One of the next projects we undertook in the series of YOLOM renovations was replacing the hinged back (flip-up) wall with a piece of vinyl canvas. Palomino put a solid back wall piece on the 2008 Bronco 1500 which is flipped up into position when the roof is raised. They did this to allow for a full-size door on the camper. I didn’t care for this feature as it allows bugs to get in while you raise the roof. Not a big deal in Colorado Springs, but I have spent time in Alaska and know that there would be billions of blood-sucking mosquitoes in our home in the time it takes to get that locked into place. I am not big on being the McDonalds for the mosquito population… Billions Served! A truck camper canvas replacement for that back wall was needed and that is what we did.
One More Reason to Replace the Backwall with Canvas
Another reason we undertook this truck camper canvas replacement was that the gaping hole that is created when the hinged wall is flipped down keeps the fan from creating pressure as the roof is dropped for travel/storage. This makes tucking away the canvas on the sidewalls more difficult. When pressure is created it suctions the fabric in as the roof drops. The canvas mostly tuck itself away as the roof is lowered.
To do this project I had to remove the hinged wall section and replace that with a header piece above the door that was strong enough to hold the camper together and then custom sew a canvas replacement complete with zippers and velcro to cover this area.
I started by getting my measurements for the area. I then found the canvas I need at Sailrite. They deal in materials for marine craft. I also found the awning tracks, zippers, and awning rope needed on Sailrite’s site as well. When I started to order the website also recommended some weatherproof thread and a sealant for the thread holes. Love modern technology.
Once everything had arrived I was ready to start on the truck camper canvas replacement. I first took another measurement of the dimensions on the back wall because I knew once I removed the hinged wall that the sides would want to pull away. Getting the walls back to square was very important for how the roof slides up and down. I also took measurements on the current screw alignment for the hinge piece. I was going to remove it so that I could add the new aluminum awning track to that section using the same hole alignment. This piece of aluminum would effectively be the wall header and hold the two sections of the lower section of the wall together. I later decided to beef up this header and ended up using the top piece of the hinge wall section to give this horizontal piece more structure.
Holding the Camper’s Shape
Before I removed the hinges I also used some ratchet straps attached across the back wall to help hold the camper’s shape. This worked fairly well, but later I found a piece of plastic on the factory vent fan had cracked during this removal which caused a small leak. It wasn’t anything that some RV Proflex sealant couldn’t fix, but I also found that if I cranked down the camper’s legs that would help hold the camper’s shape better than the straps alone. I should have probably tried that to start with in addition to the ratchet straps. The task of removing the back wall was easy enough as it only took the removal of 16 screws from the hinges. Once removed the wall was easy enough to lift out of place.
Adding Zippers to the Existing Canvas
After removing the back wall piece the next step was to remove the aluminum corner pieces locking the existing vinyl canvas to the ceiling. Once that is removed the canvas can be slid out of the existing awning tracks. I pulled away enough of the existing fabric to get it into my sewing machine. I sewed on half of a zipper to the edge. Once the zipper was attached I then refit the canvas into the upper and lower tracks. I reattached the aluminum corner piece locking the fabric in place. Next, I repeated these steps on the opposite wall. I would note here that I attached the zipper with the end tooth even with the bottom part of each section. Later, I realized that zippers can be more easily trimmed from the start position than the stop position.
Preparing the New Canvas
Once both zippers were on the old canvas, I took a more accurate dimension for the width of the new vinyl canvas. I took this and the height and attempted to cut the new vinyl for the back wall. However, Sailrite had shipped me the wrong piece of fabric. It was shorter than it was supposed to be and I hadn’t realized it until I got to this step. They were good to send me the correct roll of canvas free of charge, but it took another week for it to arrive. I think better customer service would have been to overnight it. Still, I was happy with the experience and had other things to work on to keep me busy.
Placing the New Aluminum Header onto the Back Wall
While I waited on the new canvas I took apart the old hinged wall and refashioned the top solid aluminum piece to go across the wall just above the door. This required cutting and then filing down the front edge for the section crossing the door opening. It also required putting in new holes to align with the existing screw locations along the back wall. I cut the existing aluminum cap that was on the wall pieces adjacent to the door and removed the section that corresponded to the new length I was putting in. The piece of aluminum I removed from the hinged wall wasn’t long enough to run all the way across the back wall so I left about 4” on either side of the old aluminum wall caps. I glued and screwed all this into place and then sealed it with RV ProFlex.
