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Old 01-10-2011, 03:36 PM   #1
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Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

After a burst of activity on the forum earlier this year that gave us all the wonderful tips needed to plan the build, we now have our Indiana-built SMB. The fixed top was special ordered after in was found the Cruiser Top was no longer available (worn out mold was destroyed). When we picked up the finished van in Indiana five months ago, one of the issues that concerned us was how the top fit. We don't think we fully understood that there are a number of ways the bottom edge of the top could come, but ours is just a rough cut edge (as opposed to, say, a rolled under edge). Whether it came to SMB that way, or whether they did the final cutting we do not know. But our concern at the time was that we could see sealant bulging out on the front passenger side (a little ugly, but reassuring), but no noticeable sealant on the front drivers side (see photos). Jim and Chad assured us that it indeed was properly sealed and described their process of getting the van perfectly level, using a self-leveling sealant that the top then sets in with no chance that it would leak. Sounded kind of strange, but what was a guy supposed to do? So we accepted their confidence in their work, and headed back to Seattle, during which time we had lots of rain.




When we got back to Seattle we had a few issues with the vehicle that we assumed were Ford warranty issues, two of which were that the cockpit dome light did not work and a rushing air sound seeming to come from the drivers side door. Ford checked the door alignment and also noted the dome light was working properly, suggesting we did not understand the three position switch. Unfortunately, the wind noise did not go away, and last month when we took the vehicle to another Ford dealer to get a Ford alarm installed, they found the dome light circuit not working properly and not allowing the alarm to be installed correctly. After a number of hours beyond the initially cost estimate, they found water coming down a wiring harness that the dome light connects to and more water pooling under the drivers side entry step. I had traveled round trip from Seattle to Portland (to visit Quad Van) the two days prior to this through major rain in both directions. They blew dry the electrical stuff and eventually got the alarm installed correctly. The installer indicated that as far as he could tell there appeared to be gap(s) in the sealant on the drivers side front! When we inspected that area we also noticed that in that area, the wavy rough edge was resting on the windshield gasket---something I did not notice when we picked up the van (look carefully at the drivers side photo again)!

Given all this, does anyone know how we can be assured this situation can be rectified? We need to know more about how such a problem should be properly fixed, because we cannot take the van all the way back to Indiana for the work. It seems to us that the top pressing against the windshield gasket has to be fixed, and at a minimum the front of the interior needs to be disassembled to carefully inspect what the problem is from the inside to fix it. My reading of the Warranty tells us that we should be able to get the work done in Seattle. But we are getting so much resistance from Indiana, it is almost like a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde plot comparing how nice it was working the Nancy, Jim and Chad during the build to now. The best they have done so far is authorize the Ford to caulk a 1.5 inch apparent gap in the sealant apparently with a caulking gun apparently from the outside based on a call they made to the Ford dealer that was only with the technician, who installed the alarm. When we asked Ford to clarify this they said, "Our dealership is not in the business of building conversion vans. The best scenario for your warranty would be to have Sportsmobile make the repair." A classic Catch 22? It has been three weeks since we first asked Indiana for authorization for an RV repair company (one in business for 35 years) to do a FREE estimate of the work.

We sure hope that subsequent additions to this post result in a happy ending for us and SMB, but right now we need advice about how tops should be fixed as SMB Indiana seems just to be avoiding doing anything but the absolute minimum. It is sad to think that whatever the repair will cost it has got to be a very small faction of the $'s we have spent for the conversion of the van we brought to them. Help!

Edit: After two more weeks, this route to getting things fixed hit another roadblock. After a couple of calls from SMB to the company, Evergreen RV, Evergreen decided they do not want to work on SMB's. That is sad, because I have found that at least one forum member has successfully used Evergreen as reported in
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4780.
Attached Thumbnails
Sealant Seen on Passenger Side.JPG   No Sealant Seen Plus Edge on Gasket.JPG  
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Old 01-10-2011, 04:29 PM   #2
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

Sorry to hear about your troubles

Will check to see how my Cruiser top is fit

will try to get pics


Isnt there a PNW conversion place, help me remember someone

bw

ps
another vote for 'local" conversions
not trying to be a stick in the mud
but a common problem w/ a build from a far off place

ppss
someone will ask, so you might at well tell us why you went to Indiana not Fresno

best to you

bw
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Old 01-10-2011, 05:13 PM   #3
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

Indiana is quicker, less of a wait. There shouldn't be any reason to NOT go to one over the other, right? Good theory! Also, nobody should be able to be in business with an attitude that "the customer can just come back, and we'll fix it". If it was right the first time, no reason to not go across the country to a builder, no?

