to ask about this. If the van arrives without the privacy glass SMB will offer a window tinting film at approx. 2x the cost of the factory option privacy glass. Note: the stock windshield and driver's/passenger door windows will be tinted lightly green and there is no facotry option to change the tint, except for a tint band across the top.

c. Daytime running lights. This is an option available from Mercedes that sounds reasonable but do your research. There is no need to combine them with the automatic light sensor since the headlights will always be on with this option. Some maufacturers provide special lights dedicated to act as daytime running lights. Mercedes does not add a special light but will turn on the headlights (low beam), parking lights, tailights, and license lights. This means that they will be on all of the time. I have been told that previous to 2012 model year vans you could program the lights off at the dealership. I have also been informed that a person without the option was able to program the system to turn them on through the instrument cluster (my van, with the digital display in the instrument cluster does not have the required "menu" button). On my van you can turn off the headlights by turing the light control knob to the parking light stop. The remainder of lights will remain on but the headllights will turn off. Check this out and ask your dealership about this option.

4. Interior Options:
a. Radio delete option. This option will provide an approx. $295 credit and delete the factory radio but leave the wiring and antenna cables and speakers up front. Not mentioned so must ask for this. Confirm with stereo installer that this option is appropriate.

b. Multifunction steering wheel. Typically not selected if you opt for the SMB installed aftermarket stereo system. This can control, with an accessory harness, an aftermarket stereo. Confirm with the stereo installer that this option is appropriate.

5. Engine/Drivetrain:
a. High idle - adjustable should be considered if you want to charge batteries or operate a lot of equipment demanding electricity when stopped.

b. DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) tank can be in the way of the build so is typically moved to the engine compartment and reduced in size by approx. 50%. SMB should automatically order the van this way but you may want to confirm and if you purchase the van on your own please be aware of this.

6. Miscellaneous:
a. Do you want to consider an extended warranty or service plan? These items are not mentioned by SMB anywhere but can be purchased through the dealer and included in your price quote from SMB if you purchase the van from them.


The SMB Build:


1. General Notes:
a. Review the design drawing you receive from your SMB salesman carefully, especially the "Production Drawings". Make sure you have the cabinets where you have specified. Make sure you have the electrical outlets and lights where you want them. Make sure that what you want is on the drawing because you may need to show it to someone later. You will be paying for what is on the plan so make sure you actually get it. Understand what each cabinet or shelf will look like. Special Note: Most of what SMB does is take standard cabinets/shelves, beds/seats/ dinettes, and shower/toilets and install them in a mix or match scenario. Please see the Sportsmobile website under "Sprinter", drop down menu to "Design Your Own - Info", go next to "DYO Cut & Paste Package", go to Item 3 on the right and you will see a series of options for .pdf plans that are the Sportsmobile range of standard units. These same standard designed units can be slightly modified but are simply just modified versions of the existing items and not fully custom as may be presented. There is also completely custom but it appears that customizing a standard items is the preferred method of approach. Most of the items you will see on your "production order" will likely be one of 3 things: standard designed item, modified standard designed item or fully custom. You should be able to get an understanding of what you are getting by having the salesperson refer to the standard item and telling you how it may be different in any way.

b. Get the design finalized as best you can before you sign the paperwork to proceed. Things can get forgotten or missed since the turnover from design to construction is based upon a meeting at the beginning of the project. The original plan can easily get etched in the construction team’s mind and your Salesman turned Project Manager may not catch that the change was not executed in the shop.

c. Keep a written list of items added to the project along with the costs. Keep asking your SMB salesman if the list is up to date and costs correct to avoid a surprise at the end of the build.

d. Visit during your build if you can. There is a lot of latitude built into the Sportsmobile process and that means that Sportsmobile may interpret things differently from you.

