Body, cabin & electrics

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Project Mercedes-benz E320 Cdi -

Panel vans are ob­vi­ously cheaper than seated buses, but don’t be tempted by the lower prices if you want to carry pas­sen­gers in the back, be­cause it’s a fid­dle fit­ting the an­chor points for a rear seat and you’ll need to cut in some win­dows (they’re around £150 a pair, plus an­other £150 or so to fit them). Volk­swa­gen ap­plied a va­ri­ety of treat­ments to the un­der­side of the T5, in­clud­ing poly­mer pan­els, which do away with the need for wax sealants. This not only helps pre­vent cor­ro­sion, but also acts as noise in­su­la­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, the body is fully gal­vanised, so there is a three-year war­ranty for the paint­work and a 12-year anti-cor­ro­sion guar­an­tee. As a re­sult, rust shouldn’t be an is­sue on the T5, so any signs of cor­ro­sion will be as a re­sult of badly-re­paired ac­ci­dent dam­age. That said, the paint­work on early ex­am­ples could very well be look­ing a bit scruffy by now, es­pe­cially if they started out as a builder’s work­horse.

In­te­ri­ors are ro­bust, but look for wear in the side bol­sters, par­tic­u­larly on ex-busi­ness buses. Be­ware of wa­ter leak­ing through the slid­ing side win­dows, which can rot out the base of the sill if left for too long.

As for the seat­ing ar­range­ment, the Shut­tle buses have an­chored seats which tilt for­ward or can be re­moved en­tirely, while the Car­avelle has a more flex­i­ble slid­ing ar­range­ment so you can move them back and forth on run­ners. Some T5s can seat up to nine if you opt for one with a dou­ble-bench ar­range­ment up front.

For some rea­son, electrics aren’t a T5 strong point, with many older vans suf­fer­ing elec­tri­cal nig­gles, namely is­sues with the EGR valve and var­i­ous sen­sors, no­tably the N75 valve which con­trols the turbo waste­gate ac­tu­a­tor.

The cen­tral lock­ing can also be tem­per­a­men­tal. Some­times it’s the driver’s door lock that’s at fault, but more of­ten than not it’s due to breaks in the wiring that runs un­der the driver’s seat, not helped by the fact that wa­ter from wet shoes tends to feed di­rectly to the un­der­seat area via the rubber mats. It’s a case of slid­ing the seat base fully for­ward and car­ry­ing out a thor­ough in­spec­tion, look­ing out for tell-tale signs of cor­ro­sion and mak­ing good poor con­nec­tions with new fit­tings and/or a sol­der­ing iron.

Bar­gain-hunters be­ware: even the pre-facelift mod­els still have rel­a­tively high used val­ues.

The Car­avelle has a slid­ing rear bench ar­range­ment, so you can vary the amount of boot space, while the minibus-like Shut­tle has fixed seats.

The post-2009 T5.1 had a much-re­vised cabin, but even early T5s of­fer plenty of com­fort. The high driv­ing po­si­tion is one of the T5’s key as­sets.

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