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Old 07-23-2012, 12:06 AM   #1
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Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Hi everyone,
My partner and I recently purchased a brand new (to us) 1991 Dodge Ram B350 Sportsmobile. It seems to be in great shape generally, and we are planning on taking it on a road trip from the San Francisco Bay area to Vancouver Island in late August. We are thrilled with it, and had absolutely no idea about Sportsmobiles or the Sportsmobile community until after we purchased it and I found this forum.
We took it out for a little spin this morning - another our our "shake down" trips to familiarize ourself with it and figure out what we might want or need for our upcoming trip. Putting up the penthouse we noticed it seemed more difficult than ever before, and putting it back down it also seemed quite difficult. We inspected and noticed that the cross brace tubes on one side have a bolt that has no nut on the end of it, and the bolt doesn't stick out of the end of the hole to allow another nut to be placed on it. This situation allows more distance between the two sections of that cross brace than the other side, and I think that's why it's not raising or lowering smoothly. It also seems like the bolt could break if we put much additional stress on it.
Neither of us have any experience fixing this type of thing, and after reading some of the topics in this forum, I guess I hesitate to try - as I don't want to make it worse. I think my questions for now are do you think that a local RV place (such as Ideal RV in Redwood City, CA) could handle this repair, or is it the type of thing that might make it necessary to go to Fresno, which is about 3 hours away? Or is there another good Sportsmobile repair place in the San Francisco Bay area that anyone would recommend?
Thanks in advance for any help or advice!
Anne
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Old 07-23-2012, 08:57 AM   #2
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

An RV place might be able to do it but I doubt that they have had any experience in such repairs. There was a good post which specified the type and size of bolts and nuts needed for the X braces on this forum within the past couple of months (it sounds like you might have read it already). I'd suggest first getting the bolts and nuts you need (note the "grade" suggested since you want bolts which are stronger than the original ones) and get them yourself from a hardware store. I won't go to Home Depot or even Orchard Supply Hardware for them since they don't have the most knowledgeable staff. It sounds like you are across the bay from us and I'd suggest Dale Hardware in Fremont...unbelievably well-trained staff. You might call them first and see if they have them in stock and, if not, if they can order them for you. The other option is to order them online. I don't recall if that post indicated where that owner got his but, if not, try McMaster-Carr (www.mcmaster.com)...I'd just call them rather than try to find them yourself on their website.

Next, I'd suggest putting up the top and measuring the distance between the inside of the roof and the "ledge" in each corner. Whoever replaces the bolts will need to put up the top and prop it up so that it won't come down when the bolts are removed and replaced. With those dimensions, go to a lumber store (again, not Home Depot) and buy some 2x2 lumber...have them cut them to length. They will charge you a few bucks to cut them to length.

A couple of ideas about getting the bolts replaced once you have the replacement bolts and nuts and the lumber to hold up the top. One, you might check Yelp for a handyman (the kind who advertise, "No job too large or too small").

The other option is to call Towne Ford in Redwood City and ask to talk to the Service Manager. Jay Minto is the fleet manager at Towne Ford and they supply all of the Fords to Sportsmobile. The Service Manager should therefore be familiar with the SMB penthouse. Ask if they could replace the bolts if you have all of the items needed to do it. I'm guessing that it would take an hour or so of time. If they can do it, stay there so that you can answer any questions and take a printout of the forum response mentioned above. I'd also get a small "blue tarp" (from Home Depot) to put on the floor of the van to protect it from tracked oil, grease, etc. Make sure that the mechanic can easily get to the four corners of the van to put the 2x2 supports in place once the top is up.

Good luck!
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Old 07-23-2012, 01:04 PM   #3
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Here is one of a few threads about those bolts.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=7520&hilit=penthouse+top+repai r

It also sounds like maybe just maybe the nut fell off. You described the bars are coming apart so maybe if you could squeeze them together you coulld get a nut back on. I would still think about repacing the nuts and bolts with grade 8 fasteners. DO NOT use basic hardware store fasteners.

Please be careful as those tops are under a great deal of pressure both opened and closed.

I am on the Peninsula and I may be able to help you if you need it and I sent you a PM with my information.

Good luck
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:16 PM   #4
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Wow, Jack...thanks so much for the very detailed and helpful description of how to do this. I really appreciate it. We're going to check in with a trusted auto shop here in SF tomorrow to see if they might be able to handle it for us. With such a clear description of what to do, I think we'll be in luck.

All the best and thanks again!
Anne
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:18 PM   #5
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Thanks, "Ultrasport" that is incredibly generous to offer some help. I appreciate it a lot. I think we've got a solution in mind that will work, but if need be will get back in touch.

All the best,
Anne
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:30 AM   #6
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aguiltinan
Thanks, "Ultrasport" that is incredibly generous to offer some help. I appreciate it a lot. I think we've got a solution in mind that will work, but if need be will get back in touch.

All the best,
Anne
Good luck with it...

If there is anything I can do let me know...

Happy travels...
...Jamie
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Old 08-09-2012, 12:31 PM   #7
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Hi all,
Thought I'd post a little update to my situation. Our mechanic was able to replace the penthouse xbar bolts for us....though it was a bit more complicated than expected. The bolt on the left was sheared at the threads... The bolt on the right was fine, but we had him replace anyway just to be on the safe side.
He followed the recommended procedure - but told us that for both sides once the xbar bolt was removed, the springs released, so he needed to open the track and re-set the springs. For the first side, he was surprised by this, and it took some doing (and I'm sure some special tools) to accomplish it. For the second side, even though he was not suprised, he said it still took some time to accomplish.
So in any case....all is now well with our penthouse top, and we are relieved. I guess the bottom line is that unless you are VERY handy and have whatever tools are needed to reset the tension springs under the track - this is a do not try at home type of procedure.
Many thanks again to all who offered insight and assistance. This is a great forum and a great resource that I'm sure I'll return to again and again.
We'll be leaving for our trip in a couple weeks....driving from Northern California up to Port Alberni on Vancouver Island for a week of canoeing/kayaking in an area called the Broken Group. With any luck we'll be paddling with whales right around us (as we've experienced twice so far in previous trips up there). Last time a whale was sleeping in the shallow channel right next to the island we were camping on - and you could hear him breathing quietly all night. It was amazing...
Anyway...
Best to all,
Anne
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Old 08-09-2012, 01:52 PM   #8
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Sounds like it will be a great trip. We were on the island in 2011 (from Michigan) and had a great time. Drove by Port Alberni but did not stay. Ours was a fall trip. Have fun and safe travels.
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Old 08-09-2012, 03:04 PM   #9
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Hi Anne,

I am glad you got it fixed. I am not sure and by no means an expert at those tops but it sounds like the guy did not have the roof supported when he removed the old bolts. At any rate its done and working well now.

The trip sounds great.

Enjoy your travels...
...Jamie
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Old 08-09-2012, 04:36 PM   #10
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Re: Penthouse bolt/nut problem - 1991 Dodge

Anne

I am pretty sure it is against forum rules
to go on a road trip without a before picture (or two :)
of your rig :a3:

then of course the required trip report and picture when
you get back :u1:

bw

(i had to put this in to beat Bronco Hauler to the punch !!)
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