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Old 01-04-2016, 05:22 AM   #1
Rok
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Default Is tire alignment a common problem for Sprinter Vans?

In replying to another post, I thought I would start this new thread so I don't hijack the original thread, so here it goes:

After about 17,000 miles on our rig, we noticed a tire wear pattern that concerned us. Basically the front tires were wearing on the outside considerably more than the center and the inside.

Our Sprinter dealer, Lynnwood Mercedes in Lynnwood, WA) said the rig might need alignment, and since they didn't do it there, they sent us to a tire shop down the road a bit (actually QUITE a bit).

Anyway, it cost us $150, but we consider that as money well spent since there was a noteworthy change in the way our 2013 GW Legend SE tracks the road.

Here are a few of the things I found out:

(1) The tire dealership said that they get a bunch of Sprinter Vans in for this service, and they all but eluded that nearly every Sprinter out there needs that service.

(2) Again, according to the tire dealership, the original tires used on Sprinter Vans are not very good quality. (I think they are "Continental", but I'm not sure.)

I'm just wondering if it is common for Sprinter vans to go out of alignment when being shipped, or if the addition of the RV stuff puts them out of line. Can anyone address that issue?

If all, or most of them need it, shouldn't it be a warranty type of item? I wasn't going to submit it because who knows what we might have done in the 17K miles that we've owned it, but if everyone is experiencing this, MB or the outfitter (GW in our case) should cover it.

Does anyone else have experiences or thoughts on the matter?

............Rocky
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Old 01-04-2016, 03:51 PM   #2
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Most Sprinter RV conversions need a front end alignment after all the weight of the conversion is added to the vehicle. The Sprinters leave the factory with front end aligned on an empty vehicle. A few RV manufacturers do the alignment after the conversion, but most don't. Best to get it realigned at the weight you normally drive with.
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Old 01-04-2016, 03:59 PM   #3
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lack of alignment will be more noticeable by removing hands from the wheel on a level ( not crowned) road and seeing if the van wanders.

wear like you describe can be from the weight of the van pushing to the outside on turns.
so could be tire quality- tires unable to resist the wear from this scrubbing, or just a result of the weight carried.

If the van tracks straight, I don;t think you have a problem which an alignment adjustment can solve.

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Old 01-04-2016, 04:36 PM   #4
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Outside wear is usually a sign of too much toe in. Sometimes too much positive camber. As mentioned, the added weight of the conversion is often the cause, as is settling of the suspension parts as they wear in. I think all the brands of vans have the same issue, but many folks don't notice unless it gives odd tire wear. A good alignment would be a positive thing for any new class B after the 5K miles, so the wear pattern can be seen.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:27 AM   #5
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Thanks for the responses everyone. My question is, whether this is something one should ask to be reimbursed for under warranty--and others haven't really addressed that question.

Personally, I'm on the fence about that issue. At 17,000 miles and nearly 3 years, it is entirely possible that we could have done something to knock it out of alignment. But, given our conservative driving, that seems unlikely. Since the tires don't wear immediately, that also seems to favor the argument that the rig wasn't aligned properly when we first got it new.

From what others have written here, it sounds like the addition of the heavy motorhome part of the rig can throw it out of alignment, so one would expect that as part of the outfitting, the outfitting companies should re-align it after the installation of all the "stuff".

I doubt any of the smaller companies would have alignment equipment, so they would probably have to pay nearly the same as the end customer to get it done. It is possible that they just send them out without being re-aligned, and pay the claims when a customer complains. The problem is that the total cost to people like me, the final customer, is not just the $150 + tx. I also have two front tires with abnormal wear on them which will probably have to be replaced sooner than if the alignment was done by the outfitter.

On another thread on this forum, someone wrote that they did get the warranty to pay for one rig's alignment at 10,000 miles, but were denied it on another rig at 25,000 miles. At 17,000, we are right in the middle of those two numbers.

So, if I hear others correctly. If I am going to file a warranty claim for the alignment, it should be with outfitter and not Mercedes, right?

