How do you install a van awning without a roof rack?
This is the question we had to address. An awning can be safely and inexpensively attached to a fiberglass roof without the use of an expensive custom roof rack system.
This installation is essentially permanent. We punched two holes in the fiberglass roof to secure the awning directly to the roof. This means the old adage of measuring twice and cutting once applies!
We used bolts to attach the awning directly to the car. We used a large spreader washer to stop the small nuts from simply pulling through the fragile fiberglass roof. We used heaps of washers on each bolt so that the awning would be a few inches away from the vehicle to address the outwardly protruding roof.
The first thing we realized about attaching the awning to the van itself was that it should be done first before we built the interior with insulation, wiring and wall cladding.
Any awning that is permanently attached should be attached first, unless you are attaching the awning to the roof rack or gutter rack.
That's before insulation, walls, and actually before any roof area covering the awning connection.
We provide six bolts for attaching the awning to the vehicle. However, if you look closely, only two bolts secure the awning itself to the metal bars. If you replace the bolts that hold the awning to the mounting brackets with longer bolts, you can use these bolts to mount the awning directly to your van. This will secure the metal bars and the awning itself to the van.
Park your vehicle on a level surface. This will allow you to use a level to ensure your awning is level.
Remove the bolts that hold the awning to the metal mounting bar.
Place the metal mounting bar where you wish to mount the awning to the fiberglass roof.
Check that the front and rear bolts of the mounting bar are clearly positioned and accessible from the inside of the vehicle.
Use a level to check that the mounting bar is level.
With the mounting bar in place and level, mark the points on the mounting bar where the front and rear holes align with the roof.
Using a 1/4" drill bit, drill holes in the roof.
Replace the awning on the metal mounting bar. Insert the three inch bolts into the front and rear awnings.
Add a bunch of washers necessary to compensate for the curvature of the van roof on one of the 3" bolts. Eight washers were enough for our awning to clear the bulge in the middle section of our curved van roof. If you need more or less, you can adjust these later.
With the awning in place, slide the bolts through the newly drilled holes.
Check that your awning is not bent in any way on the roof. If you can reduce the number of washers and bring the awning closer together without contact, do so (add more if you need more).
Remove the awning and bolts. Add silicon to the bolts to ensure a watertight seal. The last thing you need is a leaky roof! Reposition the awning and silicone bolts.
Using large washers and lock nuts, tighten with a socket wrench until secure.
Larger washers will spread the load and prevent the nuts and bolts from tearing the fiberglass roof; the larger the spread washer, the better.
With these four simple steps, you can also permanently attach the awning to any van without any roof rack, curves or no curves.