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Old 01-26-2011, 09:25 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 24
Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

Not only am I buying my first (used) SMB, but this will be my first RV of any type. I have a deposit on a 1994 Dodge 3500 EB with Vista Top and 71,000 miles that I am flying to pick up on Saturday. I have a very good feeling about the seller and trust them, but at the same time want to know how to inspect this vehicle before I lay the money on the barrel head. Being a complete newbie, I could really use advice on what to look for, how to test the RV systems, etc.

Thanks in advance for your help.


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Old 01-26-2011, 11:05 PM   #2
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Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Posts: 232
Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

I would make sure you have the owner do a walk/talk through on each system and if you have a pocket camera or phone that can shoot video make sure you do that so you can watch it later....trying to remember it all won't work.

Don't be afraid to try out everything, water, stove and all.

Go out and play in the dirt!
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Old 01-27-2011, 10:03 AM   #3
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Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

Any used vehicle should be taken to a reputable mechanic for an inspection. In large, metro areas there are inspection services that will come and check out a vehicle for under $100.

SOLD04 EB350 Custom Floorplan
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Old 01-27-2011, 10:19 AM   #4
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Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

Find out whether the current owner is a member of this Forum. If so, ask them for their member name. Then search the Forum for any posts by that member. Perhaps they have posted pictures and comments about their vehicle that will give you insight into how well they have cared for their Sportsmobile.

Good luck!

Mac McIntire
2003 Ford E250, 5.4L V8,
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Old 01-27-2011, 11:45 AM   #5
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Location: Littleton CO
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Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

check to see if the screws holding the cabinets together are pulling out. It is common to find some evidence of this but it just depends on the extent.
2003 Ford E350 7.3 Diesel 15 Passenger Van | CCV Pop Top | Quigley 4x4 |
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Old 01-27-2011, 03:51 PM   #6
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Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

There are similar links or ideas under Delivery Checklist and Tips...
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Old 01-27-2011, 04:05 PM   #7
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Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

Spend time with the previous owner before you leave. Like stated above, go through ALL the systems so you are familiar with them. We spent 3 hrs when we picked up our SMB.
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Old 01-27-2011, 04:24 PM   #8
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Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 24
Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

This is my second attempt at responding to all of the thoughtful replies to my message. Looks like my first attempt never made it to the board. Shows how much of a newbie I am with this new world.

First of all, thanks everyone for your input. It is all greatly appreciated.

This purchase is somewhat unusual in that the van was donated by the original owners to an arts non-profit who is now selling the van to me to fund their organization. This creates some positive and negative outcomes as far as I can see. On the plus side, the non-profit isn't trying to recoup costs of purchasing and maintenance in its sale price, while the original owners are getting a nice tax deduction with their donation. The non-profit also asked original owners to do perform any necessary maintenance before donating. And even after that, they had the van inspected at a local shop. They have all maintenance records and original documentation. The non-profit has been very good to deal with and I feel like they are on my side with every step of this.

On the negative side, I don't get to talk with the owners about how to operate the RV systems or what the van's quirks are.

I will definitely follow the advice to have all the fluids flushed and replaced (if it appears they haven't been done) before traveling the 300 miles back to Seattle.

I'll be coming back to the forum when I return to search past posts and pose more questions to this amazing community. And I'll post some pictures.

Thanks everyone,

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Old 01-27-2011, 04:42 PM   #9
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Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

Leo - I think I know which one you're talking about. For that price, I wouldn't look back! As long as it fits the bill for what you need, you'll be in great shape. Heck, I'll probably spend nearly that much on the interior of my budget home-build, and it won't be nearly as well equipped!
2009 Express AWD, CCV Top & 50-ish home build. Daily driver/camper/kid hauler
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Old 04-04-2015, 06:01 PM   #10
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Posts: 1
Re: Buying my first SMB and could use some advice

Late to the party but thought I would share a checklist I put together for purchasing a used 4x4 Sportsmobile type vehicle/van. If vehicle is not diesel then disregard those items:


mods done for engine such as OIL COOLER,
fluid leaks under vehicle
oil pan & transmission pan
brake rotors & pads
battery age & condition
Check the coolant - it should have the Motorcraft Gold Coolant - anything else and there may be problems.
maintenance and repair receipts - proof of past maint is critical
cold start ok (make sure engine is cold)
exhaust should have a steady sound with no smoke
Any exhaust problems visible (i.e. lots of white or blue smoke)? White smoke may mean an EGR cooler leak if the smoke smells like coolant or a sign of injector issues if it smells like fuel.
put it in and out of 4WD
Overdrive works correctly
brakes ok
no pulsation on brake petal
does not turn while applying brake
front a/c
cab heat & a/c ok - no vacuum leak
offroad lights front
back up lights
rear a/c
extreme air pump with storage tank
connect to shore power?
window shades
windows open & close
body lines straight
bumper straight
doors exterior
doors close easily
alignment paperwork for new tires
ARB lockers front & rear
lockers and hubs
water storage - capacity?
black water / grey water - capacity?
transmission flush every 30,000mi
recommended maintenance list
spare keys - alarm system
spare parts
Locking Lug nuts and keys
owners manuals
take it to a Ford dealership and arrange for them to plug in their computer at operating temps and check the engine oil temp compared to the engine coolant temp. At most the temps should be within 13 degrees of each other. This is common and is used to check for signs of the single biggest problem on this engine of oil cooler/EGR failure. The repair cost starts at $2,200.
drives ok full turn to right & left
accelerates ok
shifts smoothly
at 1000 rpm does it shift into drive and reverse quickly
tires and spare
water & tank level indicators
exterior paint condition
inspect belts
solar 115W
high beams ok
remove oil cap w/ engine running - no oil should be shooting out - smoke is normal
exhaust manifold bolts intact (above oil filter)
water pump
warm start ok
bottom bed
drives ok in reverse
repainted - ck at door gaskets
fill the on-board water tank
interior lights
search for cracks at suspension mounts
dust caps on tires
Amsoil oil filtration system
RPM does not jump between shifts
brake fluid
top bed
Water pump shuts off automatically soon after all faucets are closed
squeeze hoses
transmission fluid not black or smell burnt
bolts are secured in spare tire & box brackets and latches work
wiper fluid
diesel heater
doors & hardware interior
trailer hitch
exterior side light
trailer wiring harness
exterior shower
turn signals
Look into black tank through toilet for hardened solid waste
"degas" bottle and inspect the fluid - it should be gold colored and there should be NO OIL visible (oil emulsified in water can show up as brown sludge). the degas bottle should not have white residue around the sides of it (possible overheating issues).
sway bar
all lights light up at dash
Windshield wipers and washer
air filter
macerator toilet
attic fan
water heater
battery charging system
Airbag leveling system
power steering fluid

Big Rojo
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