In essence, between the outer bracket and inner angle plate,
a stronger structural "sandwich" is created over
the standard aftermarket rack systems...in both dead weight
and uplift. I believe a greater surface area with this sandwich,
and additional screws, is key to preventing issues with this
particular roof...along with the noted areas below...and a
bit of luck.
1) I always
have a synthetic sleeping bag spread out on the upper bunk
bed. This bag eliminates the gap between bed and ceiling,
creating a snug fit and minimizing potential sagging and bounce
leading to, or expediating, issues with the pop top (ALWAYS
have the upper bunk folded out, as if it were when being slept
on, when latching the top down in its driving position).
2) I use
the same strength struts as the originals rather than the
stronger versions often recommended for popping the top with
loads on. If using the stronger struts and nothing is on the
roof (ie, weight), more pulling force will be required to
lower which will put additional strain on the roof. That said,
I NEVER lift the top with anything strapped to or fastened
to the roof. Yes. I've seen many owners of
the older VW Westfalias do it. I did on my old Westfalia too.
They are completely different roofs though. The
older Westfalia roofs are very well designed and strongly
3) I use
a tight fitting cut down wooden broom handle to prop the top
up, in the center by the seat belt-like latch. While fresh
struts hold the top up fine without this broom handle, the
structural design is so weak that the front section of the
top sags from the strut mount forward. That cantilever is
simply too great for this particular roof, putting unnecessary
stress on an already strained design. The broom handle taking/sharing
the strain will likely give the struts more life too.
When lowering the pop top, rather than pull down on the two
interior handles to latch the roof, I lower the roof, step
outside, and pull down from the top, on each side, until I
hear the two recommended latching "clicks". I do
this to mininimize the strain on the weak handle attachment
more than anything else as the sleeping bag mentioned above
makes latching the roof a little more difficult.
Though I rarely exceed 60
MPH, I have carried anywhere from one to three whitewater
kayaks (38-55 pounds each) on this roof for 80,000 of its
110,000 miles, many times over rough washboardy gravel roads,
without a single problem. On 2-3 occasions, I carried as many
as four kayaks weighing 50 pounds each... but for distances
of less than 75 miles each time. I have also carried a single
12' long tandem kayak weighing ~90 pounds for ~800 miles.
Lastly, due more to my lack of storage space at home rather
than needing it on the van, I had a longish rocket box on
top for ~1-2 years. Empty, it only weighs around ~35 pounds.
I had up to 30 additional pounds in it for several hundred
Some believe that sun exposure
and locale (freez/thaw cycles) plays a role in the longevity
of these particular roofs. It may, or may not. This van has
not seen the inside of a garage since 1996 (it sits in the
shade most of the day, however) and resides in temperate South
Best of luck if you decide
to add racks to yours! They are awfully handy to have.
Like the roof, the Winnebago
luggage tray leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, its over
all design is so poor that the probability
of it having issues is 100% guaranteed. Its not only
prone to cracking, its mounting system is very weak allowing
the tray to move enough on the cab to wear the paint off.
This, coupled with a design that allows debris to enter yet
not escape creates a build-up of debris under the tray ultimately
leading to rust and worse yet, broken brackets. More than
one hapless driver has lost his/her tray while driving down
the highway. Though I am not aware of this causing any serious
accidents, I believe it is prudent to be preemptive.
Address your luggage tray!
There are a number of areas
on the tray and cab that should be given attention. Addressing
only one or a few of these areas will not solve the issue
as a whole. Each area should be remedied.
Below is what I suggest:
the tray, clean the debris off the cab, sand, prime, and paint
the existing flimsy brackets with the "stainless luggage
rack brackets" from Gowesty. This will set you back $80.
a couple washers between the new brackets and the tray to
lift it a little off the cab or, better yet, do as I did in
I reinforced the area of the tray prone to cracking with 1/8"
aluminum plate as seen in the photos. The plates are riveted
to the tray.
from the underside, rust resistant screen over the drain holes
to keep larger debris from getting under the tray. The washers,
or aluminum reinforcement in my case, lifts the tray off the
cab enough to allow the smallest debris to escape.
a grinder, round the corners off the front outside edges of
the exterior tie-down brackets that hold the tray to the top
of the van. The stock brackets do not fit the contours of
the plastic luggage tray leaving the sharp corners to dig
into the plastic, ultimately leading to cracks. See photo
the back of the tray where it meets with the cab. See last
Having worked on this area
many times over the last 20 years, I have come to view the
tray as an esthetic compliment to the pop up roof more than
something of much practical use. At most, I use it to to carry
a small bag of stinky garbage to the nearest dumpster (short
distances) or a pair of wet swim trunks when I wish to expadite
their drying. Carrying much of any weight, or something tall
enough to catch the wind which can cause undue vibration,
increases the chances of issues arising. Like the pop up roof,
this luggage tray is not anywhere close to being as robust
as those on the earlier Westfalia camper vans.