What things really void your vehicle warranty?

Mercedes Sprinter extended warranty brochure cover crop

A while back we made a joke about voiding the warranty on the van by cutting a hole in the roof. Some people took it seriously and we still get questions about what really is OK to do on a van conversion without voiding the manufacturer’s warranty.

The short answer is, it’s completely up to your dealer and Mercedes what they say they will cover or not cover, but knowing what the manufacturer warranty claims to cover and knowing what the law states about warranties is a good starting point for any warranty-based claim you might need to make.

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Why did Mercedes put the trailer wiring box so close to the Sprinter’s receiver hitch mount?

Bully hitch mounted step just clears the factory hitch wiring box

Good luck trying to find a locking trailer hitch pin that will fit in the tiny space that Mercedes leaves at the side of the 2″ receiver mount.

Receiver hitches aren’t common in Europe, so maybe the German engineers got a little confused about how they are typically used. When we added a hitch mounted step to our van, it was hard to find a locking pin that would work.

We ended up making a 90 degree pin lock but ever since then we’ve contemplated just moving the electrical connector for the hitch. Problem is, it’s not easy to know where to put it.

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DIY Conversion vans are always a prototype

Design drawing for cabinets
pro·to·type (ˈprōdəˌtīp/) noun: 
(1) A first, typical or preliminary model of something, especially a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied.
(2) A DIY conversion or adventure van, from which new layouts are continually developed or evolved.


We “finished” our conversion about a year after we got the van. By that point we had all the systems in. Either to our original design or to the design that we made up as we went along that reflected our real-world usage better. We didn’t necessarily have everything tidied up (we still don’t!) but all the components worked.

Now though, after using the van for a while, we want to make some changes. We don’t know quite what we want to change, or how we’ll do it, but we feel there’s potentially a better layout, a better storage setup, a better way of stopping water tanks from freezing over the winter, and a better way of freeing up cargo/bike space in the rear of the van.

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Monitoring battery state of charge (SoC)

Battery graphic

Cheap battery volt meters don’t give you good insight into how full or empty your battery really is. Without knowing the true state of charge you can damage your battery and seriously shorten its life.

If you’ve priced out proper battery monitors, you might have experienced sticker shock. Although you can buy a LED volt meter for under $10, true battery monitors cost a lot more – often around $200. Why? And what’s so important about using a proper monitor?

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Keeping conversion van weight under control

Sprinter Vehicle Identification Placard on driver's seat base

Its easy to get carried away with a van conversion and add all sorts of stuff. But the weight can add up much faster than you think, and soon you could be pushing up against the maximum vehicle weight.

If you’re using a long wheelbase 2500 crew van with a V6 engine and 4×4 transmission like we did, your payload weight isn’t very high at all.

Although 1-1/4 tons sounds like a lot, it soon disappears as you build out cabinets, a bed platform, a fridge, electrical system and some water tanks.

Add in a couple of people, a couple of mountain bikes, and some food, clothes, and water for a week’s getaway and things can get out of hand.

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Adding an awning to a Sprinter with a roof rack

Fiamma awning extended

The typical awning you see on NCV3 Sprinters is the Fiamma F65. It curves around the top of the van wall to the roof. It mounts either onto the bare metal of the roof or on to the factory roof rails.

The thing is, we have a pretty large VanTech roof rack supporting our solar panels. It’s already bolted to the factory roof rail. That stops us from using the F65. Instead, we bought an F45. It mounts on vertical walls or, in our case, on to L-brackets suspended from the roof rack bars. Here’s how we did it.

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DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) – the other engine fluid

DEF filler cap under hood

Along with oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and fuel, modern diesel engines also need DEF to run properly. All North American Sprinters built after 2010 have DEF tanks.

DEF helps with emissions control and the computer in your van will stop you from driving if it detects an empty DEF tank. But don’t panic if the DEF light on your dash comes on. You’ve got plenty of time to fill up.

So, what is DEF, why does your engine need it, and what’s the best way to fill the DEF tank?
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