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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.


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

new struts

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


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.

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