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Old 09-24-2007, 01:45 PM   #1
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Leaky Top (Again) You're kidding right? No, no I'm Serious

SO.

We went for a weekend trip in the Sierra Anchas. First trip since going to SMB West to have the leak repaired. We had the top up in the rain for the first time. Everything was good except condensation inside was enough to bring the stain to life in the back where the top had been leaking. SMB promised to take out the stain out, again, but never got around to it.

So, first order of business was to dry out the top. We put it up when we stopped for lunch and again when we got home. That was last night. I went out just now to work on the stain myself. I managed to get it wet and smear it around some- when I went to Texas and they looked at the top for leaks, they cleaned the canvas so you could never tell, so I know it's possible.

Anyway, I'm standing there wetting the stain and pushing it around and I look up at the light. Sure enough there is a little brown dot in it. I pull the cover and there is a small pool (penny size) and a dirty water drip still hanging off the bulb.

The corner as well has a new water stain- the same story, water is collecting in the above-the-panel and coming out however it can, through the corner, down the light screws, etc. The back of the wood panel (holding up the canvas) also shows warpage from the moisture.

I'm dreading calling SMB. I know how it's going to go. I've been through it twice already.

"Just bring it by." they'll say.

"Sure," I'll say, "I'll just take another week off and come to beautiful Fresno, pay for my own gas and food. Hey guys?"

"Yeah?" they'll say.

"It would be really swell if you fixed it this time."
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Old 09-24-2007, 03:10 PM   #2
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Leaky top

Jage, this sounds very painful. You have my condolences on having to deal with another repair attempt!
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Old 09-25-2007, 01:26 AM   #3
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I didn't want to read this message. I just kept putting it off

When they were working on the top, did you see it apart? What I'm after is, is it even conceivable that you could just say to hell with SMB support and square off against the issue yourself?
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Old 09-25-2007, 09:58 AM   #4
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Buji, I feel the same way. Honestly I'm avoiding calling them.

When I was there I both asked and insisted that they take the actual roof panels away from the top, as there is every indication that there had been water standing in the top between the panels. I even requested several times to see the progress, see for myself what was between the fiberglass and panels- somehow this was miscommunicated and they didn't seem to understand why I wanted to see for myself. The first time I went back they didn't have anything apart that I could see and the second time (after I was insisting seeing for myself) it was all back together by the time I got back there. They assured me there was nothing between the top and panels, but I have no reason to believe they really looked.

Here's what I gather they did- actually it's a bit like a crime scene, you can still see black fingerprints and smears wherever they worked.

Put the top up. Pull one bolt, inspect for water/rust on the shank. Put it back if OK, put a new one if it's corroded. They found 3 bolts this way and send me on my way. In doing this the whole top never comes apart, and the labor is less intensive. I gather they filled the bolts with silicone too as there are black strings on the sides of the top where they dripped while they were working.

So, the theory goes, I could get in there and up there and pull one bolt, silicone it to death, replace and silicone the cap edges all by myself. The roof doesn't come apart and as long as things are tight on one side of each bracket the opposite hole should be fairly easy to line up. The biggest logistical problem is getting high enough to silicone the bolts from the outside.... actually I don't know if they are nut up or nut down.

Personally I still want to find out what the heck is going on, and I don't think repeating what they did with 10x the silicone is really addressing the problem. The PO clearly had this problem since owning the van, and I think there is a real defective build here that will only be addressed by complete removal and possible replacement of the top.

Either way, I don't also want them to be able to say "Oh, well, you monkeyed with it, *that's* the problem." There is no indication that SMB has or ever would do this, but I'm having such trouble banging my head on the wall trying to convince them there IS a problem I don't want to have any chinks.

It's kind of more along the lines of "We're here for you, what seems to be the problem?" "Oh, that's not actually a problem. If there is anything else, we're here for you."

After all their initial tact was "It's just condensation."

Argh!

So, option #2 is to have the van shipped there and back. It would save me taking time off and hopefully remove the pressure of a quick fix, but I wouldn't be able to really know what they're doing and they could just repeat the pull one bolt and send it back with a "everything is O.K. now"

Option #3 is flat tow the Jeep so I'm not stuck at SMB all day

Option #4 is just go up there and haunt their waiting room again.

I thought about selling again, but my wife really likes it still and well, we're past the sweet spot where SMB has assured me there will be no more leaks and I believe it.

No matter what I feel like it's another financial bath I'm facing. Money for gas, money to ship, money for a hotel... another few K into the van because they couldn't fix it the first two times.

So, yeah, I'm putting off calling them.
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Old 09-26-2007, 01:17 PM   #5
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Yeah, even though some of the warranty issues I had them address were pretty simple and I could have probably fixed them myself, I didn't because I didn't want to risk having my repair fail and then SMB not want to follow my non-warranty work

The biggest hassle is getting it back to SMB for sure, but one way of looking at it is they are working on it for free, and they didn't make a penny off of the sale to you. I don't necessarily buy that line, but it is out there.