At this point I feel that it might be appropriate to do so, even after 17K miles. Do others feel this way, or do you feel I would be unreasonable to submit such a thing?

Please let me know how you feel about this issue.

Thanks in advance.

............Rocky
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Old 01-05-2016, 01:03 AM   #6
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Check your warranty book. For my 2014 Sprinter, wheel alignment is warranted for 12 months or 12K miles.
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Old 01-05-2016, 01:12 AM   #7
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You are pretty high in mileage and very high in time, I think, to have a warranty claim, but it never hurts to ask. Be sure to tell them that it handled OK the entire time, without changing, so the only indicator of the error in alignment would be the tire wear and that takes miles. They may or may not bring up all the extra weight in the van from the conversion.

As a reference point. When we bought DW's Mercury Tracer in 1997, nearly all of them we test drove pulled to the right. The dealers stated they don't/won't align them before delivery if you are buying one, and that it would have to be warranty after purchase and within the first 30 days and 1000 miles. We thought that was pretty weird and unprofessional, but we eventually found one that drove well.

I totally agree that the manufacturers should be getting them aligned after the conversion. It would be in their best interest to have them drive the best they can for test drives, but I guess saving $100 is more important to them.
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Old 01-05-2016, 01:52 AM   #8
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Your outfitter was Great West Vans, Sterling, or whatever they called themselves. That is a dead end, no? I think you would be wasting your time pursuing that angle.
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Old 01-05-2016, 04:11 AM   #9
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I had no issue getting Mercedes to cover the alignment on our current van at 10k miles. Had to show the dealer where in the manual it says 1yr/12k miles is covered. I did have to argue a bit with the Mercedes rep to get the tires replaced though before he approved it. (Incidentally, my choice on brand. Went Firestones)
It's common knowledge that RV makers recommend an alignment somewhere in the 5 to 7k mile range on a new one. All 4 I've owned it was recommended by the selling dealer.
To me trying to get anyone other than the owner/driver to pay after say 12k miles is passing the buck so to speak....
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Old 01-05-2016, 04:36 AM   #10
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To make sure that the Sprinter parts of my new Agile were correct, I had it in the local MB dealer first thing the day after I picked it up. At the top of my check list was to confirm the alignment was correct which turned out to be fine. Then they fixed the 3 recall notices and the whole visit was free, plus some good coffee.


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Old 01-05-2016, 04:36 AM   #11
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A lot of this might be common knowledge to some, but even after nearly three years of RVing, I still feel like a rookie.

I probably could get someone to cover the cost if I whined and threatened and threw a tantrum, but that's not me. I appreciate others voicing their opinions. It allows me to make the right choice. $150 and a few tires is not worth my integrity.

When I feel jilted, however, I will go after something. Our 2006 Prius had a set of headlights go out just after the warranty expired. But all the Prii from that era had the same problem and there was a class action mounting. When I found that some other dealers were correcting the situation even after the warranty, I pressured our dealer to do that. (I think the headlights were about $1400.)

For this issue I will just keep quiet and chalk it up to a "learning experience". Again, thanks to those who chimed in and helped me make the right decision.

...........Rocky
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Old 01-05-2016, 05:09 AM   #12
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oh- forgot to ask- have the tires been rotated?

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Old 01-05-2016, 06:50 AM   #13
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No, the tires have not been rotated, not to my knowledge. Should they have been rotated? It might have happened on one of the normal services at our local MB dealer. I think we've had it in for two services, and the last one was rather costly.

