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ecopco 10-01-2012 01:11 AM

My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Great! More pics ASAP please. It looks awesome by the way.

tonyvoudy 10-01-2012 06:49 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Congrats Chumley on getting your van! I look forward to additional pictures when you have time.

windguy 10-04-2012 10:51 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
glad you finally got closure to this long and arduous build process.
I'm sure SMB West is equally happy to get your rig out of their shop.
now the fun starts. enjoy! :a3:

Chumley 10-06-2012 01:11 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Hey Gang,

I am sorry that I have not been posting but I had a case of brochitis that has kept me half asleep most of the last week. With what has happened over the last couple of weeks with SMB I felt I needed to write this up properly. I was going to write up what happened as far as "interesting" events in a diplomatic way but I may just torpedo that whole thing. What has happened just in the last 2 days is worth noting now and I will fill you in on the last couple of weeks worth of events when I return from Bishop and Lone Pine. I will keep this breif because I asked the house sitter to come by early to force us to get an early start, bright idea.

Yesterday I finally got out of bed for a while and went to my upholsterer to see about the seat covers that SMB bailed on at the last minute. We go out and look at the van and I tell the guy I want nice seat covers for the leather seating. He looks at me like I am kidding him. He says this stuff is all vinyl, what are you talking about? I about crap, I paid for leather and had a long conversation about how all of it was supposed to be leather. I said what do you mean and then he showed me by squeezing the ottomen and backrests and they didn't wrinkle, just bulged up. He said this is vinyl but then felt the couch and said that it was leather but a very thin one, he also said it is common in motorhomes that they typically use a thin less costly leather. He said that a good skin can cost around $500 and it would take 1 to make both ottomen seats. So I paid for leather ottomen and I got vinyl! How do you think I felt? I spoke to Peter and he went to find out what happened. My Sales/PM guy (edit) has turned me over to the "service" side now. He calls back and tells me that the upholstery guy admits making them in vinyl because "they always do it that way" even though it was clearly marked to be leather. Apparently they don't make the seat back for the ottomen out of leather normally either but in my redo they will - because I said all along I wanted all leather seating!

The list for the "warranty" work (a.k.a. fixing goofs) is very long and will take a full day of everybody's time next Thursday. I don't think they are making any money on this one - and possibly the worst is yet come now!

As you all might remember early on during the build I saw a lot of stuff piled on the dash and leaning against the dash. I was told that there is never a problem and "no one has ever said anything about it before" (rermember that line as it will be coming up a lot in my future posts). Also early on I was asking them to work on getting those dash switches which they eventually found and used. Before they found the new switches they were showing me a plastic plate that they were going to screw over the blank switch area and mount my two switches on (nice custom offer which they would not charge extra). The plate looked terrible and I said to go back to their standard switch installation if they couldn't find better new switches. The standard switch arrangement for accessory items are the little switches you see like they use on all of their LED fixtures. These accessory switches are typically installed on the dash around the left knee. Well one day I see the switches in the factory locations so I am happy. Happy until tonight. Sorry, there will be multiple issues addressed here so hang in there. I asked SMB not to apply anything like "Armorall" to the dash since it covers the scratches like we were trying to find (if they did indeed happen during the "pile of stuff on the dash" period). They did apply some anyway and then promised to clean it off with their cleaner but never did, even after two requests (it was turned over with the stuff still on the dash!). This is where it bites them in the butt. Nothing sticks well to a surface with "Armorall" on it, it's too slippery. They installed a label that says something aboiut "Seat to be facing forward when moving" or something like that. Well on one side it had the "Armorall" on it so the label was coming off. So I pulled it off an then decided I would pull the other one off too from the driver's side. This is what happened.

Holy crap!

I think you can see that the dash area had holes that were filled, the area was then sanded and then it was painted! The paint just flaked off in a sheet! I had noticed earlier that there were some "crumbs" in the seams but figured I would just clean it up later since the entire van needed a final good cleaning (lots of sawdust). Those weren't "crumbs" - that was the edge of the painted area where the paint pulled up with the masking tape! I put my fingernail in there and the paint just started flaking up.