2. Interior:
a. Make sure you have selected all of your materials. Most materials will likely be selected for you automatically if you select the grey tone ot brown tone interior trim color scheme. You can have two-tone seating surfaces in the upholstery. Please note: “Ultraleather” is not really leather, it is a soft vinyl and perfectly uniform. Real leather is available and comes in individual skins and natural imperfections may be evident but the skins I have seen were very clear of imperfections.

b. Flooring. You might want to ask how they are going to treat the sub-floor (the plywood that provides a smooth surface for your selected flooring material) just to get them focused on making this right in your build.

c. Upper cabinets: what is installed over the sink and stove? What extends out into the sliding door opening in the way of cabinetry? There can be the standard size upper cabinets used elsewhere or they can be reduced in size and be up higher and not stick out as far for better head room. Ask because there is no standard and you may see a drawing that implies one thing but you may end up with another. Ask.

d. Ask about lighting. Anything you want specifically covered by task lighting should be mentioned.

e. Any special electrical outlet locations should be mentioned and documented on the design drawing.

f. Have you included vanity mirrors?

g. Interior insulation is handled differently from shop to shop. SMB West installs a residentail type R-13 fiberglass batt insulation. Indiana appears to use a form of rigid insulation. If you have special insulation concerns bring it up as the level of insulation can vary between the shops.

3. Electronics and Entertainment:
a. The Mercedes factory speakers can be replaced with aftermarket speakers of better quality – for a price.

b. If a satellite radio option is selected understand where the antenna will be located. Standard mounting location for the SMB West installer is on top of the dash near the windshield. Mounting on the roof is reported to be the optimal location. The SMB West installer may show concern about the ability to repair wiring if you select installing the antenna on the roof so you may have to make a judgment call on whether you want to take the risk. Mounting on the roof without drilling holes and possibly creating another potential point of water entry may mean going out the brake light wire hole. Ask.

4. Appliances:
a. Refrigerators - size availability: Standard refrigerator included in most builds is the "3E", a 2.7 cubic foot (cf) Norcold. A reasonable option available is to go to the "4E" or a 3.6 cf model, also a Norcold. Refrigerator "7E" (Freezer 1.76 CF, Refrigerator 5.3 CF) is available but size becomes a consideration. Another option is to have SMB perform an upgrade to a different manufacturer (like Isotemp by Indel Webasto) and possibly get a 3.5 cf refer into a space close to a 2.7 cf refer space. 6 cf is also available but it is a 3-way that includes propane powered.

b. Refrigerators - types: electrical dual power is typical, 12v and 110v. Typically very efficient and durable. The van does not have to be leveled for them to operate. Dometic 3-way absorbtion type refrigerators are also available from SMB, an additional cost upgrade at 6.0 cf, and can run on propane. You must be parked reasonably level to use a propane system (check the specs). Search the site because there have been some random examples of wear not evident in the electric type. Normally very reliable.

c. Stoves: SMB offers built in propane and diesel cooktops. In most of the "standard plans" a propane fuel system is included and the propane stove top is included. An option is the diesel cooktop but confirm pricing. Another option is to have propane cooktop included that is fueled by refillable or disposable bottles. SMB has also recommended portable propane stoves to free up countertop space and cook outside.

5. Systems - Electrical:
a. Battery only? How much do you want to run? Refer, air conditioning? There is much conflicting information between the shops and even the website. Ask your salesman.

b. Solar? Need to get some idea of your build’s anticipated electrical loads and just how much the batteries can store and deliver so that will be the first step. The solar system charges the batteries and they deliver the power. You should feel comfortable asking for a full understanding of what you are getting, not just “it will work”. Solar panels are increasing in efficiency constantly so check to make sure you have the most recent equipment available. Read posts by members on this site.

c. Generator: propane or diesel? Can SMB fit what you want? Cost vs. benefit? Maintenance? Side effects of the installation? Reduction in size of holding tanks, relocation of batteries, relocation of spare tire, ground clearance reduction, etc… all need to be known and addressed.

d. Portable generators: Where will you store it? One shop will not install the under seat interior storage location shown on the website.