...........Rocky
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Old 01-05-2016, 05:32 PM   #14
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Rok, at the least the tires should be rotated every 10k. I take ours now to Discount Tire every 6-8k for max tire life...
I do all my own normal services, so a dealer never sees ours unless there's a warranty issue
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Old 01-05-2016, 05:53 PM   #15
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Lots of people think that tire rotation on a properly maintained vehicle is a waste of time and (often) money. Probably not the majority opinion, but certainly arguable.
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Old 01-05-2016, 05:55 PM   #16
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rotation- they should be- if under 5000 miles or so a 5 wheel rotation is best, that moves tires from side to side to even out wear on the belts and moves the steering axle tires to other positions, and brings the spare into use...that way all 5 tires wear evenly.

if rotation is occurring after more than about 5000 miles, then swap the front and rear, keeping tires on the same side (don;t swap them).

steering axle tires will wear on the edges from scrubbing, drive axle tires will wear more in the center from driving and also braking wear.
swapping positions will even out the wear among the 4 tires

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Old 01-05-2016, 08:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avanti View Post
Lots of people think that tire rotation on a properly maintained vehicle is a waste of time and (often) money. Probably not the majority opinion, but certainly arguable.
I bought my replacement set of Michelin MS/2 tires for my 2011 Great West Van Legend at Discount Tire. Before I put it up for sale with 23,000 miles wear I took it in for a free tire rotation. Their recommendation was not to bother because the tire wear was perfect. I did the same with Advanced RV. The Mercedes Benz dealer at 18,000 miles with the Continental Vanco Four Seasons said there was no need. I watched them as they inspected and measured the tread depth both sides of all tires.

As I said in another thread, in three Sprinters covering over 154,000 miles, I have never had an alignment.
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Old 01-05-2016, 08:53 PM   #18
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That runs counter to everything I know about tires and wear.

Either they were lazy or are smarter than me...or both.

I'm an ASE certified tech ( in my spare time) and I'll go with what i know, although my training was more than 20 years ago.

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Old 01-05-2016, 09:47 PM   #19
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My experience is essentially identical with DavyDD's. Moreover, in my experience over a large number of vehicles and a long period of time, if the geometry is set up correctly and nothing is broken, then the tires will wear symmetrically, or close enough to not make rotation cost-effective. It is true that you will see front/back differences in the total amount of wear, but so what? Simply replace the tires in pairs. Total cost over time will not differ appreciably from tires that are regularly rotated.

The above is an anecdotal report of my personal experience, not scientific evidence. BUT, I challenge you to find any published empirical evidence that passes scientific muster to support tire rotation (I have tried). All the pro-rotation advice comes from "common sense" or from sources within the industry that have self-serving reasons to keep owners coming in the door.

This is one of those things (like 3,000 mile oil changes) that are so ingrained into car culture that it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion. I myself never go out of my way to rotate my tires. I believe that this has cost me neither money nor safety over the years. Can I prove it? no.

In closing, two of the most venerable sources in the history of the automobile agree with me:

1) John Muir (the hippie VW mechanic, not the nature photographer) said in "How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive"
Quote:
"Donít rotate your tires! It takes about 500 miles for a tire to get used to its position on a car, and changing it around just messes up its head. It will last as long or longer right where it is. The reason I tell you this now is that changing the tires around will sometimes make your front end feel insecure when thereís nothing wrong with it."
2) Tom and Ray (the NPR car guys) say that BMW (who apparently does not recommend tire rotation) is mostly right:

Blog Post | BMW says to not rotate my tires, but the tire manufacturere says different. Who should I believe? | Car Talk

Can't argue with sources like that.
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Old 01-05-2016, 09:58 PM   #20
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I would have to say I fall somewhere in the middle on this, based on what I have seen over the years. Tire wear should be pretty even side to side, but can easily vary front to rear, so I like to rotate so a set of 4 wears out at the same time. In the frozen north, the handling can get mighty squirrelly with new and 1/2 worn on different ends.

The next question is whether to do front to rear only or swap sides, also, to change the rotating direction. From what I have seen, if you go more than about 10K between rotations, on most tires the tread block wear from leading to trailing edge gets too big to go side to side. The tires will be noisy for a long time, and have less than great traction for a bit less time. I usually wind up just going front to rear, unless I have a wear issue on one or two tires.

Most vehicles these days hold alignment pretty well. Most that I have had only would need toe adjustments once in a while, and that is how our Chevy is, too.
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