What do you think? Is this right? What would you do? Please tell me.

Now during the build when I was upset about how things were getting possibly damaged (and then virtually everything after the rebuild startover day) I was told that "if it was damaged it would be replaced". I even stressed that it would have to include the dash. Sales/PM guy would always say yes, if he had to he would replace the dash. I would always say "do you realize how much that might cost?". Answer was always that he would replace it if necessary. Oh, I forgot to mention that on the Thursday before pickup during the inspection I did find scratches on the dash and he had someone come out Friday morning to repair it. It looked fine when I inspected it but there was a funny spot where there were black flakes coming up near the repair area. There are people that are good at plastic repair and people that are not. Any one want to guess what caliber the guy they hired was? Also, make your vehicle inspections outside in the sun!

Next Thursday I go in for a full day of repairs which include:
- Repairs of the additional scratches I found on the dash once in the sun and where the "Armorall" was (I wonder how that will be handled now - it has to be done right).
- Repair a hole they put in the refer interior wall (must repair per manufacturer's specs - pretty sure this happened when they plumbed up the refer, pictures later).
- Provide additional ventilation at bottom of refer cabinet. Apparently no one read the install manual. It's how they always do it.
- Make another set of window covers (3rd). Always included as vinyl but first set made in cloth fabric with missing snaps which was made while I waited after orientation. These had been a part of the order from about the 1st week. 2nd set which I now have after I sent the first back to them after I marked locations for missing or misplaced snaps. A third set will be made to accurately fit the new shrouds (see below).
- Blinds do not fill out window opening. The "shrouds" were made too big so one side of one is about 1/2" short so you can see in and out easily and two other corners I can easily see out since they are just short. Replace the 2 large sets of shrouds.
- Replace the microwave which is scratched up. Stainless stell push button and plastic frame are chewed up.
Edit:Forgot a couple items:
- Replace the glove box door or at least the lock. The glove box door got swapped out with another van but they did not change the lock when they did it so there would have been 2 people without locking gloveboxes.
- Recover the ottomen in leather and make new seat back cushions out of leather.

There is so much to do. I am a bit ovewhelmed and I still have a lot more to write about that happened in the last 2 weeks. I have a lot of pictures to go with the tales to be told. There may be issues somewhere in the SMB shop office communication, What do you think? If you think I was getting whiney towards the end there were some very good reasons and I will share these with you.

I just don't know what to say anymore. I hope that the SMB folks will feel it their duty to provide an explanation to me and all of us. I welcome their response. I just need to know that it will all be taken care of as painlessly as possible for me. What if I lived in Oregon? What would they do? What would I do? What would anyone do?


Conflicted and flummoxed Chumley

Chumley 10-06-2012 03:42 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Hey all,

We are sitting here at beautiful Glacier Meadows rest stop on CA Hwy 80 just before Truckee. We noticed water coming out from under the shower and out of the front of the heater. What next?

I assume altitude had something to do with it but still doesn't seem right to me.

Really trying to have fun but stuff keeps happening. Oh well.

Keep you posted.


llamadave 10-06-2012 08:31 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Your gray tank might be full. When it fills up you will first see water in the bottom of the shower. If the drain pipe is not tight, water might come out from under the shower instead. I don't recommend this as a general practice, but in an emergency I would drive over a storm drain or onto some grass along the road and dump your gray water.


Chumley 10-06-2012 10:54 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Hey David,

It couldn't be a full grey water tank, we have not used them yet. We haven't used anything except the TV and stereo. I guess the refrigerator is being used.

Fresh clean water on the floor.

Oh well. Thanks for the thought.


Chumley 10-06-2012 10:57 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Our First Trip in our one week old Sportsmobile!