My guess at a fix would be to pull the whole top, clean up the edge properly, so it actually fits the roof contour (sorry, looking like it was rough cut with a sawzall seems unacceptable in my book even if it doesn't have to fit exactly). There are a ton of ways to accomplish this, but removal and test refitting are involved.

Apart from that, go get some black silicone sealant, exactly what it looks like they used, and silicone the heck out of it from inside and out. Getting the fiberglass off the windshield seal... I don't know, without removing the top you could slide some thin metal between and trim with a dremmel maybe.

That, ah, is brutal all around. Personally I'd rather have it done right, which means full removal.

Hmm, how about cutting up the sides and all across the front, removing 2" say from the front lip of the top, and then from inside and out, rebuild the fiberglass down to the roof, a la what cowboy did: viewtopic.php?p=53363#p53363

No? Well I'd go with silicone now, remove and re-contour later. Like I said, brutal. What does SMB Indiana say?
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:19 PM   #4
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

Jage has some experience with leaks, but I have to disagree with use of silicone. A good autobody supply shop will have a butyl sealant that is what the car factories use, not silicone. Butyl stays pliable enough to seal and allow a little movement - parts move with heat/cold/use. Silicone tends to break and not seal when stressed. And after silicone is used it is difficult to get another sealer to stick. You can get butyl off completely with the proper cleaners.

First ask Jim/Chad exactly what the sealant was. Mixing sealants is not a good idea. I'm not sure what they used, but they use butyl in other places (windows, penthouse bolts) and I suspect it is what they used.

From your post it sounds like the top is not something they install normally. If that is the case, you may be suffering from being the first or only top of this style they have dealt with. People learn from mistakes, and someone is going to learn from this leak.

Seeing how it fits, I thought they had probably put a good bead of sealant all around the mating seam from the inside. Maybe they only missed a small spot and that is causing the leaks. You really need to open it up and see what is in there.

Sorry you are having this issue. I know Jim, Nancy and crew try hard to keep customers happy. They've stopped work on vans and fixed issues for us when we stopped by. And I can understand their reluctance to pay for work when they can neither see the problem or the repairs and don't have the opportunity to repair it themselves.

Good luck with getting it resolved. I feel for you.

Mike
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:54 PM   #5
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

Quote:
Originally Posted by billwilson
Sorry to hear about your troubles
Will check to see how my Cruiser top is fit
will try to get pics
someone will ask, so you might at well tell us why you went to Indiana not Fresno
Thanks for the support. You know, when we searched for a used SMB before doing a build, the only one that came close to what we wanted during the time frame we had was in Fresno when we visited there in Feb (2010). It was in for repair of a leak in its Cruiser Top! We ended up not liking the layout very much, but it was that history that caused me to inspect the top on ours when we picked it up. I just did not know what exactly to look for. I feel so naive now having accepted it in that condition. That is the other trouble with far away builds---we had only two days to go through things when we picked it up, but it realistically takes weeks or months to become familiar enough with the beast to see problems. Any way, I am not sure what you can see about how your Cruiser top was properly sealed but whatever insight you can give would be helpful.

