How to Install an Awning Without Roof Racks

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Tips on how to permanently attach an awning to your fiberglass hi-top without any roof racks

With so little space inside a van, the outdoors becomes an extension of your home. You would not cut corners while building the inside of your van, so why decide to skimp on the outside? But with a curved fibreglass roof and no roof racks, we need to find a way to mount an awning without roof racks.

For weeks, we toyed with the idea on whether to purchase a permanently attached awning or to create a DIY awning. While a permanently attached awning will set you back between $250 – $500, the payoff in the end will be worth it. You will thank yourself in the end when you can increase your living space with little effort or hassle.

Purchasing our 2500mm x 2500mm ARB awning was one of the best additions to our van build. Although we love our awning, we did not think about how to attach an awning to a fiberglass, curved roof prior to buying it. Without a roof rack to support the weight of the awning and those infamous curves, we debated on throwing in the towel and sending the awning back.

Thank goodness we did not and persevered. We managed to attach a permanent awning to a fiberglass, curved roof without the use of a roof rack or gutter rack.

If you are looking to do the same, we created a step-by-step guide, including what you’ll need to get the job done.

What you’ll need

Tools:

Materials:

  • ARB awning
  • 2 x 3″ x ¼” bolts
  • 14 x 1 ¼’” x ¼” washers
  • 2 x ¼” nuts

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Install the awning first

The first thing we realized about attaching the awning to the van is that it should have been done first. Any permanently attached awning should be attached first unless you are attaching the awning to a roof rack or gutter rack. That is before the insulation, the walls, really before anything that would cover up the area where the awning is attached.

Step 2: Upgrade your bolts

If you purchased the ARB 2500 awning, ARB provides six bolts for mounting the awning to the vehicle. But, if you look closer, only two bolts hold the awning itself to the metal bar. So why the difference?

We don’t know. But what we do know is if you replace the bolts holding the awning to the metal bar with longer bolts, you can use these to mount the awning to your van. This will hold both the metal bar and the awning itself to the van.

Step 3: Drill a hole in your fiberglass curved roof

Remove the bolts holding the awning to the metal bar. Position the awning where you want it to be mounted. Drill through the hole at the back of the awning.

Step 4: Attach the awning

Replace the awning on the metal bar using your newly upgraded (longer) bolt. Place a stack of washers necessary to compensate for the curvature of the van roof on the bolt. Slide the bolt through the newly drilled hole. Using a large washer and nut, tighten until secure with a socket wrench. The larger washer will spread the load preventing the nut and bolt from ripping through the fiberglass roof.

Pro-tip: Before replacing the bolts, add silicon to the bolt to ensure a watertight seal. The last thing you need is a leaky roof!

Step 5: Repeat

Ensuring the awning is level, repeat Steps 3 and 4 to fasten the awning to the van roof at the front.

With these five easy steps you too can know how to attach an awning permanently to any van without any roof racks, curves or no curves.

Pro-tip: Unrelated to attaching the awning, make sure you use the ropes to secure the awning when in use. We failed to do this once and our awning ended up slung over the top of the van and with bent poles. Luckily, we banged them back straight, but it is wise to secure the awning with the ropes for each use.

What did you think anything of our method of permanently mounting an awning without roof racks? What would you do differently? Let us know below.

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