Attaching the Truck Camper Canvas Replacement Tracks
I then attached via screws a new piece of awning track to the ceiling section along the back of the camper. The awning tracks are what hold the vinyl canvas to the structure of the camper.
I then used Liquid Nails to glue the new aluminum track to the back of the new/used aluminum wall header. Finally, I added some weather stripping to the doorway. After everything had dried I removed the ratchet straps and tested out lowering the roof onto the new wall section. It worked flawlessly.
Making the New Vinyl Canvas
Once the new vinyl canvas arrived, I first sewed in the top awning rope and ran it onto the top track. This allowed me to get a more accurate measurement of the actual height needed for the canvas. I then cut the piece to the desired height with about a half inch of overlap to hem the edge. Once I had hemmed the bottom edge, I then hemmed one side of the canvas and sowed in the zipper leaving about 3/4″ of fabric to cover the zipper.
I then remounted this piece into the top track and zipped up the side with the zipper. This gave me a more accurate width dimension that I then used to determine the fabric’s final size. Here again, I left half an inch of fabric for the hem and about 3/4″ for the overlap on the zipper. As it turns out I didn’t need to cut my 80″ panel as it was the perfect width for this project.
The Underlap Flap of Canvas
The next step was to cut the piece of vinyl canvas that I will refer to here as the underlap flap. This piece is a full-width piece of canvas that is shorter in height. It attaches to the back of the main outer piece of vinyl on the inside of the camper. The bottom of the underlap flap slides into the new aluminum track on the inside. It is sewn to the full outer vinyl piece of canvas on the inside. This underlap flap holds the canvas to the camper wall while allowing the outer piece to overlap the wall. This overlap is done to keep the rain out of the camper. I hemmed all the edges on this underlap flap as well and sewed in the awning rope along the bottom edge.
Test Mounting the Vinyl Canvas
I then test mounted the main piece of vinyl inside the awning track mounted to the ceiling of the camper and mounted the underlap flap in the bottom track. This allowed me to pull the underlap flap up and get a more exact measurement of where to sew it onto the main piece. I also used this fitting to get a final horizontal measurement before I sewed in the final zipper on the main piece. I then took it apart and sewed in the zipper on the main piece, followed by sewing on the underlap flap making sure not to sew over the zippers. Finally, I sewed in some velcro so that the overlap on the zipper could be fastened close to the old pieces of canvas.The existing pieces of vinyl fabric had velcro already on them designed to fasten them to the flip-up wall.
Notching the Vinyl Canvas for the Door
Next, I remounted the vinyl piece and realized that the overlap of the main piece above the door was getting caught in the door as the door closed. The fix was to cut away a section of the fabric from the part of the panel covering the door. I had to remove the entire panel from the camper so that I could re-hem this piece. Once complete I remounted the canvas into place. The last step was to use the thread sealant to seal up all the thread holes on the new and old vinyl canvas. I applied three coats on the front and back of each.
Weather Sealing the Aluminum Channel
The notch in the vinyl canvas for the door left the frame above the door with a chance of taking on water. While water can’t get behind the channel it could flow down the channel and enter the camper on the edges. To prevent this from happening I used some RV Proflex sealant and created three barriers on each side of the door to channel water off the back of the aluminum header. There was already some sealant needed in these areas to weather seal the screws anyways. I just enlarged the sealant to cover the entire track.
Keeping the Bugs Out
One of the downsides of this truck camper canvas replacement was that it left large gaps in the corners. This actually seems to be an issue of all pop-up truck campers in general. To reduce the likelihood of bugs getting into our home through these areas I added a strip of velcro to hold the canvas to the outer shell of the camper. I had to remove the canvas sections as before and sew in new strips of the loop side of velcro along the bottom of each section. I then cleaned the outside of the camper with soap & water followed with rubbing alcohol. Once this had dried I applied the hook side of the velcro to this area. It works pretty well.
Final Thoughts on the Truck Camper Canvas Replacement
This truck camper canvas replacement while technically challenging has been a great success. The new canvas doesn’t match the color of the existing vinyl canvas perfectly, but it is close enough for me. Had I wanted to take on making windows I might have redone the old canvas at the same time and had all new vinyl on the entire rig. It is so nice to be able to open and close the roof with ease and not have to worry about the bloodsucker bugs getting in. Later on, we added a more centralized MaxXfan over the kitchen that made this renovation even better. The fan located over the bed is difficult to turn off once the roof has been lowered.
Materials & Tools Used for the Truck Camper Canvas Replacement