July 2018 – We have been floating around northern Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota for the past few weeks, an area that is prone to wild hail storms. The other day, while we were away from the trailer in town, a horrific hail storm came through our campsite and wreaked havoc on our RV roof.
We didn’t know this was happening while we were gallivanting around town, sipping lattes, running errands and chatting with the locals. It was nice there!
But we got a hint about what had happened (that we didn’t understand at first) as we drove back to our campsite when we saw a fifth wheel trailer going by us on the highway with a wildly flapping tarp strapped down over its roof.
When we got back to our trailer we noticed some large clumps of ice in the grass and began to wonder.
We’ve been through hail storms before, most notably at Bryce Canyon and at Cedar Breaks National Monument, but the hail has always been about the size of a pea. Even at that, the thunderous sound on the trailer roof is astonishing.
But this time, considering the storm must have ended at least 30 minutes or even an hour or more before we got back to the trailer (the ground wasn’t very wet), these ice chunks were still pretty big despite melting fast. Suddenly it hit us, “Uh oh. Are the solar panels okay?” Mark quickly climbed up on the roof to find out.
As he yelled, “Oh, WOW!” from the rooftop I noticed that another storm was darkening the sky and was on its way.
These were basic RV roof vents with small 12 volt fans, one located in the toilet room and one in the shower stall, and the damage to each one was severe.
Not only were the RV roof vent dome lids broken in multiple places but the fan blades above the screens had been broken off too!
Interestingly, our two Fantastic Fan RV roof vents were still 100% intact and sustained no damage. That’s an especially good thing because they are over our bed and over our recliners which would have all gotten soaked.
We had little time to puzzle over it all because another storm was on its way and would be dumping either rain or hail or both on us again momentarily. If we didn’t fix the vents in the next 10 minutes or so, our shower and toilet room would get drenched inside once again. That wouldn’t be a disaster, but who would want to sop up the mess twice?
Mark surveyed the damage and decided the best way to fix the RV roof vents for the short term — until we could get some replacement RV roof vents — was to tape them up with Gorilla tape.
The storm arrived with a vengeance and we were pelted with rain. Then another two storms passed over us in the next 12 hours. Not much hail fell, but one storm pounded us with a deluge of rain for over two hours.
Gorilla tape is amazing stuff, and not one drop of water leaked through the broken roof vents in all that rain. So, if you’re ever in a bind like this, it doesn’t hurt to have a roll of Gorilla Tape on hand!
We debated whether to file an insurance claim, but the cost of this repair would barely meet our deductible. We also debated whether to try using our RV extended warranty since it had worked so well for us in the past when we needed some truly major equipment replacements (axle, fridge, suspension, toilet and plumbing). But warranties cover system failures, not accidents or acts of God (like hail).
So, this would be a DIY job without any outside financial assistance.
The next day we picked up two replacement RV roof vents (Ventline V2094 units by Dexter) at a local RV dealership and parts store. We didn’t get there until the afternoon, and we were amazed to find that there had been a run on RV roof vents that morning. They had just one left. The other had to be brought in from a partner store in the next town!
We also picked up a bunch of tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant, and then Mark got out the tools needed for the job and went to work.
First, he used a flathead screwdriver to get the old Dicor Lap Sealant off of all the screw heads holding the damaged roof vent to the roof of the trailer.
Then he used the flathead screwdriver to remove the Dicor Lap Sealant from the top of the RV roof vent flange.
The old RV roof vent was now ready to be pulled off of the roof all together. However, the wires for its 12 volt fan were still attached, so he clipped those off with diagonal cutting pliers.
At last the old RV roof vent was completely removed leaving just the gaping hole into our shower stall below.
The next step was to prep the new RV roof vent for installation. Mark unrolled some putty tape, which is sticky on both sides, and pressed it onto the bottom side of the flange of the new RV roof vent. Then he cut it to the proper length and peeled off the protective strip to expose the sticky part.
