Tuesday, June 4, 2013

First Mod Done! (new roof fan)

After the exciting road trip to Georgia to pick up our new van, it was time to start evaluating Lynnebago more closely to list it’s must-haves, nice-to-haves, and maybe-someday-haves.
Before jumping into major modifications, my plan was first to get it mechanically inspected by the Mercedes Sprinter dealer, and then to only do minimal mods the first few months until I get a better feel for what I’ll want to do with the interior.
Lynnebago’s first visit to the Sprinter dealer went pretty good!  No major problems, just a few minor issues, and some “better safe than sorry” maintenance recommendations (since we don’t have a full understanding of it’s service history). Looks like I’ll have a very solid foundation on which to build!
So, that completed, I moved on to the first “must-have” modification this week— replacing the roof fan. 
The original dealer website photos never showed the interior ceiling of the van.  The salesman told me there was a roof vent, and that it looked “rather cheezy" (white cover painted black), so I anticipated replacing it soon with a proper fan.  Once I got the van home and inspected the top of the roof more closely, I noticed the cover was, in fact, cracked and being held together with a few strips of black duck tape!  This mod now moved to “urgent” status!
I’ve been very pleased with the Fantastic Fan in my View, so I ordered the same model 4000R featuring the reversible fan for the Lynnebago (I didn’t see the need for the remote control and automatic rain sensor features of the Model 6000, but I can always add those on later if I change my mind).
Reading the various forums, it sounded like replacing the fan would be a fairly easy mod, so I opted to give it a try myself rather than take it to an RV dealer.  The biggest debates seemed to be what kind of sealant and gasket to use. 
Some guys suggested using a butyl tape gasket (rather than the foam gasket pre-supplied by Fantastic Fan).  I thought about doing that, but worried about the corner seams and challenges of getting the 4 strips of butyl aligned just right to the fan lip.  So, I decided to just use the Fantastic Fan gasket as it was one single piece that perfectly fit the lip of the fan. 
The next decision was sealant (caulk).  Some recommended Sikaflex, others said to use Dicor, and still others suggested Proflex RV.  The closest local RV dealer recommended Dyco C-10 (a self-leveling sealant similar to Sikaflex and Dicor that would work on metal roofs), so I gave it a shot.
Finally, I stopped by the local home improvement store to get piece of plywood (to better distribute my weight while sitting up on the roof), some Goo Gone and caulk remover sprays, and a couple of scrapers.  Hoping I had everything now ready, I laid out all my supplies on the ground first:
(from left to right:  kneepads, microfiber cloths, a screwdriver, cordless drill, socket wrench, sealant caulk, caulk gun, gunk removers, and utility knife, scrapers and a tac cloth, and a pair of work gloves.
My roof sitting platform consisted of the following:
a spare 2x10 piece of lumber, a 2x4’ sheet of plywood, and one of Millie’s fleece dog blankets (to protect the wood from scratching the roof!)
Now how to get all this stuff up to the roof of the Sprinter!  I didn’t want to make dozens of trips up and down the ladder, so I resurrected an old canoe trip’s drybag backpack and stuffed everything in there!

I decided to leave the new fan safely in it’s box until the removal job was complete:
I started on the inside of the van by removing the original plastic trim piece.  What a yucky mess between the plywood paneled roof and the metal Sprinter roof-- the previous owner used a silver Reflectix-like material to insulate the van which he attached with black sticky goop (my own technical term!)
Next, I donned the backpack and made my way up to the roof to start scraping caulk off the existing roof vent:

The cracked caulk and minimal silicone over the screw heads was pretty easy to remove.  I used a plastic scraper as much as possible to minimize scratching the roof paint, but there were times where a flexible metal scraper could not be avoided.

The original screws were very quick and easy to remove with my rechargeable drill, and once out, I could finally remove the old vent cover.
Some sticky goopy old butyl tape was beneath the old vent.  It came up fairly easily, but I did have to use Goo Gone to clean the adhesive residue off the roof.

My new skylight!
I brought a water bottle and extra towel up to give the roof one final cleaning, and then went down to get the new Fantastic Fan. What a difference!
It seemed to be going all too easy!  But, of course, mods can never be that easy…  The new fan just barely did not fit into the hole.  There were a few corners that had not originally been cut straight and needed a bit more trimming.  Fortunately, my cordless Ryobi power tool set came with a jig saw, so down the ladder I went to retrieve it. 
One is far less nervous about cutting into their Sprinter’s roof when it’s already a large, gaping open hole!  My jig saw was able to quickly trim the edges to allow the new fan to fit.
I aligned the new fan and lightly drilled the new screws into place reusing the original corner screw holes.  The biggest challenge was then to get the remaining 14 screws into the roof.  The original vent had a total of 22 screw holes, so these did not align to the new fan’s holes.  Trying to drill the new screws directly into the roof was pointless—the screws were not self-taping on a metal roof!  So, down the ladder I went to retrieve a small drill bit to make “pilot” holes for the screws.
Back up to the roof, I started to drill the first hole and the drill bit broke in half.  “Shoot”, “dang”, “darn”!  Down the ladder to get another drill bit.  Up on the roof again, I got 2 holes drilled before the 2nd bit now broke as well.  Now, major expletives were muttered!  There was only about 1 more hour of daylight left, but I knew I’d need to make a trip to the Lowe’s store to get better drill bits.
Thirty minutes later I was back home again with my new wiz-bang Cobalt drill bit, and was easily able to drill the remaining pilot holes and insert the remaining screws within about 5 minutes.  I could then finally, start running the caulk before sunset!  The C-10 went on easily and started self-leveling as advertised.

Back inside, I tested opening and closing the vent and attached the interior plastic trim piece.
I decided to run the fan wires “exposed” along the ceiling for now (as burying them behind the paneling would have required removing both the ceiling and walls which I don’t want to do just yet).

The van currently only has a chassis (engine) battery, so I’m installing a new, separate, AGM battery to power all the camping/coach accessories.  I’ll initially just wire the fan directly to the battery (and then recharge the battery via a 120v battery recharger or my portable solar panel controller).  When I decide on a final floorplan, I’ll get the permanent electrical and plumbing done when the walls, ceiling and floor are removed for that.
And now for the final before and after shots--

Farewell, you old piece of crap roof vent!
Hello, lovely new Fantastic Fan!



  1. Damn .... you're good!!

  2. Good job, Lynne! The fan looks great. What'll you tackle next?

  3. Hah! I'd never have made it up the ladder with that bag of tools. Good for you! Looks fabulous and it will be nice to have one you know doesn't leak when it rains.

  4. What a wonderful job!!!
    I like this new diy blog you have going
    and I do read your other one also..
    I am pretty new to the RV world...

  5. I'm so impressed that you are tackling this gigantic job. What an inspiration for this 52 year old lady!!! Perfect mix of photos and explanation, I LOVE the step by step narration. I'm looking forward to many future posts and can't wait to see the Lynnebago's changes.