Vanlife Log: Broke Down Sprinter in Winter

Vanlife Log, day 8. The Van didn’t start for three days.  We’ve had some minor trouble with starting the van in the past, but never for longer than a day.  Being broke down in the snowy weather of Colorado winter is a different kind of trouble.  This is the most cold I have ever experienced.  A broke down Sprinter in winter is not a good time.

Each night the temperatures of Copper Mountain, had been dipping below zero.  In the morning we opened a snow dusted door to find the pup’s water dish frozen into a solid block of ice.  Icicles formed over our wheels, and dripped from the bottom of the van.

We had been sleeping indoors at a condo with some friends, (sneaking pup in at night).  We had not tried to move the van in a day and a half.  The car we parked in front of, wanted to go to town.  The Husband grabbed the keys, and went to start the van.

Eh-eh-eh-eh…. Nothing.  He tried again.  Iiiii-eh-eh….Nothing.  A few more times. It still wasn’t starting.  We plugged the battery into our jump box to charge overnight.  We would try to start it again in the morning.

After some research on the internet, we learned that Diesel engines do not like cold weather.  Our problem was most likely due to our fuel being too cold to start the Van, we hoped. Our Van is 12 years old, and has 600k miles on it.  If it wasn’t just the cold causing it not to start, we were most likely going to be out of pocket a bit of money.

The next morning, the van still would not start. 

The Husband went to the auto store and purchased a new battery, fuel filter, diesel 911, and an engine block heater.  He changed the parts and plugged in the engine block heater all night.

The next morning, the van still would not start.

Prior to embarking on this trip, we had invested in a AAA roadside assistance premier membership.  This one allows a tow up to 200 miles.  We had to check-out of the condo by 10am the next morning, as it was booked for new guests to arrive.  Most likely, they would not want a van sitting in their driveway.  We called AAA.  The tow truck would arrive at 9:30am, just half an hour before the van needed to be moved.  We hoped the toe truck would arrive on time.

I packed that night. Enough stuff to take with me and the baby, as we would split up. I’d ride with friends and baby.  The Husband would take the pup, and catch a ride with the tow truck driver.  We were not looking forward to this adventure.

Still, we left the engine block heater plugged in all night.  Although, hopes that it would start had pretty much diminished.  

Morning came, and we attempted to start the van, for the third day in a row.  Nothing.  But it made a slightly different sound.  It sounded like it wanted to start.  We tried again, and again.  

At  9:32 am (2 minutes passed the tow truck’s arrival time) on the 16th try, the van started.

Chugging and spitting, but it started!  And we are back on the road, at least for now.

Have you had trouble with a diesel not starting in cold weather?  What did you do to get back on the road?

Broke down Sprinter in winter

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