Strut your stuff!
Those gas struts on your pop-up roof won’t last forever
In most caravans and trailers, a gas strut is a common piece of equipment. Some keep the nose cone open, others lift the bed base so you can access the packing space underneath, while others help you to open the roof-top tent. And then there are gas struts that help you open the pop-up roof on your caravan and keep it in place. As with most other consumable parts on your caravan, the gas struts are going to need some attention at one point or another. Gas struts are actually cylindrical capsules with about 100 bar of pressure inside. That’s about 50 times more than your car tyres.
But the struts can lose their oomph after a while. So when the pop-up roof suddenly doesn’t pop anymore, it’s most probably because the struts are past their prime. Luckily, you can replace them yourself.
SO, WHERE TO START?
A caravan’s pop-up roof rest on four gas struts – two on each side. To replace it, you have to service the front and rear of the roof separately. (Besides, it doesn’t make sense to replace only one or two of the struts, and while you’re spending the time and making the effort, you might as well do them all.)
Keep the following close
at least one other person to help
two 5-litre paint cans, or other containers of roughly the same height
about 6m of medium strength rope (depending on the length of the caravan’s body
This is what needs to happen
lift the roof and let it rest on the paint cans
the canvas sides need to be removed
the inside latches need to be loosened
the old struts need to be replaced
the canvas needs to go back in
OPERATION GAS STRUT
1 Lift the pop-up roof and put the paint cans on diagonally opposite corners. Place them halfway under the edge of the roof. (If you’re a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy, you can put a can under every corner, but two’s fine.) 2 Pull he handles of the roof’s latches towards each other with a rope that you’ve tied between them until the gas struts start to give and the roof rests on the cans. The idea is to relax the tension on the roof canvas between the pop-up roof and the caravan so that you can remove it. 1 3 Find the place where the canvas is attached, then pull the Velcro and zips open. 2 4 Look and feel around for the opening in the aluminium groove where the canvas slides out – the groove is similar to the one where your side tent slides into on the edges of the caravan’s hull. The groove’s opening is somewhere on the side on most caravans and seldom in the middle (in the length) of the roof. The roof canvas on caravans built before 1990 was fastened with some screws and a flat aluminium strip. On these, you simply unscrew the strip. 5 Pull the canvas in the direction of the opening and thread it out. 3 It’s a lot easier if someone helps you here. While one person is pulling the canvas out at the opening, the other one can help by pulling on the canvas, in the same direction of course. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to get it out on your own. And make a
mental note of how you threaded it out – it has to go in the same way. With older caravans, there’s a good chance that you’ll find some oil stains on the canvas where it lies close to the struts. So while the canvas is removed, you have a good opportunity to clean it. Just remember to seal it again before you put it back in this case. If the canvas is very worn, or some of the mesh in the roof windows in it are torn, consider replacing it. A new canvas will cost between R2 800 and R4 500. 7 Place the paint cans on the corner on the same side (at the front and rear) where you plan to remove the first two gas struts. 4 8 Unscrew the strut from its housing in the fitting attached to the roof. It’s not necessary to unscrew the entire fitting. Just remember, the bottom and top of the strut unscrew in opposite directions. Start with the top part – when the strut is almost loose, you have to depress it slightly and give it a turn to get it out. 5 9 Unscrew the other strut as well. 10 Pull down on the roof’s latches so that the sides of the roof can rest on the cans. Ask someone to hold the roof for you so that it doesn’t fall on the cans when you do this. 11 Unscrew the bottom screws of the roof latch. There should be three on each sides. 6 12 Unscrew the feet of the new gas strut, because the feet of the old strut are still in place where the old strut was screwed in at the top and the bottom. 7 13 Screw the narrow part of the new strut into the foot on the caravan. 8 The thicker part of the strut should show upwards once it’s in place. 14 Lift the roof on this side with your helper(s) so that you can screw the top of the strut in place on the pop-up roof.
Remember to hold on to the thin side while your screwing in the top part, otherwise the bottom will unscrew as your trying to fasten the top part. 9 15 Press the roof down slightly from the outside (your helper can lend a hand again over here) so that you can screw in the latch again. 10 16 Move the paint cans to the other side and repeat the process. 17 Fasten the rope through the arms of the latches again and place the cans at diagonally opposite corners again before you pull the rope tight until the roof lowers slightly again. 11 18 Thread the canvas back in. 12 The person threading in the first part of the canvas should be inside the caravan while the other one feeds the canvas through from outside. Make sure you keep the canvas upright. The mesh side should face towards the outside and the zip bow of the flaps in the window should go upwards. Don’t pull on the mesh as you’re putting the canvas back as it can rip. The canvas over the corners is strengthened 13, making it a good place to grip it as you’re pulling and threading it in until it’s neatly in place. 19 Loosen the rope and let the struts do their job. Now the pop-up roof is ready for many summers by the sea at Scottburgh.