At the end there was a tiny gap in one corner. He rolled a small bit of the putty tape into a ball and pressed it into the gap.
One of the interesting things about these RV roof vents is that the lids are flexible. Our old ones were heavily scraped from going under low hanging branches (as you can see in the first pictures of the broken vents near the top of this article), and they are designed to flex when something presses on them.
We didn’t want to demonstrate this with the new RV roof vents, but Mark pushed his shoe into the old vent so you could see. Obviously, the lid is weakened by the taped up holes, but it still has huge amount of flex to it.
The next task was to get the RV roof vent installed on our trailer roof. We often pass things up to and down from the roof via the slide-out next to our front steps. This is much easier than climbing the ladder with one hand while holding something in the other.
The Ventline RV roof vents had embossed labels showing how to orient them on the roof. The idea is to install the RV roof vent so it opens to the rear of the RV. That way, if you accidentally leave it open and drive off, the hinges won’t be fighting 65 mph winds on the highway that could rip the lid off.
Before securing the RV roof vent in place, Mark wired up the 12 volt fan. First he made a note of which color pairs had been wired together before and then cut off the crimp-on barrel connectors from each pair of wires. Then he used wire strippers to strip off a little bit of the outer casing of each wire to reveal the copper strands inside. Some errant strands were sticking out of the group so he he twisted all the copper strands together.
After doing this to all four wires he twisted the two pairs of wires together and screwed on new wire nuts.
At this point he turned on the 12 volt fan just to be sure that it not only was wired correctly but also rotated in the right direction to exhaust air out of the RV. If he’d reversed the pairs of wires by accident, the fan would have run backwards, forcing air into the RV instead of exhausting it out.
Then he tucked the wires in and closed the lid so he could screw it onto the RV roof.
Then, to ensure the RV roof vent would seal evenly on all sides, he placed all the screws in their positions around the edges of the vent and screwed them in using a star pattern in the same way that lug nuts get tightened when changing a tire.
The next task was to cover all the screws with a thick layer of Dicor Lap Sealant. Mark had tackled this project in the early morning so he wouldn’t have to sweat it out on the RV roof at midday, but this meant the Lap Sealant was still quite cold and wouldn’t flow well. So, he took a break and left the tubes of Lap Sealant out in the sun to warm up for a while.
When the Lap Sealant was finally warm enough to flow, he clipped off the end of a Dicor Lap Sealant tube and set it in his caulk gun. He wryly joked with me that if you don’t invest in a quality caulk gun at the outset, you’ll keep throwing them out until you do!
Then he flowed the Lap Sealant along the edges of the RV roof vent flange, flowing a little over each screw head as he went. It took almost two tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant per RV roof vent.
And Ta Da — he was finished!
This installation project took about 45 minutes per roof vent.
Our old RV roof vents had been installed at the NuWa factory in 2007 when our trailer was built, and they had worked flawlessly right up until this hail storm in 2018.
We were intrigued to discover that the old RV roof vents had been tinted a dark shade. The new ones were pure white, and what a difference that made inside! The first time I used the toilet room I opened the door and wondered why the light was on because it was so bright!
These lighter colored RV roof vents may let in a lot more heat, but vent insulators can help with that on the hottest days.
Mark did some other RV roof repairs while he was up there, but I’ll save those projects for a future article!
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Goodies we used for this job are available at these links:
- Gorilla Tape
- RV roof vent with a 12 volt fan
- Putty Tape
- Flat head screw driver
- #2 square head screwdriver
- #2 square head drill bit
- Rigid cordless drill & impact driver kit with battery & radio – We got the kit and love the cordless drill, impact driver & radio too!
- Or Rigid cordless drill and rechargeable battery
- Diagonal cutting pliers
- Wire strippers or a fancier adjustable one
- Caulk gun
- Dicor Lap Sealant
- Kneeling pad
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