6. Systems - Plumbing:
a. Water: do you want fresh water for use in a sink and/or shower? What size water tank? What will the size of tanks you select do to other aspects of the build?

b. Hot water. Propane, diesel and flat plate heaters available. Look at fuel availability or whether or not you want to run the engine to get warm water.

c. Marine toilet or porta potti or? This could spark a debate that could rage on for a long time. Look at your needs and understand what is involved with each selection. Also, many posts will state that there could be an "RV definition" issue between the marine toilet and porta potti to your insurer or state taxing agency. Check. BTW: no toilet use is a very private matter in a Sprinter RV.

d. Grey water can just be dumped directly on the ground in some locations otherwise you have to dump a likely minimum 5 gallon tank somewhere and it is located under the vehicle. A grey water tank will be under your sink and shower if you have both and if on opposite sides of the van will have their own tanks.

e. Fuel system: Propane fuel systems are included in most of the "Standard Plans". Propane appliances can be very efficient and reliable and typically less costly than equivalent diesel counterparts. Diesel appliances are available with the advantage of being able to draw the fuel supply from the van's diesel fuel tanks. Most diesel fuel appliance supply systems will not work when the van's fuel tank is under 1/4 full.

7. Systems – HVAC:
a. Do you need air conditioning? The roof fans are powerful and move a lot of air for little electrical draw.

b. Roof mounted air conditioning unit? You will need the 110v power and you add at least 11” to the roof height (may be subject to change, I have heard 2 different heights). The shops have different opinions on how long an ac unit will run on batteries.

c. Danhard interior unit will take up interior room as well as require 110v power but will free up roof space and have a slightly lower cooling output (12,000 BTU vs 13,500 BTU for rooftop). The shops have different opinions on how long an ac unit will run on batteries.

d. Heaters options include propane and diesel. Read the comments on this site, opinions vary greatly on how well both work so you should be informed.

8. Exterior:
a. Think about lights. You get one exterior light in the base build cost. Do you want more? Do you want motion detector lights? Spotlights or backup lights are available. No one asked me about these, I had to bring them up.

b. Outside storage boxes?

c. Where is the spare tire going? Under the van or on an exterior carrier. If you pick certain options that may take up under floor space it could automatically move the spare tire to a rear swing away rack. It may not be initially mentioned and costs about $800 so keep an eye on this.

d. Roof racks? Great option but SMB will not install rear door mounted ladders so how will you get to your rack? Side mounted ladders are available.

e. Roof tracks are available for installation by SMB made by Thule. If you order the factory roof tracks and include an awning you will lose one of the tracks to the awning mounts so the Thule roof tracks can make up for the loss. You may want to consider adding these aftermarket add on tracks for crossbars or cargo baskets. Consider them early in the build because they can be bolted through and secured and waterproofed from inside whereas a later installation will be an expansion anchor type installation (which works fine on thousands of vehicles every year but if you can do it better, why not?).

9. Miscellaneous:
a. Decide whether or not you want the van waxed and interior surface dressings applied before delivery. A commonly used used car dealer trick is to wax the car (includes either a glaze or polish) that will hide minor scratches for up to 3 months. Same thing with the interior. That favor of putting "Armorall" on your dash could be hiding scuffs and scratches. If either are applied and you don't want it Sportsmobile will have to do a detailed cleaning using special cleaners to remove the dressings. You will not be able to add anything with an adhesive to the dash area until any dressings are carefully removed.


If you have something to add I'll edit it in so it always stays at the top of this thread so people don't have to go digging. It will always be beneficial to read the entire posts since they will contain more detail. If you provide information for inclusion here please provide it in a manner that can be easily transferred to the main checklist.

This is your opportunity to share with others to make the SMB build easier and better for a future owner.

This belongs to everyone, let's make it work.

Revisions and Additions:
01.03.13: "The Sprinter Van Itself", 3. Body/Exterior Options, c. Daytime Running lights. Added item.


