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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
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Hacking Up the Van, the Great Window Debacle

Jun 25, 2014
by John

The time has come for us to start building out our van so we decided to start with upgrading the windows. The Pleasure-Way we owned had awning windows, which we really liked, so we chose to add similar ones to our JaMvan. We figured it wouldn't be too hard to add larger windows since we were starting with existing holes so we ordered a couple from Sportsmobile Texas. We can't say enough about how helpful they have already been which has added them as a place to visit sometime when we will be driving through Texas. Being backyard builders, front driveway to be exact, we'd understand if a custom van builder didn't want to share some of the lessons learned but that is not the case with the folks we have talked to at Sportsmobile. Honestly, every custom shop we have spoken to has been encouraging and supportive - awesome!

We started on Sunday by removing the RV window that was added to the driver's side. It was screwed in from the outside with ample amounts of sealant to make sure it was water tight. It did have a small leak we were never able to find but we knew we'd be replacing it so we never bothered to locate the source. The next hour was spent taping the template to the side, thanks again to Sportsmobile Texas, and deliberating over where exactly we wanted the window. We even used Google images of Sportsmobiles to help us with the placement. The next part, we thought, would be the hardest since it would be the cutting of the larger hole. We took turns with the jigsaw and as much time as we needed to cut out the larger hole.

The template taped to the van after we removed the old window

The template taped to the van after we removed the old window

After cutting the larger outside hole

After cutting the larger outside hole

Whew, what a bunch of stress that was. We filed down the sharp edges and tried a test fit but realized we needed to make the hole a bit larger so over the next couple of hours we filed some more, cut a little bit more and put POR-15 rust preventative on the newly exposed metal. We thought everything was great so we put the window in place to install it and realized the interior frame would not fit due to the extra interior metal. Back to Google to find the Sportsmobile forum threads we used as references and in one of the pictures we could see that a large chunk of the interior was cut away. We noticed it before but didn't think anything of it, we figured it was just part of that particular home build. Wrong, wrong and majorly wrong. Freaking out we decided to head to Lowe's and see what they had that could do the job. Everything we bought was an epic failure. At 9:00, licking our wounds and staring at a rather large hole in the van we tied a tarp to the van and took a shower.

The cone of shame

The cone of shame

This is where Sportsmobile Texas went above and beyond. I emailed them before going to bed and I received a response around 7:00am EST Monday morning. After a few emails back and fourth we had a lead on a tool, an air saw, that would help us remove the interior metal that was in our way. The best part was the pictures. Not only did they include the tool itself but also how to properly hold it to cut the interior metal without cutting through the exterior. There's only about an inch between the two so this is super important, otherwise our exterior hole would be way to large for the window. We ordered it from Amazon giving us a few days to calm our nerves and build up the courage to finish the job. At this point we have one hole of four cut, geesh.

We received the air saw on Wednesday but we had to seal up some air fittings which put off getting back to the window installation until Friday. I was a bit excited but plenty apprehensive about using a mini reciprocating saw to cut out the larger interior hole. That faded away in the first minute of using it. What an awesome tool! I must admit that when I was finished it looked like a chupacabra helped bite out the hole. I kept angling it which made it pop out of the cut. Fortunately we will be insulating and covering the walls so it won't be visible. Mandi separated the interior wall by lightly prying the two apart with a plastic putty knife. It was seriously bonded in some spots so a mallet was used to lightly tap it. She then coated everything with POR-15 to prevent any rust from developing but by that time it was too late to screw the window in. Seven days after we started this project we finally completed the installation of one of two windows first thing this morning, YEA!

Driver side awning window installed!

Driver side awning window installed!

We knew the second window would be a lot easier so immediately after our triumph we began removing the passenger RV window. The placement of our new awning window began with another hour long deliberation. We didn't realize the van body tappers a bit so we slightly angled the window to mildly accommodate for this. Of course we used Google to look up more Sportsmobile images as reference.

We first tried to use the air saw to cut the exterior hole but it was a bit too wild to keep on the outline so we switched back to the jigsaw. We had used up all of our 18 TPI blades on Sunday so we switched to 14 TPI blades today and it seemed a little easier. After cutting the main hole we needed to do a little trimming so we just took our time with additional cutting and filing, like the first time.  Back to the air saw, we used 24 TPI blades, to cut out the interior hole. El chupacabra wasn't around today so it looks much nicer. If we did this a few more times I think we could start a small side business. The last step before installing the window was treating the newly exposed metal with POR-15.