We have the dream rig and we have 3 days! The plan was to take it easy and break in the van, put in a lot of miles, and see some beautiful Eastern Sierra fall scenery. We would learn how everything works before we take off in about a month for 2 weeks exploring the Southwest. We had several possible ďdispersedĒ camping sites picked out, some established remote sites on well graded roads (so they sayÖ). Sites from Mono Lake to just north of Mammoth Lakes to our favored sites near Bishop in Buttermilk Country and the last day at the Alabama Hills. The ďFrugal ShunpikerĒ guides even provided GPS coordinates. We would make the usual stops at Whoa Nelly Deli in Lee Vining, Schatís Bakery in Bishop, and burgers, pie and milkshakes at the Mt. Whitney Cafť in Lone Pine. We were set and very excited.

We had three days to luxuriate in the Sportsmobile splendor.

Well, not really.

As I posted earlier from the beautiful new rest stop at Glacier Meadows on Hwy 80 just before Truckee (okay, closer to Donner) we had a problem. We were probably at 5,000 feet and my wife noticed that either the dogs just peed in our new motorhome or something was wrong. I would pee in the thing before the dogs so I knew we might have a problem. Water had started to soak through the carpet and drip out of the heater onto the vent below. I couldnít believe that water was coming out of the heater. I pulled out the drawer above but there was a panel closing off the heater area. I tried to remove the face panel at the heater but someone had glued those plastic screw covers into the screws. I only had basic tools so there was no way I was going to be able to remove them. So I removed the grill on the heater and there was water running out of it! How could that be? The heater is next to the shower and shares the cabinet space with the shower plumbing but it appeared that the heater should be above anything that might leak. What was going on? The air intake grill below was pretty much completely blocked by the heater pedestal so I couldnít see a thing, just water dripping out. I went to the shower and drained the line to the shower wand and checked the faucets but they were closed and since I never turned on the pump there was no water pressure. So I buttoned everything back up. All in all about an hour wasted since I also had to remove the drawers and clean up. We put a dry towel in there and hoped that this was just an issue with altitude and it was over for now. We go about another 50 miles and the towel is soaked again. This time so much water had come out that it floated out the sawdust from under the shower too. Thank God it didnít go into the ottoman well next to the shower since that is where all of the electrical stuff is mounted (inverter, etcÖ).

You can see that the towel has a line and that is the sawdust that floated out from under the cabinet/shower stall.

So there is water soaking into the plywood and under the shower stall and cabinet and they are not where there is good air circulation (none actually) and there is rain forecast for next week in the SF Bay area so I donít think anything is going to be drying out soon. Will the plywood soak up the water and swell or will mold develop? What is going on?

What do you do when you get a bunch of water coming out of your heater and the pump isnít even on? Turn on the pump and hope that it holds and doesnít flood the electrics? Canít take a shower, canít cook and clean up, canítÖ anything. So you donít rely on the rig anymore.

So here we are in our +$100,000 Sportsmobile on our first trip and this is a picture of us enjoying it.

Itís really kind of tough to find rooms in the ďfall colorĒ time of year in the Eastern Sierras. Add in that Bishop is having a car show and there are no rooms from Bishop to Mammoth Lakes, especially if you call at 3:00 and you have 2 dogs. So we stop in Minden, NV, and stay at a Quality Inn since they have rooms and will take dogs. Itís right across the street from the Minden/Gardnerville waste treatment plant, right out our window as a matter of fact. If you know what a cattle stockyard smells like then this is close. This is what I did on the first trip in my new $100,000 dripping limousine. There are no chairs under the awning, no sky full of stars, or the bottle of wine with left over pizza. I looked at and smelled a sewage treatment plant, or?

