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Old 07-09-2019, 11:53 AM   #1
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Leak at high top or windshield

Advice needed


While I was aware of an issue on the exterior for about 1.5 yr, I only noticed water coming through on the inside a few days ago. I can no longer ignore the problem and have to deal with it.


History:

It is a 1997 Ford E350 and has been in our possession for about 2.5 yrs. We replace the cracked windshield about 2.5 yr ago. About 1.5 yr ago I noticed paint flaking in the corner. Put rust transformer on it. Also about 1.5 yr ago we put silicone in the gutters that were cracking and on the lower edge of the seal for the high top. Last yr the paint flaking continued. Last weekend I noticed a leak on the inside above the visor after a rainstorm. The brown color in the images is partly because of the rust transformer.



I hope you can help identifying the root cause of the issue:
1. Is the problem with the seal of the high top?
2. Is the problem with the seal of the window?
3. Is the problem with the roof joint (I saw other posts on this form, but I am not sure where that joint is)?


Any advise how to diagnose and fix it?


Many thanks!
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:02 PM   #2
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I'm going to take a guess the leak is from the seal of your windshield.
Is it possible to remove the headliner where the visor is? Might help you diagnose where the leak is coming from.

I don't know how easy it is to remove that back trim piece around the windshield, but I would see if that is possible. I would start cutting away all the silicone in that area and take a rotary tool with a wire brush and strip that whole area down to bare metal. I'd brush it with something like POR15, let it dry, repaint and reseal it with a polyurethane UV rated caulking/marine sealant, not silicone.
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Old 07-09-2019, 09:45 PM   #3
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Thanks for your advice!
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:21 PM   #4
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Might as well do the same thing to your rain gutters as well. I'm seeing minor paint cracking on mine and plan to do it down the road. I probably have a few years before it starts to get worse but I'm in the PNW and it rains all the time here.
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Old 07-10-2019, 04:25 PM   #5
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I'm in the auto/truck glass biz so might be able to be of help here........

The leak is most likely coming from the upper left corner of the windshield---at this point I highly doubt there is an issue with the rain gutters.

The best and just about only way to diagnose this is pulling the windshield completely out. The black trim is not removable separately from the glass---it's what we call an encapsulated part. This means it comes from the factory with the trim installed, that its not meant to be removed and/or renewed by itself.

E-Series are known for the body seams in the upper corners to break especially on a higher mileage van. If you do any off-roading that increases the likelihood those seams have cracked and possibly causing the leak.

You could remove the headliner without a lot of fuss and short of pulling the entire windshield that'd be the best way to try stopping the leak. Having the entire headliner out of the vehicle a water test would show exactly where the leak is. When the leak is found using compressed air to blow it dry your sealant could be forced in between the windshield and the body from inside. The sealant can be almost any automotive installation urethane adhesive---a single 10 oz standard caulking gun cartridge would be more than enough.

If you need more information let me know---glad to help if I can.
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Old 07-10-2019, 10:15 PM   #6
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Thank you for the pointers! I found the leak. It is not from the windshield but from the black strip on the edge of the fiberglass top. See the image below for where the water leaks through. The water goes in on on the top side of the black strip, and it comes out on the inside at the edge of the headliner (second image). Makes sense given the flaking paint in that area.... some water has been going under the paint and causing flaking and some rust, some water now goes inside the van to above the headliner.

QUESTION: To fix the leak, should I put some Permatex flowable silicone windshield & glass sealer on the top of the black strip and have it seep in where the water did? Or is there something else you would advise?


Thank you!
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:48 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcel Huijser View Post
QUESTION: To fix the leak, should I put some Permatex flowable silicone windshield & glass sealer on the top of the black strip and have it seep in where the water did? Or is there something else you would advise?

Thank you!
I'm seeing something completely from what you're describing Marcel---I still think your windshield is leaking. If the second photo with red arrow shows where water comes in that's the windshield bond having failed, albeit very slight at the moment.

Sealing the rubber trim covering the metal track the raised roof installer used to attach the new top to the existing body won't work. That piece you mention is nothing more than a trim part, meant to cover the metal track and screws used.

If there were a leak in the area you suspect a rust trail coming from the visor mounting hole would be evident, the leak showing itself further back on the headliner than your previous photos show.

I think the rust you see outside the van is from the track and screws showing their age---there's no real danger in that though.

There should be a small channel formed between the body and the inside surface of the windshield. If you can force a sealant into that channel, using some sort of plastic tool to make sure you're filling that area, pushing it upward so its forced as far as you can go. A flowable silicone won't work as it wouldn't want to stay in place with one open area for it to flow out of---if that makes sense?

I advise using silicone sealant/adhesive for the DIY whose not overly familiar with these sorts of leaks. Its a forgiving material, easy to work with and if it doesn't do as hoped for won't create any issues with the existing windshield bond.

It may come to be you'll have to have the windshield removed, the pinchweld area cleaned of the existing bonding material as well as any existing rust. From there you'd want to properly treated that area against future rust with the appropriate materials.

Hope this helps Marcel.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:14 AM   #8
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Hi JWA,


I will do the water test again later today to check. I used a bike water bottle to specifically apply water in certain areas only, and a towel to prevent it going elsewhere. Based on that test, the leak occurs when water enters on the top side of the black trim for the high top. But I will double check later today.


Just to clarify, on the inside, the water droplets come from in between the metal sheets that are joined and have a slight opening there. The water does not drip from above the metal or glass. I suspect that the water enters on the upper side of the black strip for the high top, then runs in between the joined metal until the first opening in between the metal sheets a bit further to the center of the vehicle.


Note that there is a bit of rust on the visor mount, and 2 of the 3 screws holding it were rusting as well.


I really appreciate you and others thinking along. I will make sure I am 100% confident about where the problem is later today.


Best, Marcel
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Old 07-13-2019, 11:47 AM   #9
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100% certain about location of the leak now.

It took some time and effort, but I am now certain the leak is somewhere at the connection of the high top to the metal roof. At the corner, most likely just on the driver side rather than at the front side. See below for images documenting the process. Note that I taped the window trim and that the water could not go under the window trim.


QUESTION: what would you recommend to try and seal this leak without removing interior cabinets, without removing high top? Or is that something I really should do?
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:52 PM   #10
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Wow---that's a very unusual spot for a leak, from a windshield installer's POV anyway. I'm sorry to have cast doubt on your original observation Marcel.

Others can add their experience and/or wisdom about the black rubber trim near the juncture of the fiberglass high top and metal roof. IIRC that trim simply covers a metal strip which holds screws to attach the high top to the van body.

I would think removing the rubber trim to see where or how water is leaking inside might be the first step to sealing it. I've not removed or installed that rubber trim so cannot advise you how to go about that process.

On another note this might be so much easier if it were just a leaking windshield.

Please keep up updated on your cure for this---I know it will be helpful and educational for me.
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