Cummins Canoe (A Stepvan Story)


Expedition Leader
Plethora… keep up the good work, don’t get discouraged, and you’ll find the bottom of your pit and it’ll only get better and more reliable t
Until then, keep at it, enjoy the journey,

Stay safe.


All well said. It's all true. Sometimes you roll the dice. I kind of expected everything to happen when I got the rig, except for all the engine issues. The main reason for the rig choice was the Cummins engine. But I really lucked out. Oh well, it's the easiest vehicle to work on, and I haven't spent all that much money. Except spring time when I'll need to buy 6 new tires!🥺

I think I'm still ahead of the game now versus buying a new fwd Sprinter van. I don't think I would enjoy changing a clutch on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere South Dakota in that. But I'm mostly having good time, have some good stories, and ya'll enjoy watching the struggle, so I'll keep rolling the dice!


I know many are probably wondering, and quite frankly, so am I, but I have compiled a road repair list and analysis for 2021. This is a list of all the breakdowns we had, down time, and the funding it took to get back on the road.

$10/14 hours - Turbo falling off #1
Weld broke on turbo adapter flange. Paid Mitch the farmer to weld it back on.

$20/6 hours - Turbo falling off #2
Mitch did a good job welding, but the metal was too thin and piece broke again. I won that bet. Threw it out and paid fabrication shop to make beefy custom one.

$83/140 hours - Broke a clutch hydraulic line. Replaced with aftermarket stainless lines from the interwebs that won't ever be a problem again.

$167/60 hours - Clutch disk hub separation. My fault for beating the crap out of it when the clutch line broke thinking I can reverse uphill out of parking spot with no clutch pedal. Hiked 12 miles to get new clutch assembly.

$115/6 hours - Clutch master cylinder piston ruptured. Old plastic, oh well. Got good at driving without clutch for 29 miles to parts store without stopping. I only park on hills now.

$13/2 hours - Cracked fuel line. A barbed coupling and clamps, no worries.

$1/1 hour - Flat tire. Plugged.

$145/16 hours - Fan pulley explosion #1. Replaced belt tensioner and pulley.

$1/1 hour - Flat tire. Plugged.

$1/1 hour - Throttle cable fell off. Cable tied it back on, permanent fix?

$696/90 hours - Fan pulley explosion #2. Belt tensioner wasn't the issue. Replaced fan hub bearing, fan spacer, and pulley. Easy 1 hour fix, but had to wait a few days for the fan hub bearing from Cummins dealer, yea that one hurt the wallet.

$441/54 hours - Pothole that almost reached to the bottom of the earths crust, near the mantle. Replaced upper and lower control arms, bushings, balljoints, tie rods, packed the hub bearings, and got an alignment(eventually). This price also includes buying the junkyard dag an ice cream sandwich.

$1/3 hours - Fuel injector washer burnt up. Replaced copper washer.

$32/120 hours - Engine cylinder head crack. Brazed the crack and filled coolant with block sealer. Not a crippling repair, but had to stop and fix it at some point. Might not be 100% fixed, time will tell and we may need to revisit this one.

$0/4 hours - Shock mount broke, I welded it back on right quick.

So in total, spent $1726 in repairs over about 16,000 miles. That comes out to a little over 1 penny per mile. Not too bad for 14 breakdowns. Oh geez, that's a lot of breakdowns. That was 518 hours, or 21 days of down time. Good thing I'm patient. What would happen if I wasn't handy and had to get mechanic shops to fix all these? Lets break that down with some guestimations. Some repairs require the vehicle to get towed. I'm going to give this van credit where credit is due and say that even some of the crippling injuries, she was still able to drive, because I did actually drive it under those conditions. Also, what do mechanics charge? $75/hour? $130/hour? Varies between regions, lets say $100/hour.

I roughly estimated about 39 hours of mechanic labor. Works out to about $3900 in labor plus 4 tows at $250/tow. Add in the parts already paid for and now we're talking $6626! And then there is wait time. Most shops had say a 2 week wait time to get a vehicle in to look at it. Some shops might have looked at stuff the same day, so we'll cut it in the middle and say 1 week on top of actual shop time and part wait time. That's about 118 days of down time if we had used shops for all repairs. Where does one go while vehicle is in shop? Hotels? Street bench? Under a bridge? These numbers could be more or less, I'm just speculating as there are too many variables, take it with a grain of salt. But boy, if these numbers are somewhat accurate, I really feel for others who have to depend on others to fix things. It's a real eye-opener for sure.

So all in all, we had breakdowns yes. Could have been worse, hopefully this year will be better. We saved approximately $4900 and 97 days of waiting around. I'm fortunate that I have the skills to make the repairs and have a vehicle to live in while I wait for parts to arrive and make repairs, so the waiting department really was negligible as I still was being productive. Also helps to have such an easy vehicle to work on. What to take from this? Every vehicle will breakdown, some more than others. Older vehicles will break down more, but parts are cheaper and one could maybe fix them on their own. Maybe don't buy an older vehicle if you can't fix it on your own? But if a new breaks, you'll need more money. Hmmm, maybe I should do the same comparison, say if I had a Mercedes Sprinter with the same repairs. But who is going to be able to afford that?!?
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Expedition Leader
16k miles for a rig you dragged out of a field and brought back to life is a lot. My Ambo has been an exception, but on an old truck I expect to put $1000/year into it. 16k miles is more than many of us are putting on in two years… so you aren’t doing bad in my books.