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Old 05-24-2022, 01:34 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2022
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 3
rear door seal/SMB fabric leaks

Hi all,

Iíve had my van ó built by SMB West ó for about a year and a half, and from the beginning it's had a pretty serious leak issue in the interface of the rear door seal and the lining fabric. SMB/Field installs their lining fabric by wrapping and gluing it around the lip of the rear door opening, and then re-installing the rear door seal over that fabric. It results in a very clean-looking finish on the inside, but the big problem is that you have the vehicular equivalent of having your living room window curtains go out through the top of your windows and into the gutter on the roof. Any rainwater runs down along the door seal and soaks the fabric, which then wicks the moisture into the interior of the van. And in western Oregon thereís a challenging amount of rain.

I picked up the brand new van and immediately parked it while I was away for a few months, then returned to find the back full of mildew, and with hardware starting to rust. The lower outer edges of both doors leak, with the driverís side being especially bad, and thereís an even larger wicking leak in the top center, with the moisture absolutely saturating the fabric several feet into the van, around the speakers and lights in the ceiling.

SMB West became Field Van shortly after I took possession of the van, and I got in touch with Field about the issue. They basically said ďoh yeah, that occasionally happens, all you have to do is trim the fabric so itís behind the seal." Well, the fabric did indeed extend out a bit past the seal in places, but it didnít really correspond to where the leaks were. In any case, I did trim back all of the fabric so the edge is well within the rubber door seal, and itís essentially done nothing to improve this. (I also tried putting some silicone on the edge of the fabric in one of the worst parts.) It seems that rain water runs down well under the edge of the seal like a gutter, and just trimming the fabric back isnít enough to prevent this.

I canít imagine that Iím the only one who has seen this problem, especially given that itís happening in three different locations for me. I was describing this situation to the (rather strongly-opinioned) owner of a local van conversion company here outside of Portland, and he interrupted me as I started explaining, saying ďÖand the fabric is under the seal and wicks moisture into the interior of the van? Yeah, thatís a terrible idea, and itís why we donít do that.Ē

Iíve attached some images to show whatís going on. Areas marked in red on the first image end up completely wet, and it will extend farther the longer it rains. In another photo you can see some hints of the rust on the framing hardware around the water plumbing, but I assure you it has nothing to do with the plumbing, I hadnít even run water through this plumbing yet when the problem appeared. Other images showing the fabric and trim are after Iíd attempted to remedy the issue by trimming fabric back so itís entirely under/behind the rubber.

Has anyone else seen and remedied this? Iíve noticed that Field Van still seems to be building their interiors this way, based on Instagram images. This is an extremely frustrating issue to have with a new van, especially for someone living in someplace as rainy as Oregon! Hoping someone has some advice or wisdom to share.
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Old 05-24-2022, 10:49 AM   #2
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Warranty should cover this. California has a lemon law you should get familiar with. Biggest problem is shuttling the van from Portland to Fresno and back.
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Old 05-24-2022, 08:29 PM   #3
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I would say that fabric should have never been wrapped around to out side period. At a minimal it should have been trimmed to only be on the inside.

There was also a thread on a roof cap, that was being pushed out on some sprinter vans , by some part of the sportsmobile roof panel. It is kind of old so you would think SMB had a handle on it, but then I would have thought they had a handle on the fabric wrap also.

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Old 05-26-2022, 09:53 AM   #4
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Trim seal typically has one or more barb-like tongues on the inside of the grooved portion. For example, take this image from Trim Lok:

I think you will want to do two things:
  1. If the channel has a tongue on only one side, make sure the tongue sits towards the outside of the van. If not, remove it and re-install it with the tongue on the outside.
  2. Since the tongue is what provides the seal, this needs to sit directly against the body metal. You will need to trim the fabric back beyond this point, meaning it can't wrap around the edge like it does now. Personally, I would trim it even with the edge.

Note that the trim seal is designed to fit only a certain width range, and by removing the fabric on one side you've essentially made it a looser fit. I suspect the seal will be able to accommodate this very slight change, but you may need to squeeze the channel (by hand) all around before re-installing it.
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Old 11-13-2023, 05:49 PM   #5
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I ran into this exact same problem on a 2023 Sprinter AWD with a non Sportsmobile build. Builders wrapped the fabric under the seal like jkinpdx, and many other vans I have seen. One moderate/heavy shower in the Ochocos after owning the van for 10 days and the whole rear header, both pillars were soaked. Van builder says they have never seen this in 14 builds. They are very high end, experienced, custom builders.

I figured out my leak was the rear door seal. Called a pal in Florida who was very involved in building out his 2019. Identical issue. He said he used the inner seal as a scribe to remove all fabric behind the seal, and that was what was required.

I trimmed all the outside fabric wrapped around the pinch weld on mine, and also carved away fabric on the inside of the pinch weld where fabric was overlapped/thick/, then pinched the seal itself, re-applied, reefed it in place firmly all along the top and sides of the door. I've done this twice now (first time still had leaks) and in some testing with the van stern downhill under a rainhead sprinkler, it "seems" dry BUT I DON"T trust it. I will USE this van a lot in wet places like the N. Cascades, Olympics, Oregon Coast, etc.

I have looked at other high end van builds on line from the PNW, and it appears Outside, OVP, Momentum, Cascade, Storyteller, ALL wrap fabric behind under the door seal, at least on the inside. Am I wrong about that?

Why did my van leak and so many others appear not to? Have Van builders moved to a different approach to avoid this problem?

I wonder if Mercedes changed the specs or sourcing on the seal such that it requires seal-to-metal on both sides?

Any perspectives appreciated.
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Old 11-13-2023, 07:07 PM   #6
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My feeling is its a warranty issue - just like SierraHawk states and SMB should resolve it by fixing your van and changing their build method. They should be willing to at least fix the problem and "possibly" reimburse some mileage, etc. Talk "nice" but firmly that you're willing to work with them up and until they shut the door in your face - and then its' maybe worth a letter to attorney general of CA - and then it's a "fix it yourself" solution ? GLWiT
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Old 11-15-2023, 09:05 AM   #7
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Van Specialties is local and has tremendous experience building these vans. In fact Outside vans used them to build for many years. It might be worth taking it ti them for the fix before you drive it to Reno for warranty. The re-do a lot of builds done by others where the work was less than expected or s different layout was needed.
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