Inside view after the previous RV window was removed.

Inside view after the previous RV window was removed.

Inside view after both the external and internal holes were cut.

Inside view after both the external and internal holes were cut.

  POR-15, get your POR-15.

POR-15, get your POR-15.

Passenger window installed.

Passenger window installed.

We will be changing the exterior color of the van so we have been putting POR-15 on any spots that are a little suspect. When we were cutting the second exterior hole the saw jarred out on the upper left corner and made a deep scratch so we coated that with POR-15 too. Our plan is to bedliner the entire van, which is supposed to prevent rust too, but we figure it can't hurt to do both.

Interior view of the newly installed passenger awning window.

Interior view of the newly installed passenger awning window.

Our window replacement process:

This was compiled from threads on the Sportsmobile Forum, other websites and the emails from Sportsmobile Texas.

  • Remove existing RV window and remove any adhesive
  • Tape template to exterior and use a tape measure to make sure it is square, measure about fifty times
  • Mark outline with sharpie and remove template
  • Tape outside of outline to prevent additional damage to paint
  • Cut the exterior hole with a jigsaw (18TPI blades worked great), tape cut areas together periodically to help keep it somewhat stable
  • File down burrs or slightly high areas
  • Dry fit window to make sure your hole is good, take note that the interior layer may be in the way but will be removed soon
  • Repeat filing, cutting and dry fitting as needed
  • Cut out interior reinforcement framing with air saw (professionals also use air chisels - SCARY!!), make sure to not cut any crucial supports
  • Separate the interior cutout metal from the vehicle body with putty knife, we used a plastic one
  • Remove any debris, adhesive, etc., and clean interior and exterior
  • Cover the newly exposed metal with a rust preventative, we used POR-15
  • Clean then add the provided weather stripping to interior window frame
  • Once everything is dry, place window and screw the interior frame to it, a second person adding pressure from the outside is helpful (in fact, a second person is helpful the whole time)
  • Clean window and insert screen
  • Crank it out and enjoy (favorite beverage optional)

Say what? (9)
Doug
Nov 7, 2014 at 09:21 PM
John and Mandy, I'm blown away by your work and creativity, you guys make a great team. I too have a window, same model as yours, I'm getting ready to install. I have the same van and want to make sure I locate it like yours behind the driver's side door. It seems like you installed yours just a little bit high on the panel, which I like. Any chance I could get some dimensions from the body lines or rain gutter from your van? Like you mentioned about measuring and re-measuring, I'm looking for a little more confirmation that the window is being installed in the right location. If you can help me with a location(measurement)from maybe the driver door jamb? And the bottom of the gutter or maybe some other reference.

Thanks, Doug
Nov 9, 2014 at 04:35 PM
Thanks Doug! From the door jam to the outside edge of the window seal it's 8.25 inches. From the underside of the rain gutter to the outside edge of the window seal it's 3.5 inches. I'm not sure of the distance from the seal to hole. Hopefully that helps. We placed our window a bit higher since our jack-knife sofa will be in front of it. It didn't need to be as close to the driver as it is but we were also working with an existing hole. Our original idea was to flank the window with reading lights but the space is a bit tight to the driver's trim. Good luck, we know how nerve wracking this is!
Doug
Nov 9, 2014 at 08:49 PM
Thanks for taking the time to take those measurements! That helps me a lot. I'm impressed with your work on the van and the time you took to write it up.
Nov 10, 2014 at 07:33 AM
No problem Doug! Feel free to ask any more questions or hit us up offline via our contact form.
Luc
Aug 11, 2015 at 08:56 PM
Hey guys is it possible to have a link to where you bought the actual window ? I need an awning windows myself for my van .. Hard to come by !
Aug 19, 2015 at 07:41 PM
Hey Luc,

We called Sportsmobile Texas and bought the windows directly from them. You might be able to find a little cheaper price online but the support they gave us was priceless.
Doug
Aug 20, 2015 at 09:30 AM
Hey Luc, this is what I used. CR Lawrence All Glass Look, FW904RS
http://www.amazon.com/FW904RS-Glass-Look-32-1-Crank/dp/B003ZTQ246
Joe
Jul 16, 2016 at 10:51 PM
Hey guys! Great build. Im curious how you finished out the inside of your crlawrence windows?
Jul 17, 2016 at 04:09 PM
Hey Joe,

Thanks! We ended up making bolsters that flush mounted to the back of the walls. We talk about it in this blog post --> http://www.johnandmandi.com/pages/insulation

Hope that helps.
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