After more than 50 thousand kilometres in rough terrain and 13 countries in Africa I try to answer the question, if it was the right decision to use a 4×4 MB Sprinter for the challenging environment of the black continent.
And the crucial question is: Will the 4×4 Sprinter take us home again?
To make a long story short: traveling through Africa with a Dopfer Sprinter was a good decision, but there are still 15,000 km to go, but we are sure that our Sprinter will make it!
The basic setup:
we use a Mercedes Benz Sprinter 519 4×4 (Oberaigner ZG3) 906, which means it is a 5 tonnes chassis mit 3 litre Diesel, 5 speed automatic gear box and 4×4 with reduction gear (1:1,42) with electronic diff locks.
On top of this chassis sits a GFK cabin from DOPFER-Reisemobilbau in Bavaria Germany. The over all dimensions is 6,80 x 2,25, 3,65 meter with about 6 tonnes in total.
The 4×4 drivetrain:
The Oberaigner ZG3 4×4 was till 2021 the standard 4×4 setting which was offered by Mercedes with the Sprinter. Which means there is no really low reduction gear (1:1,42 instead of 1:2,8 with serious off-road setting – ZG4). And there is no real diff lock, only the electronically option which uses the brakes to substitute the mechanical locks.
3 litres turbo charged Diesel V6 (OM642) with 190 HP, which is a standard engine of the Mercedes Benz company and was built from 2005 until 2022.
We use 235/85/16 BF Goodrich AT (a standard Toyota Land Cruiser dimension in Africa) which is 5 cm higher than the original 205/75/16. This tyre gives us a perfect setup for rough terrain including snow (Lesotho), mud and gravel.
Maintenance, spares and repairs:
To outlast in Africa, it turns out, maintenance in advance is the key of survival.
Even if the MB Sprinter is a common vehicle in south eastern Africa, the supply with spare parts was not easy. e.g. in Tanzania was the expected delivery time for brake pads six to eight weeks. So it was very important to plan ahead and to use every possibility to check and repair the vehicle in advance.
Except Filters, oil and some bolts, we imported all spares directly from Europe, like brake parts, shocks, gaskets, turbo charger and wheel spacers. In most cases the delivery time from Europe was, desk to desk, 10 days. Prices were about double than in Europe because of transport and customs.
Most of the needed spare parts we carried on board, the spreadsheet of our spare parts contains 147 positions, even all needed tools for most of the repairs are on board.
On some occasions, it was impossible to solve problems on our own, but we could always find some helpful hands to support us.