Thursday, June 7, 2018

Flipped My Lid

I never drive with my vent-covers open, and I’ve been stationary in worse winds, so I guess it was fatigue in combination with a fairly stiff wind that caused the cover on my Fantastic Vent to fail mid-trip recently.

I was sitting in the relative shade of the spun-around passenger seat with the side and rear doors open as well as the windows and both vents, reading a book while The Van rocked gently in the wind when I heard an unusual rattling over my head. When I looked up I saw the vent cover doing things I’ve never seen it do before.

Now if this was like seeing The Daughter riding a two-wheeler for the first time, which comes to mind as an example of a happy thing that I'd never seen before, that would be one thing, but to see the vent cover flopping around loose up there on the roof, that was not a happy first.

Like virtually every vent cover made, there’s a slotted plate attached to the underside of the cover that the end of the lift/lower lever rides in,

but unlike most vent covers, on mine one of the attachment points for this plate had snapped off, releasing the end of the lever arm so that the hinge was now the only thing keeping the cover and The Van connected to each other.

I still had a few days left on this trip and a flapping vent cover was unacceptable so, working from below, cramming my fingers through the little gaps of the 10 fan-blades between me and the cover, I managed to tame the exuberant cover (Did I mention it was windy?) and wedge it firmly, but inoperably, into the closed position.

Not ideal since it was pretty damn warm, like high 90's, but better than a 14” hole in the roof.

Once back at home base I contacted PPL to make sure they had the proper vent cover in stock before making the long drive to pick it up from one of their store-front locations (PPL has on-line sales but uses FED-EX who will not deliver to either our physical address nor to the P O Box) They did not so I had to wait a couple days for them to get it shipped to my pickup point of choice.

The original cover is smoke, but I ordered white this time to more closely match the Max-Air vent on the other side of the solar-panel. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like the metal plate on the new cover has sturdier attachment points than the original cover. I’ll tell you in about 8 years if it holds up any better.

Initial inspection of the hinge attachment looked a little scary, what with all the rusted screw-heads, but I didn’t need to worry because they backed out with no problem. Since they’ve been doing their job just fine and I can’t normally see up there anyway, reusing the same screws to attach the new cover was no problem, saving me trying to hunt down short, course threaded, stainless replacement screws.

As these screws go into a plastic strip I made sure the torque setting on my screwdriver was set to minimum as I drove them slowly home, then gave each one more little tweak to set them in firmly without risking stripping the plastic. 

But first, since the vent stays open most the time, there was 8 years’ worth of gunk up there,

so I took a moment to give everything a cursory swipe with a damp rag,

before installing the new cover.

As long as I was up there in the vicinity (Out of a sense of self-preservation I don’t get up on The Van’s roof very often) I decided it might be time to remove that  silly bat-wing antenna for the TV I chucked out of The Van years ago.

But not wanting to risk disturbing any water-tight seals and create a whole new mess to clean up, I left the bracket and cable in place.


  1. With the antenna gone is there room for more solar now?

    1. I wish, but no. The roof is pretty crowded up there, even with the AC and antenna gone and the available real-estate is not contiguous.

      The 180 Watt panel I do have keeps up with my needs pretty well but if I ever do feel like I need more I've got my eye on a couple of those 100 Watt flexible panels to use as ground panels. My existing charge controller can handle the extra input and the panels can hang on the inside of the left-rear door when not - you know- ground-paneling.