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Pop top explosion
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sDeLuca
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:12 am    Post subject: Pop top explosion Reply with quote

Four days ago I was driving along I-15 towards Vegas when the disaster struck. I had logged about 450 miles on the road that day, all was well and I was almost at my destination. My girlfriend was driving and she commented that she heard a ripping noise. I noticed the same thing and turned back towards the sound. At that instant the pop top exploded open at 60 mph. The canvas tore away instantly destroyed in less than a second. We stopped the van and pulled over immediately. I ran to the back for an inspection. The pop top latch appeared to have no damage and functioned as one would expect. The pop top closed at a slightly strange angle. The only other damage was to the pop top shocks I have installed. The steel plates that hold them to the van were both bent up. I pulled them back down to their installation position. The top now closed flush to the van with no gaps through to the outside. In short everything seemed to close up normally with no evidence of something wrong. As a precaution I ran some ratchet straps from my safari rack to the stock westy luggage rings. I have since logged over 300 more miles and the top has not even vibrated let alone tear back
open. I am on the road and will not be back home for another week or so. As a result I am leaving the top strapped down until I can get home and really investigate from top to bottom. I will post the results should I discover anything.

In the interim, my question is has this happened to anyone else?
Prior to this trip I opened the top only once and went through my usual closure procedure to make sure the top was secure. The only none stock part of my pop top are the shocks which are the heavy load variety purchased here on the samba. I have used them for over 10000 miles in all kinds of weather conditions and road speeds. The roof basket has my spare tire(16 alloy,BFG AT) in it at all times, so it has weight to hold against the shocks, though the latch has always seemed secure. Thought I would share until I figure out more.
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DAIZEE
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

those lifter shocks just saved your top!!!! I can only say that there must have been even a bit of canvas not pulled in the front half. You didn't say how the locking mechanism stood up, it had to let go tho. Worst nightmare almost.
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Lotek
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe he said:

"The pop top latch appeared to have no damage and functioned as one would expect."
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RCB
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can you PLEASE post some pictures
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:42 am    Post subject: Re: Pop top explosion Reply with quote

sDeLuca wrote:
... though the latch has always seemed secure. Thought I would share until I figure out more.

I have, more than once, not secured that latch all the way.

It can feel like it clicked in place.
It can look like it clicked in place..
..but I've found it later with the pin only partially extended into the catch.

And I've noticed later the top floating a bit with a lot more noise.
hmm..
Pull over. secure it... breathe a sigh of relief and mosey on.

Done this too many times.. Leaving a camp ground without having checked every thing thoroughly.

In your case, the latch may not have been fully engaged. A bump dislodged it.. or vibration. Doesn't take much.
Then the shocks may have contributed to lifting the top high enough to catch enough wind which then forced it open all the way. Once the canvas rips it acts as a sail pulling more air in and under the top.. then whooosh and riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiipppppp.

You were lucky not to have the whole thing rip offand land in on-coming traffic.

Glad you are all right!
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Ahwahnee
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I, too, suspect that it was not properly latched. If the pin on that latch pops fully home the thing is very secure -- I always look for the end of the pin to sit slightly proud of the latch housing.

Your experience is a good object lesson which I will pass along to my wife as (since installing pop top shocks) the closing chore is now her job.
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Alaric.H
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like to put a little oil on my latch it makes it much smoother.
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sDeLuca
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the thoughts. I agree that there is a chance it was not properly latched. The only part that worries me, or rather seems strange is that I drove 400+ miles and nothing happened, then suddenly bamm! I will post pics when I investigate further. I guess I was just curious if this happened to anyone else.
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Royb
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

it probably hit a crosswind or a bump to send it up enough to catch air and go to town.

We do a walk around before latching to make sure the canvas is all tucked, then got distracted or something. The top just bounced a little, but it could have taken off. And of course, started to pull out of a campground with the top still up. And driven across the Bay Bridge with the back hatch open, wondering why folks are staring and why it's so breezy and noisy. And had the unlatched sliding door rip open. And on and on. I hesitate to loan it out, it is so far from idiot proof, and if it gets damaged idiotically, I want to be the one to do it. So far, so good.

Must be entertaining to the fellow freewavians.
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Terry Kay
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The pop top latching mechanism & catch is adjustable.
You might want to take a look at that & dial it in so it doesn't want to open up on the roll.

I'd check that out first prior to thinking that you forgot to make sure it was hooked up right--
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1621
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Based upon your report, I too would tend to believe the latch was not fully secured. With the strength of the HD pop top shocks my top used to open on it's own once I released the latch. With a little wind lift, I could see how this might occur.

