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Old 12-13-2014, 10:06 PM   #1
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Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

Noticed a crack in my contempo fiberglass top today. It is on the rear passenger side of the top and is almost 14 inches long. It is near the base of the top. We live in Oregon and I am obviously concerned about leaking. Also wandering what kind of structural integrity is lost once it starts to crack like that? IN any case I want to get it repaired and/or replaced ASAP. I've contacted sports mobile but is there any other folks to contact to get some guidance on how to treat this problem? Anyone out there have any experience replacing one of these? Cost? time of van in the shop?
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Old 12-13-2014, 11:01 PM   #2
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

Would you be able to post any photos? Possibilities range from gelcoat spidering to structural cracking, with a number of possible causes. Fiberglass is eminently repairable, but one important thing is to try to ascertain is not just the extent of the damage, but also the cause (it can often then be eliminated, so there is no "next time").

Boat repair places (that's my general background) will be very familiar with fiberglass and repairs - there are both great not so great shops, of course. Fiberglass is also very DIY friendly, if you fit into that category.

At any rate, photos might help in a diagnosis (although sometimes it's just necessary to grind the gelcoat off to see what you really have). Happy to take a look anyway.
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Old 12-14-2014, 11:48 AM   #3
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

here is a photo
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Old 12-14-2014, 12:30 PM   #4
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyhighsportsmobiler
here is a photo
do not see it...
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Old 12-14-2014, 12:59 PM   #5
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

No photo attached.
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Old 12-14-2014, 08:21 PM   #6
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

yeah, trying to reduce it to fit into required settings here
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Old 12-14-2014, 08:36 PM   #7
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

here is a photo, I think.
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van crack.jpg  
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Old 12-14-2014, 08:38 PM   #8
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

another photo
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Old 12-15-2014, 10:32 AM   #9
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyhighsportsmobiler
another photo
I'm no expert but that doesn't look good to me...

In any case, there is a fiberglass shop in Vancouver, WA that makes the tops for Van Specialties. It is possible that Van Specialties could arrange a repair either with them or in their own shop.
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Old 12-15-2014, 12:12 PM   #10
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Re: Crack in contempo fiberglass top, help?

Of course I'm only looking at the photo, not there in person, etc., but...

That looks like more than a gelcoat layer crack. I say that because of how wide/dark the gap looks. It looks like it involves the underlying laminate (the gelcoat is like a thick paint layer in terms of function, although it is catalyzed resin not paint; then the laminate underneath is the real strength).

My first thought would be "hmm, now why did that crack like that?"

Thoughts:

1) These tops are generally made with very "basic" fiberglass materials and methods. In other words, they are nowhere near as strong as they could be with more care, different reinforcement (the fiberglass cloth), different core, better resin-to-cloth ratio, etc. Often they are made with chopped strands and not actual cloth, so more like "particle board" than "plywood" in function, for an analogy. I think some may use plywood for coring (heavy, can have issues).

2) Perhaps the stress that caused the problem was a combination of weight on the roof, bouncing, and some sort of stress riser created by however they attached the top to the van?

You could probably have this repaired (well, you certainly could - pretty much anything fiberglass is repairable).

I can't tell for sure if you could repair it well in place (depends on how much/if attachment joint is involved. If you have to take it off, then there is the option to go with a different top (maybe there is another shape you like better?). Or repair and reinstall.

You could nearly certainly do some level of effective repair with it in place, and that may be a good option at least for now, but that is hard to tell without seeing it up close.

Having been involved in boat building these tops somewhat "kill" me, as I can see how much stronger and lighter they could be. And I don't mean all carbon fiber or anything too exotic, but just a good, low-resin-ratio hand or vacuum-bagged layup, with foam or balsa core (this is if they use plywood now) and a strong cloth such as a biaxial weave.

Of course that said they do the job most of the time and are relatively inexpensive.
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