I thought that yesterday I would have found the last issue when I discovered the patched holes in the dash and the black paint flaking off in sheets. How am I supposed to feel as a customer? My wife now says she just hates this thing. It represents so much that could have been a dream fulfilled and it has gone about 180 degrees from expectation. Now this is a lady who is a senior vice president at a bank that is the darling of Wall Street and is a regular speaker at financial institution conferences on sales and customer service. Her evaluation of this situation is not very positive. I am chair of a couple of board of directorís for non-profit organizations promoting wine tourism and a linear park through our downtown and a sitting City planning commissioner. Why do I tell you all this? Because we thought we had seen everything and understood why things happen and know how we might be able to avoid a situation like this. I probably come across rather bombastic and a know it all but this is what I know. Ask me about electrical calcs and Iím lost. We are so far from understanding how SMB could treat a person like we have been that we are lost. I am literally dumbfounded and wonder if we can recover from all of these mistakes.

I live 2 Ĺ hours from SMB. It costs me about $70 in fuel each visit and it writes off an entire day. I went to SMB regularly and still had the struggles that I wrote about. But I am not giving up! They owe me all of the fixes and they have to be done right! They are supposed to fix everything that they knew about last week in one day, the 11th of October. They have to get it all done because I cannot get back there before my vacation and now there is this leak. I want to be there when they open her up and check the plumbing. I want to know what it is that went wrong for myself because the trust is taking a serious hit. I had asked for an extended warranty when they did the rebuild because things just donít seem to go back together as well the 2nd time in my experience. They denied it and I donít know why, it wouldnít cost them a thing if it was not used. Easy customer satisfaction with no costs involved, I just donít get it. I hope this leak isnít the result of a reused line that split or was crushed Ė after I was told that everything would be new.

This business is very personal to the Felds. It is more than a business, it is their life. I am not trying to tear down their house, just the opposite. This is why I did not post for about 2 weeks, so I could justify in my own mind that I could skip the events that happened. I just canít hold back all of the stuff that happened anymore because it just isnít right to do so. I know that they were getting upset but no one could tell me why, they just didnít like that I was ďnot happyĒ. I am not sure how that works, I have a list of goofs a mile long and they tell me that I am lucky because Jonathan pushed so hard to get the repairs done so completely. I donít know where I went wrong in all of this. I canít take all responsibility even if I tried. I donít run their shop. I tried to help but maybe I was just too overbearing. I donít know. Can you feel the frustration?

For those of you who are or are about to PM me please just post your messages here. At this point SMB cannot deny that this thread has legs. You all are reading this thread and it is in their best interest to have it end and end well but I canít seem to get comfortable, there is just always something else. Where will it end?

I feel so bad because my wife is so disappointed, I am too, but I believe we can get this fixed, sheís not so sure.

This is supposed to be fun right? When does the fun part start?

My God, how did we come to this?



BrianW 10-06-2012 11:25 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Not to ask the obvious, but did you drain the fresh water tank to eliminate one potential source of water? No idea why it would be coming out the heater, though. It seems SMB runs their water lines all over the van in the weirdest places, maybe there is one back there that got punctured during the build? But, with how close you've been to the van during the build you probably are familiar with where the water lines are.

Perhaps rainwater came in the outside vent hole for the heater at some point and filled up a cavity. As a stop-gap measure until you have SMB check it out you might want to put a piece of duct tape or something over the vent hole. Maybe it was installed incorrectly?

Chumley 10-07-2012 12:18 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

You brought up a good point so I went outside and looked at the side of the van to see if maybe the sprinklers might have sprayed some water into the heater. No such luck, side is clean. Our water is so hard it would have left stalactites, no stalactites or water spots.

No rain for months but some is coming next week. Not rain water at this time.

The water tank is in the rear and is still 3/4 full from when SMB turned it over Friday before last. You are right, I saw the water lines run fairly low along the wall on this side so I am surprised to see it coming out of the heater which I thought was higher than any water line, except the shower head wand but it is inside the shower stall. I'm thinking a small leak in a line that is spraying but will likely be proven wrong. I just want to see it for myself.

Thanks for the thoughts.

I would like to know if this is the first time this has happened to anyone and how concerned they were about the wet plywood. I kind of doubt that it is marine or even exterior but hope I am wrong.

This is really getting to be trying.



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