I have had to put my own behavior/attitude in check over the body panel issue. Yeah, it's a pain in the rear for me, but these guys do not exist to service just my van.

I would call them when you're calm and ask if they would consider deconstructing / reconstructing the entire top the next time you make it out, or replacing it under warranty if they don't want to do it again and again.
Then I would plan it around a vacation to something nearby, like King's Canyon or something. If the timing is right, you might get company.
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Old 09-26-2007, 04:44 PM   #6
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I called them today and left a message.

The top is "warrantied as long as you own your van" but it isn't spelled out what that means. It's not just the top now though the celing panels are warped between the screws and the XL storage top has warped from getting wet.

This last time the water has been going into the driver's side rear corner and the fabric was totally wet there. I'm not sure what other damage this is doing under the fabric.

I want to get this resolved permanently. I'm 11 hours away now, but I'll be 17 hours away by January, not to mention there is evidence the top has leaked for most of the van's life- at least in that the previous owner tried to deal with it more than 3 times.

I have always, thus far, been willing to travel to SMB and work with them to get it resolved, but twice now it hasn't gotten resolved. At least the first time I was having a couple thousand in modifications put into my van, the second trip was entirely about the top and I sat in the waiting room. I was prepared to get my own hotel and make it there and back, but they finished early. Both times I left with the expectation that my top was now "OK" and the issue was completely resolved.

They made it, the previous owner beat it, and now it's my problem. I'm waiting for them to call back and see what they want to do.
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Old 09-26-2007, 04:49 PM   #7
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Do you have any contact with the P.O.?
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Old 09-26-2007, 07:43 PM   #8
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Is it at all possible to quadrant off the top with some sort of tempory dam and do a flood test in different quadrants on different days to narrow down the source?

If you could find the source of the leak they could concentrate on the repair in Fresno rather than tracking the leak down.

Also watch out for your casework delaminating. Medium density overlay fiberboard does not like moisture.
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Old 09-26-2007, 09:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buji
Do you have any contact with the P.O.?
I have his number. Problem is he's a contractor and I think he'll deny anything. He made me sign a "As is" sale agreement outside the title process.

But, he did work with SMB to bed-liner the rear 3 bolts and from the damage above the light he took it out at least 3 time. I've taken it out twice myself since then, and SMB put a new one in the last time. The light really just acts as a block, the water bleeds through the screws... of course there celing is peppered with screw holes and water stains above the light so I guess it seeps through everywhere.

And yeah, I've thought of doing individual water tests on the bolts, but sometimes the leak won't show up, or will show hours later. We drove through Phoenix and back to Tucson, about 4 hours driving after the rain stopped, including shopping, and when I put the top up there was only just a penny sized drop and a drip still hanging on the bulb.

SMB found 3 bolts that had rusted along an inch of their shaft and replaced only those three. The point of that is, to me, there are multiple problems. It wasn't like only 1 bolt was defective. It's possible that more bolts leak but didn't have time to develop corrosion and those were put back.
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:34 AM   #10
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Well I've been thinking about what Buji said and examining my frustration with this and trying to understand what is really bothering me and I think I figured out where most of it is coming from.

I was pretty disappointed that they didn't find the leak in Texas, but there were other "more important" things they were doing with my van and by the end of the second day the message on my voicemail was "You need to take your van out of here before 4:30pm".

When the top leaked again on the way home, I talked to SMB West about taking it apart myself. Something mysterious was (is) going on and extensive water testing doesn't show the problem (whereas giving the van a light wash sometimes does).

SMB West pretty much said "Don't do it." because the top panels hold up the canvas and taking it apart was something they could handle. I made arrangements to pay, myself, for damaged ceiling panels as part of the process. I scheduled two days in Fresno.

So- what I realized is important here is that I planned and went on the whole Fresno trip because they assured me (agreed with me?) that I couldn't handle the next step (which was taking the whole top apart) in my driveway.

When I got there I kept asking to see the inside of the top and they never showed it to me. It wasn't until a few hours after being in the waiting room that they were handing me back my keys and saying they found three bolts etc.

What ever happened to taking the panels out? What they did was not what I went there for- what they did was something I could easily do in my driveway- anyone who could turn a wrench could probably do it. Pull each bolt and inspect it without ever taking anything apart really.

At the time I thought it was just a matter of easier than we all thought, but now of course in retrospect either them not doing every bolt or them missing something else. It wasn't what we'd (they'd) agreed to do to address the problem, but of course I left thinking it was permanently resolved.

*Yarg- I feel like I'm blogging
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