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Old 03-12-2015, 09:12 PM   #1
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Pop-top assist for spouse

My spouse wants to take 2001 E250 Pop-top on a road trip but she can't lift it by herself.

We had the lift springs replaced and it lifts easier, but not easily enough for her.

I called Fresno facility and they had a $3000+ electric lift solution but that is way too expensive.

Suggestions ?
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:33 PM   #2
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

I'm not tall, plus have a collection of old shoulder injuries. Here is how I would lift the top on my '97/penthouse:

1) All doors and windows closed, engine running, HVAC blower (dash) on high. That gives quite a boost!

2) Lie on gaucho (aisle plan with gaucho behind driver's seat) and push up on lift handle area with shoed feet (I guess this is taking "lift with your legs" literally ).

I also did it a few times by standing on a toolbox, bending my head forward and sort of grunting it up with my shoulders, but that always seemed like a good way to hurt my neck.

One last thing you could do is add blocks to the helper springs. These are the springs that help it "start" to lift (vs. the lift springs, which keep the top up). They lie completely uncompressed and accessible when the top is up, so this is easy to do and does not involve come-alongs or tension. What you do is pull aside the fabric on the rear section of each side (a few feet forward of the very rear though). You'll see the springs running aft from an opening and you can just reach in and pull them out/up/forward (may have to bend them a bit to get them started, but they come right out). Then cut some small blocks (around 2" x 2" square and then 1" thick or 3/4" thick or 1/2" thick or 1/4" thick. Slide these "upright" into the area where the springs were and slide them all the way back (is around 12-14" back). Keeping them upright, put the springs back. What you are aiming for is as much "help" as possible, but the sign of too much is that the top has a hard time finishing coming down or the arms look like they are bending at the end. I found that around 1" helped without hindering - but each top may be different.

(The helper springs compress when the top is down, so they "help" because they are trying to un-compress as you start to lift the top. That's why you have to try a few different thicknesses of blocks, because too much "help" means they can't compress enough when the top is all the way down. It's fairly obvious once you try it.)
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:37 PM   #3
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

We use a cargo bar like this one, http://www.amazon.com/Keeper-05059-R...ruck+cargo+bar to lift the top the initial six to eight inches. It easily pushes up from there.
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Old 03-12-2015, 10:19 PM   #4
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

+1 for the ratcheting cargo bar. Got one from Home Depot for $20. Works great. Got the idea from someone else on this forum who also used the one from Home Depot. Use it every time now.
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Old 03-12-2015, 10:55 PM   #5
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

Not to contradict Viva, but my spouse is 5'-5" (and 68!), she can get the top up on our 2005 SMB with no problem. A little "oomph" and the springs seem to take over once the top overcomes its settled in resting position.

We just make sure we have the back doors open, and at least a side door. We learned early on that The Van is so tight that we had to make sure there was some way to let air in, when the top went up. As well as when we pull it down.

But the ratcheting cargo bar will be on my list when I get older and crankier. Whatever it takes to get the top started on its upward journey.
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Old 03-12-2015, 11:24 PM   #6
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

This sort of reminds me of people that burn out garage door openers frequently.......(some of my neighbors); they get smoked because the garage door springs are out of adjustment.

There are three variables for the penthouse top, the weight of the top (solar panel, rocket box, etc), the main springs and as already mentioned, the helper springs. You want to get it as close as possible to "neutral bouyancy" like your garage door.

In the case of a garage door, when it's properly adjusted (and has the correct springs installed) you can put it in any position from full closed to full open and anywhere in between and it will stay put. If your garage door will not stay put 3 feet off of the floor (or anywhere else in it's travel) it's not adjusted properly......*do this test with the door disconnected from the opener.


For the PH top you want to get it so that the effort to raise it is approximately equal to pull it down. Can your wife pull the penthouse down without much issue? If so, then you need to increase the preload on either the main springs (tighten them up a link or two) or the helper springs (by adding blocks). My roof has nothing but Yakima racks and a solar panel and I have 1 1/4" spacer blocks on the helper springs and the main spring chains tightened up by two links.

Tuning the helper springs affects the first part of the roof travel when lifting, and the main springs provide most of the lifting force once the roof is raised a foot or so (maybe a little less)

If you preload the springs too much the top will go up easy but will be difficult to pull down.
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Old 03-13-2015, 01:44 AM   #7
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

The cargo bar is a cheap solution if it does the trick.

My spouse will be a happy camper if that does the trick!

In 2010, I had to get my pop-top fixed, and how it was amended I posted here:
http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/viewto ... f=2&t=4780

The pop-top is more solid, but it is also a lot heavier than a normal pop-top.

My spouse was able to easily pop the top prior to the fix. She is a much stronger girl now, but she cannot push it up by herself.

Question:
We got a complete spring pack from Sportsmobile and had it them replace at Evergreen RV in Seattle.
I was not aware that there are 2 sets of springs: the main springs and the helper springs. Where are they both at?
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Old 03-13-2015, 10:32 AM   #8
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff00seattle
Question:

I was not aware that there are 2 sets of springs: the main springs and the helper springs. Where are they both at?
The main springs are the ones under pressure attached to the u bar hoop thingies.

The helper springs just lie in the track, and act as a sort of bump stop for the U bars as the top descends. When lifting the top, those springs are under compression, and are meant to help lift.

But if they are either worn out (unlikely) or not adjusted properly (more likely), then the top won't open easily, as those springs aren't helping.

To adjust, you can add larger wood blocks in the channel behind the springs here, which puts the springs under more compression when the top is down:

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Old 03-13-2015, 11:17 AM   #9
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

Just as a note on the helper spring arrangement. Mine look like the photo above *except* that 90% of the spring and channel are covered by a black-painted steel flat panel. Looking at the photo there would just be a small slit at the bottom (you can maneuver the helper blocks to where they need to go by reaching a finger into the gap and sliding them back). There is open space at the front end of the spring pocket, so you can grab the springs and pull them out (by bending them slightly - easy).
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Old 03-13-2015, 11:22 AM   #10
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Re: Pop-top assist for spouse

Quote:
Originally Posted by Viva
Just as a note on the helper spring arrangement. Mine look like the photo above *except* that 90% of the spring and channel are covered by a black-painted steel flat panel. Looking at the photo there would just be a small slit at the bottom (you can maneuver the helper blocks to where they need to go by reaching a finger into the gap and sliding them back). There is open space at the front end of the spring pocket, so you can grab the springs and pull them out (by bending them slightly - easy).
yes, this pictures shows the plate removed.. but as you say you shouldn't need to remove it to swap out blocks.
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