To address you question about why Indiana, well yes we were in Fresno, but it was a weird time. We did not know until going there that Ford stopped making the diesel E-350 on Jan 1 less that two months prior. Fresno had only two EB's left for conversion, a 2009 and a 2010. To make the decision on the spot and put down our money to get one of those was just too hard as the trip down was to convince ourselves we liked what we saw in the plant and what we drove, then to go home and do the detail planning of a build. So we left, but rather quickly started looking on our own for a diesel. We found a new 2008 with 4.11 LSD and some nice options at Varsity Ford in Ann Arbor (Pat Maurer, fleet sales---great guy) with the 3/5 yr warranty starting the date of sale. So we saved a little bundle right there. The 4.11 LSD was the right rear end for an eventual 4x4 conversion, but I didn't know enough about what we wanted or which of the five 4x4 conversions possible was the best, so we chose not to have that done at the time of the above-the-floor-conversion. And guess what? Huntington, IN was only 140 miles away from Ann Arbor. So SMB Indiana seemed logical since they don't do 4x4 there anyway. We also somehow thought that maybe at such a little shop where they only do about 4 vans at a time, it would be better to have just a few dedicated hands working on each van than the massive assembly-line-way Fresno operates. Plus, as we have heard so often, if we would have gone with Fresno in Feb. the estimate was getting the finished product in Sept. (which would have turned out to be Oct or later?). Indiana was done at the end of July, but, of course, no 4x4 was installed.

But I digress. So was it wrong to go to Indiana? Not sure. I do rate the quality of the build as poor. But nothing is impossible to rectify even if the roof has to come off, and I will be persistent. After all is said and done, I expect to be very happy with what we were able to put together. We have a quite unique interior with 6'7" standing height, an 83" bed "down stairs," an 81" bed "upstairs," and 34" counters and lots of storage space---yep you guested it---we are kind of tall. A lot of those features might have only been possible with the personalized service tiny Indiana was willing to do. It is just that there is a terrible disconnect between what happens in the office and what happens on the shop floor!
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Solar: 540 W of Kyrocera w/ Blue Sky 3024iL, 3x100 AmpHr AGM's
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:47 PM   #6
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

I had a leak in my cruiser top 2 weeks ago. When I stopped, water came in at the passenger side front corner down the windshield. Also, it was wet in that corner in the upper bed area. When I was at SMBW getting the leaking upper windows replaced I asked them to check and caulk all the way around in case there was more leaking than the windows. They said they checked it and all was fine.

I had to go to Home Depo to get roofing patch for the leak around the vent pipes. I asked about other sealants, looked around and ended up buying HENRY 212 crystal clear all purpose patch elastomeric sealant. I used a caulking gun and applied it over the holes in the other seal an (I know, I was supposed to clean out all the old sealant but it was actually missing -a hole in it - where I applied the 212) and all seams seam well for now. It has not leaked again but then it has not rained as hard as it did before.

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Old 01-10-2011, 10:05 PM   #7
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

Quote:
Originally Posted by jage
Getting the fiberglass off the windshield seal... I don't know, without removing the top you could slide some thin metal between and trim with a dremmel maybe.

That, ah, is brutal all around. Personally I'd rather have it done right, which means full removal.
If I were going to do it myself I think something along what you said with a metal shim between the fiberglass and roof, a Dremmel tool and real CAREFUL work could be the answer to the overlapping onto the windshield gasket. But you are the second person that thinks no matter how much work it is, the top should really be removed and redone. The workmanship that is all too apparent from just looking at it says that. Ripping up the front compartment would be a good start to see if the nightmare continues and based on that, a decision could be made to start the whole thing over. But this will not be done by me. THIS IS WARRANTY WORK, not something I plan to do!

I don't know if anyone out there has had success getting such major work done off site. If so, it would be good to find out from someone what the best approach is to make that happen. SMB Indiana was hoping to have someone at Ford just squirt a little sealant from the outside and call it done. Maybe because I did not refuse to take the vehicle when I saw the problem on purchase day, they think they can get by almost as easily. So I think we are far away from them approving to have the right solution applied off-site. I just try to be as logical as possible with them and keep plugging away---many emails have been sent. The warranty should cover needed work to the same "depth" off site as they would do in house. In this case it seems within the realm of possibilities that they would rework the top entirely if I brought the problem back to them, while it could be very difficult to get them to agree to do the same off site. But why? They are the ones who did not do it right in the first place, and the Warranty states, "If you are not in an area within a reasonable distance of Sportsmobile, as determined by Sportsmobile considering the nature of the problem, service may be obtained at a mutually acceptable service point." There seem to be a number of ways that sentence could be twisted enough to claim anything has to be dealt with only on-site, but it would be a pretty flagrant interpretation! Service should be service, period.
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Cruiser II Top, 6'7" inside, full-time upper bed w/ kind'a EB50 layout, cozy 4-season rig
Solar: 540 W of Kyrocera w/ Blue Sky 3024iL, 3x100 AmpHr AGM's
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:22 PM   #8
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ford_6L_E350
Jage has some experience with leaks, but I have to disagree with use of silicone. A good autobody supply shop will have a butyl sealant that is what the car factories use, not silicone. Butyl stays pliable enough to seal and allow a little movement - parts move with heat/cold/use. Silicone tends to break and not seal when stressed. And after silicone is used it is difficult to get another sealer to stick. You can get butyl off completely with the proper cleaners.