My solution for this (not that it's happened, but I've been worried it could) was a pair of simple velcro straps from the hardware store around the front lift bars. I wrap them loosely midway between the hinges, then slide them towards the forward hinges to cinch the lift bar down. Even when I forget to remove them and release the latching mechanism, the top won't move at all. It also helps keep the pop top seal pressed firmly against the roof of the van minimizing any potential/additional wind noise from old seals. Takes an extra minute when closing the top, but no worries about anything popping out while underway.

Glad no major damage occurred, and you guys were alright. Now get down to the hardware store and grab a pair of these $3 velcro straps!

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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jackbombay
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Pop top explosion Reply with quote

sDeLuca wrote:
The only other damage was to the pop top shocks I have installed. The steel plates that hold them to the van were both bent up.


Shocked

Now that the steel has been fatigued there is a chance that the plate/bracket will bend up once the top is lowered due to the angle that the shock pushes on the bracket. The bracket is pretty overbuilt for sure, but being bent twice at the same point will weaken it notably. If when you raise the roof next the bracket is bent up again let me know and I can send you more brackets for the cost of shipping.
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Lotek
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1621, that's a great idea.
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DAIZEE
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Velcro Straps are one of the best thing to have on board. Does all kinds of jobs but that is the best and so simple. Alas won't work on Riviera or Country Homes but when I walk around I have my hand running around the sides and with the top being plastic, I can feel any bulges.

Yes I concur that the lifters may have helped pop a top not down correctly, but I still say they held your top on, you did say where they fastened to the roof they bent.

Lesson for all.
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Microbusdeluxe Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1621 has got it right. Even though I don't wear suspenders and a belt I do use a small quick release strap on my poptop. One highway opening was enough to teach me that lesson.
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climberjohn
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wowzer, that's scary!!!

I am glad it more or less turned out okay.

I've been meaning to post on this very topic for some time, and this is the nudge to do so. My van has made some spooky noises with the top shifting around at speed, with weird crosswinds, etc, and I decided I wanted some backup to the single OEM latch.

I tried the velcro, and was not happy with it. My solution: ski straps. They are super strong slightly stretchy rubber, and perfect for this application. Cost is about $5 at most any ski shop. Takes about 30 seconds to install both. I have one on each side, and the peace of mind is well worth it.

photo of strap on floor:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


photo of strap installed:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Buy 'em here: http://www.amazon.com/Voile-Ski-Strap-ORG-12/dp/B0...mp;sr=8-10

Enjoy,
CJ
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sDeLuca
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great ideas everyone! I use velcro straps for all kinds of things. The ski straps seem like an even stronger option, and not much effort to remove at camping time.

Mark - I will let you know if I need new brackets. Right now it seems like it might be ok, but I will keep an eye on it. Thanks for the offer.

Now the bad news. It appears the wind caused some damage in the few seconds before we pulled over. The top appears to have bent slightly on the driver's side. It no longer closes flush with the van. There is a slight gap, but I can't identify exactly where the bending has occurred. My plan is to remove the shocks and investigate, but again I will wait until I am back home and I have replacement canvas. I took some shots yesterday to try and highlight the problem. There is also a pic of the latch, which appears to be fine, other than a little wear on the upper part of the 'O' hole, though I expect everyone has that to some degree on their rigs.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Crooked roof - ouch
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

See the gap in the upper left when closed
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

A close up of the gap
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

From the outside
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

The latch for inspection
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jackbombay
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are any of the mounts for the roof raising/locking bar bent at all?
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rotorimp
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This happened to me right after I bought it --on the way home-I'm now always worried about it not latching all the way. I have never thought about the velcro straps but am now a convert!!
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1621
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sDeLuca wrote:

Now the bad news. It appears the wind caused some damage in the few seconds before we pulled over. The top appears to have bent slightly on the driver's side. It no longer closes flush with the van. There is a slight gap, but I can't identify exactly where the bending has occurred. My plan is to remove the shocks and investigate, but again I will wait until I am back home and I have replacement canvas. I took some shots yesterday to try and highlight the problem. There is also a pic of the latch, which appears to be fine, other than a little wear on the upper part of the 'O' hole, though I expect everyone has that to some degree on their rigs.


Could it be that the driver's side shock is the one with the steel plates bent up? This might affect how the pop top closes - i.e. the bent portion is interfering with the strut itself. Consider removing the shocks altogether for the remainder of the trip and see if that fixes the awkward closure issue.
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