Because we hire our campers out, they get far more use than a normal, privately owned campervan. As a result, some of the camper fixtures and fittings tend to wear more quickly.
When we first took delivery of Boris & Bertha, we were impressed with the build quality of the camper conversion. However, before they had even been out on their first rental, we identified the area which would wear the quickest – The pop-top roof bellows, or canvasses, as they are commonly known.
What Are Pop-Top Bellows?
The bellows are the tent-like fabric which connects the opening roof to the campervan. The additional space allows you to stand up in the camper. Our pop-top roofs also include a fold down bunk so you can sleep 2 in the roof bunk when the pop-top is raised.
Why do the Bellows Wear?
Most of the wear and tear happens when the roof is opened and closed. Because our campers are out on hire for most of the season, the roofs are opened and closed, a lot!
The frequent opening and closing inevitably leads to wear and tear when the bellows get caught in the closing roof.
More expensive damage can happen when the canvass gets caught in the ‘scissor’ hinges at the rear of the pop-top. If the bellows aren’t pulled in enough at the rear when closing the roof, the hinges will slice an expensive ‘<’ shaped hole in the canvass.
How to Maintain & Repair Pop-Top Bellows
Because our campers are out on hire for most of the season, they have to be in tip top condition at all times. And when they come back from a hire damaged, they have to be repaired as quickly and effectively as possible. Over the years, we’ve become experts in the maintenance and repair of pop-top roofs!
Maintaining Your Pop-Top Roof
Pop-top roof canvasses are expensive to replace so you want them to last as long as possible. There are a few steps you can take to prolong the life of your roof.
- Avoid Damp – If your roof is going to be closed for any amount of time, make sure it’s fully aired and dried beforehand. Damp roof canvasses will grow mould in no time. Mould will slowly rot the canvass, compromising the structural integrity so it will tear much more easily.
- Clean mould with mild bleach solution – It’s inevitable that after being closed for a few damp months some mould will have built up on the canvass. We clean this off at the start of each season with a very mild solution of bleach and water. We spray it on affected areas with a hand-held spray bottle and scrub it with a fine (grey) Scotch Brite pad. Then we sponge it down with a wet, soft sponge.
- Interior elastic straps – Some pop-top roofs have elastic attached to either side of the bellows. One at the front and one at the rear. These are designed to pull the sides of the bellows in as you lower the roof. Our preference is to remove these, as they’re more likely to result in damage when being used by someone who is unfamiliar with the system.
- Bellow bungees –This is our preference over the elastic straps. They’re cheap and easy to fit to the outside of the roof canvass. Bellow bungees help pull in the sides and the front of the canvass when the roof is lowered.
- Open doors when operating the pop-top – Open ALL doors when opening and closing the roof. If the air is trapped inside the camper with no-where to go when you lower the roof, the sides of the canvass will not collapse inside properly. This means they’re in danger of being caught in the roof or, worse still, the rear scissor hinges.
Repairing Your Pop-Top Roof
Inevitably, any roof canvass will suffer damage in the form of rips and tears. Depending on the nature and extent of the damage, and the time available, there are a number of options available to repair them:
- Specialist trimmers – If time is on your side and you have budget for a permanent repair, then seek the services of a specialist auto trimmer.
- Repair tape – Our campers are often returned with only a few hours turnaround time before the next hire. We don’t have time to wait for specialist trimmers so we use Tear Aid repair tape. The patches are transparent so the repair is almost invisible. There’s no waiting for glue to dry and the patch is stuck fast as soon as it’s applied.
- Canvass replacement – There will come a time when the damage is too severe for a repair or the canvass has been repaired too many times already. In this case you will need to replace the entire canvass. Our hire campers’ pop-tops were starting to show signs of wear after 3 seasons use so we had them replaced over the winter. We used Colebrook Transporters in Plymouth and they did a great job.
How Long Should a Pop-Top Roof Last?
Some pop-top roof manufacturers provide a 5 year warranty with their products. So it would be reasonable to expect that you should get at least 5 years from a quality pop-top. Our hire campers’ canvasses lasted 3 years, but this was with heavy use by inexperienced customers. If we were using the campers ourselves, we probably could have lived with the odd sign of wear and tear for another couple of years, at least.
In normal circumstances, you should expect to get at least 5 years use from your pop-top before it needs significant repairs or replacing. If you follow the steps above, you will help ensure your roof keeps the wind and rain out for the rest of the decade!