First ask Jim/Chad exactly what the sealant was. Mixing sealants is not a good idea. I'm not sure what they used, but they use butyl in other places (windows, penthouse bolts) and I suspect it is what they used.
Mike
I know it is a butyl-type sealant from discussions I have had with chad. Exactly what brand I do not know, but he stressed that is what they use to seal most things when he showed me how he attached and sealed the solar combiner box I designed to the roof.

Also responding to another comment you made: It seems the experience of how helpful all the folks are in Indiana when you wanted on-site work done is not necessarily a predictor of their behavior at the thought of having to approve off-site work. But can you really say their work is top notch? I mean the top problem I am having is not very surprising to me given all the things I have uncovered in the five months I have had it the vehicle.
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2008 E-350 6.0L diesel: Bought new in 2010, 4x2, 4.10 LSD, HD spring-lift all 'round,
Cruiser II Top, 6'7" inside, full-time upper bed w/ kind'a EB50 layout, cozy 4-season rig
Solar: 540 W of Kyrocera w/ Blue Sky 3024iL, 3x100 AmpHr AGM's
Electrical: 4 cf fridge, nuker, water heater, compressor
Propane: stove top, furnace Travel: http://www.lugnutlife.wordpress.com
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:26 PM   #9
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

Quote:
Originally Posted by Angel
I had a leak in my cruiser top 2 weeks ago. When I stopped, water came in at the passenger side front corner down the windshield.
Angel
Angel, I am so glad I have a warranty! Getting my problem fixed correctly now, might be the only way of avoiding so much of what you described after warranty!
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2008 E-350 6.0L diesel: Bought new in 2010, 4x2, 4.10 LSD, HD spring-lift all 'round,
Cruiser II Top, 6'7" inside, full-time upper bed w/ kind'a EB50 layout, cozy 4-season rig
Solar: 540 W of Kyrocera w/ Blue Sky 3024iL, 3x100 AmpHr AGM's
Electrical: 4 cf fridge, nuker, water heater, compressor
Propane: stove top, furnace Travel: http://www.lugnutlife.wordpress.com
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:30 PM   #10
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Re: Leaking Fixed Top - Indiana Build

When I tried to fix my top I used butyl, giant (for the application) sheets of butyl. Whatever the leak was, I know it wasn't coming through the hardware anymore. Anything permanent, yeah I agree- butyl is the way to go.

However, I've also sealed a number of things with silicone, like a 1/2" tall 1" deep and 4' wide gap between my camper shell and truck bed in the front. Did nothing but squirt heaping gobs in filling the entire gap with nothing on either side. It lasted for years and pealed right off when I removed the cap from the truckbed.

Most recently my fantastic fan was leaking and it got a temporary coating of clear silicone baring against the day when I remove it and redo the whole thing. It was a trail repair, and the problem is it's probably good enough to ignore it for a long time. If it's driving around getting wet and whistled at or siliconing things up, I'd still silicone. Maybe use clear so it's obvious where the "patch" was done.

Permanent fix however, I like the idea of butyl or something else more appropriate in the long term (silicone will separate if it shifts), but the silicone should come off easily enough to make way for the real fix*. It's a good thing for me to think about too, having the fantastic fan repair coming up.

I think the possibility of the top shifting should be investigated as well. It seems odd that you would not have noticed the contact when you were concentrating on that side's lack of obvious sealant- if you open things up, double check everything is attached properly.

*It's always come off easily for me at least.
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