Thank you.
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Old 08-24-2012, 11:06 PM   #2
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The Sportsmobile design and build checklist

Chum,

Check the terminology that SMB uses for RB vs EB vs LB.
Mercedes Sprinter has a 144 WB or a 170 WB that is also available in an 170" Extended or EXT.
I believe SMB calls the Mercedes Sprinter 144" WB a SMB RB
Mercedes Sprinter 170 is a SMB EB while the
Mercedes Sprinter 170 EXT is a SMB LB

Brian
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Old 08-26-2012, 11:03 AM   #3
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Re: The Sportsmobile design and build checklist

Brian, got it.

Thanks.

Chum
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Old 08-27-2012, 09:24 AM   #4
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Re: The Sportsmobile Sprinter design and build checklist

Will SMB install a Danhard AC in the Sprinter? They didn't when I got mine although that was 4 years ago.

The idle control should be a must if you do not get AC. There are time when we needed to idle 20-30 minutes (dog on board) to keep things cool.

SMB uses one of the roof rails the Sprinter comes with for the awning if you get a tall roof. As them to add another rail inside the original just in case you come up with something you want to add to the roof.

Really think about propane. We pulled the propane system completely and put in a diesel heater. For the stove we use the 1 lb. cannisters.

We have two 7 amp solar panels and very, very seldom hook up to electricty. The fridge is always on just in case of a traffic jam and the need for cold water or whatever.

Regards,

Keith
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Old 08-27-2012, 12:05 PM   #5
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Re: The Sportsmobile Sprinter design and build checklist

Deleted to avoid clutter - Admin please delete. Thanks!
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:36 PM   #6
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Re: The Sportsmobile Sprinter design and build checklist

The stove is the one SMB puts in. Flush mount. The cannister connects under the sink. I like the solar on the roof as we get to the camp fully charged. Shade can be a problem but as long as it is not to heavy we get a little charge. Since I am pulling current 24/7 having it on the roof is the only way for me
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Old 08-29-2012, 01:39 PM   #7
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Re: The Sportsmobile Sprinter design and build checklist

Okay, TV & kmessinger, I think I got your input included.

Thanks.
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Old 10-24-2012, 09:17 PM   #8
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Re: The Sportsmobile Sprinter design and build checklist

I promise that I will update the list with some items that might be handy to check for at pickup as well as a few miscellaneous items.

I will endeavor to maintain a very objective view but you can always let me know if I have strayed in your opinion.

Thank you.

Chumley
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:49 AM   #9
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Re: The Sportsmobile Sprinter design and build checklist

Quote:
Originally Posted by kmessinger
Will SMB install a Danhard AC in the Sprinter? They didn't when I got mine although that was 4 years ago.

The idle control should be a must if you do not get AC. There are time when we needed to idle 20-30 minutes (dog on board) to keep things cool.

SMB uses one of the roof rails the Sprinter comes with for the awning if you get a tall roof. As them to add another rail inside the original just in case you come up with something you want to add to the roof.

Really think about propane. We pulled the propane system completely and put in a diesel heater. For the stove we use the 1 lb. cannisters.

We have two 7 amp solar panels and very, very seldom hook up to electricty. The fridge is always on just in case of a traffic jam and the need for cold water or whatever.

Regards,

Keith

We were just down in Fresno yesterday talking with Alan about options. He said the Danhard AC is no problem in a Sprinter (we were looking at RB with penthouse), and also that it will run off a 2000 watt Honda generator we could carry in the Aluminess rear cargo box.
We are also considering not having propane, though the Espar heater is a pricey alternative.

Bob
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:09 PM   #10
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Re: The Sportsmobile Sprinter design and build checklist

During design, if you even think that you will be buying a portable generator, make sure that there will be a decent space to store it. When we ordered our van, I assumed that a Honda eu2000 would easily fit under the bed board (we have the folding gaucho) in the back of the van. Not to be. The generator needed an additional 3/4" to be able to fit.

I was able to make a new bed board with a hole to allow the handle to pop through the bed board, but not so far as to press into the mattress above. It actually holds the generator down pretty well. But if the bed were only 3/4 of an inch more off the floor, I wouldn't have had to go to this trouble. Here is a pic from the back of the van:

-don
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