Time needed 🕒: 20-60 minutes
Materials needed 🧱:
– Possibly rubber gasket (Example on Amazon)
Tools needed 🛠:
When we bought our Tacoma, the previously seller showed us that the SnugTop rubber had popped out of the channel. Side note: he was incredibly transparent about this issue (amongst a few others) which made us extremely comfortable with proceeding with the sale. Back to the topic, the SnugTop is only ~18 months old and he had tried to pop it back in with different variants of lubricant and sealant to keep it snug. None had worked, as Roxy shows us below.
We chose to leave it “as is” for a few weeks to observe how it impacted the weatherproofing. As one would expect, water leaked into the bed. Not just while cleaning the car (due to the pressure of the water stream), but also during light rain showers. Camper shells aren’t made to be 100% weatherproof guaranteed, but they should be mostly able to hold out the elements.
As we’ve been building out a sliding drawer system in the bed of the truck (blog post coming soon!), we decided to figure out how to fix this issue ASAP as to not let water damage all of the wood we were adding.
Diagnosing the root issue
The first thing we had to do was determine whether we thought the gasket itself had failed, or if it had just come off the track. Gaskets are neoprene or butyl rubber seals that provide weather protection. Any cuts, gashes, or holes would mitigate the weatherproofing benefits. If the rubber showed signs of abrasion or crumbliness, it could be rotted and prone to failure at any time. The rubber itself isn’t that expensive at ~$4/ft (as seen on Amazon, but make sure you get the right model for your camper!), but our gasket seemed like it was in good shape.
With the condition of the rubber seemingly OK, we marched forward to try and re-install the rubber into the channel. We knew it would be tedious, so we got ready.
Re-seating the rubber
- Pull out the rubber from the channel.
This step is as easy as it sounds. The first step of the repair is to pull the rubber out of the channel. It's significantly easier to do so starting at the point in which it has already popped out of the channel, versus trying to start from either of the ends.
- Get the rubber back on the track.
The opening is pretty narrow both width and height wise, and there's also a little ridge at the bottom that's about 1/8" long. I'm not sure what its purpose is, but it seemed to make it a little harder to get the rubber back on track. Perhaps it serves as a way to pinch the rubber down more effectively so it doesn't easily come out. Hard to go on, hard to come off?
This step was a lot more tedious than we were expecting. We thought it would take a couple tries and <30 seconds, but it wound up taking ~5 minutes to get this seated properly.
- Gently push it up through the channel.
Once the rubber is in the channel, you now need to work it through the channel for the entire length around the window. This is a game of patience... literally a fraction of an inch at a time. A good technique is to push down into the channel as you push it further along the channel. If it pops out, you need to start over.
- Keep going, slow and steady.
As you get further along, you'll need to change the technique a bit. Continue to push down into the channel as you push the rubber further along the channel, but now you'll want to focus on where you're pushing and pulling. We found it easier to push the rubber from the starting point. As you push gently, you see it feeding through. However, it does get a little compressed. So after a few inches, we would then also pull from the front (again, gently).
In short, we would push for a couple inches, then pull as much as possible to remove any slack in the gasket, then repeat.
Over, and over, and over again. Until finished.
- Finish with a little bit of the gasket hanging over.
As you can see from the original marks in the gasket, the rubber is cut a little bit longer on both sides of the channel. We just fed it through until it was back to it's starting position with a little bit hanging over on each side.
Here's a view of how it looked at the end when looking at it from the rear.
Whereas this job isn't incredibly complex, there were no materials needed, there were no tools needed, it did require a lot of patience. I was pretty amazed that we couldn't find anything online for how to fix the camper window seal... and I tried Tacoma World, YouTube, Google, Pinterest, you name it. Hopefully this comes in handy for someone in the same situation.
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