Mechanical Issues

Nissan primastar camper van engine

Once the Campervan conversion was completed, some mechanical issues needed to be addressed. The Primastar (the 1.9 DCi100 at least) is very easy to work on with plenty of space in the engine bay and everything reasonably accessible. Here’s what I’ve tackled so far with regard to engine and mechanical maintenance, some of which was urgent and the rest, purely precautionary.

 

General Service

As a matter of routine, the engine oil needed a change along with the oil filter, air filter and fuel filter. At the same time, the V-belt (alternator belt) was looking a bit perished so I decided to replace that to avoid a roadside failure.

Brakes

Worn brake pads
The badly worn brake pads removed from the calipers

The brakes on the Nissan Primastar are pad and disc on the back as well as the front so brake servicing such as replacing the brake pads is very simple. The brakes on my van were in a hideous (illegal) condition when I popped the wheels off for a look with metal contact and damage to the discs very imminent. A change of brake pads was in order but the discs were in relatively good shape.

Gearshift Mechanism

The gearshift mechanism on these vans is known to give trouble early enough in its life cycle with cable linkages a common issue. There are cheap and effective remedies available for this on ebay, a simple metal clip designed to stop the gearshift cable linkage popping off at the gearstick and gearbox end. Mine hasn’t yet suffered this failure but the gear linkage was noisy and felt clunky to change. All that was needed was to remove the leather gaiter from the gearshift and apply a good helping of axle grease to everything behind it that moved. Job done, and the gearshift is as good as new.

Wheels & Tyres

A word of caution; Wheels from the MK3 Vivaro/Trafic (2014 onwards) do not fit the Mk2 vans! I got a great bargain in part worn Continental tyres and original steel rims from a 2017 Vivaro, planning on a straight bolt-off, bolt-on swap, only to find the stud pattern is different! So while the tyres were fine, I had to transfer them onto the old rims, which needed a lot of cleaning and painting etc. It was still a big saving but a little less so than if I could have done a straight swap.

On that note, if you are planning on upgrading your wheels to alloys, the stud pattern for this particular model (x83, 04 – 2014) is 5×118. I have seen 5×120 stud patterns used, many of the BMW wheels are this particular pattern, but you will need to change the wheel bolts to suit the new wheels. If you are buying used wheels and tyres, particularly if they are from a car, make sure the load spec will pass any inspections such as the CVRT.

Fuel Injectors

A problem that immediately presented itself when I started driving my van was an issue with fuel injectors. In this case though, it wasn’t the usual injector failure you would expect at from any diesel engine. I started the van one day to find it was firing on three cylinders and immediately assumed an injector would need replacing. On closer inspection, it turned out that a badly refitted air box had cut through the cables running to two of the fuel injectors. The constant vibration of the air box had worn right through the cable until they eventually severed. I’m not sure if this is a common problem with these engines was just the result of poor maintenance but, either way, it was a simple mater of stripping and re-connecting the damaged wiring. I added a bit of foam to the underside of the air box too and re-fitted the whole unit correctly.

damaged fule injector wiring
The damaged cables to the fuel injectors
Foam added to bottom of the air box
A piece of foam added to the bottom of the air box to protect the injector wiring

Gearbox

I have no issues with the gearbox on this particular van although it is well known that these gearboxes can be the achilles heal of the Primastar and its brand variants. I decided to change the gear oil as a preventative measure and purchased 3 litres of 75w90 gear oil from my motor factors. This was mistake number one! I found conflicting information online about the type and quantity of gear oil for the Primastar and decided to go with the spec that was listed in the motor factors reference bible, 2.6 L of 75w90. This resulted in an impossibly stiff gear change, particularly first thing in the morning when the engine was cold. A quick visit to a main dealer and I was armed with factory spec gearbox oil, 75w80 TransElf to be specific, and more specifically, 2.7L as opposed to 2.6.

A lot of gearbox oil changes involve just filling the gearbox with oil until it begins to drip out of the filler hole. This isn’t the case here however so it’s prudent to carefully measure the correct amount of oil or to use the Renault-specific tool to check the oil level. Too much oil in the gearbox can result in leaks from the oil seals and too little will have the obvious effect of damaging the gearbox.

Power Steering Pump

The power steering works fine but the pump squeals a bit on full lock and there are signs of a leak so I plan on replacing the pump at some stage.

Engine Mountings

My campervan suffered a bit of vibration, particularly at low revs in the higher gears. The 1.9 engine in these vans is a little under-powered at times and it’s necessary to keep the revs up a bit for best performance so the vibration was at least in part, just a characteristic of this particular model. Having said that, at least one of the top engine mountings was in very poor condition with one looking like it didn’t have long left before needing replacement. After replacing the left and right-hand top engine mountings, there was a huge reduction in vibration and a marked improvement in comfort in general.

These two mountings in particular were an easy swap, a straightforward bolt-off, bolt-on procedure (you will need to support the gearbox with a jack). I haven’t replaced any of the other mountings but I see no reason why any of the others should be any more difficult.

 

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