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The number one lesson we have learned from van life is patience. Before we bought the van we talked about having the conversion done in four months. Now we are on month six with a long way to go.
There are so many variables to converting a van. If you want things to be perfect you have to be willing to take your time and roll with the punches.
Since we brought the van home we’ve had to repair an insane amount of rust (thanks, Philidelphia), patch literal holes in the metal, replace sensors, and a million other little things that we didn’t really plan for.
The van is our passion project, but converting it is a painstakingly slow process. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when one thing after another goes wrong. But this is the nature of the project, and I have to remind myself that our hard work and determination will pay off.
Last weekend we finished the third window installation in the van. This was definitely a learning process, so I have gathered everything here in an attempt to simplify the endeavor for the next person!
Create the Template
Remove the window from the packaging and use the cardboard to make your template. Tape the clamp ring onto the cardboard to avoid movement and trace the outline.
Use a box cutter to cut out the template. It should look like this when it’s finished. Doggo not included.
Install the Clamp Ring Onto the Window
Go ahead and screw the clamp ring onto the window itself. Do this now because you will have to make your own threads as you screw in the screws. This is hard work and will make the process so much easier if you install the clamp ring onto the window before installing it into the van.
Make sure that you start at the top left corner, then do the bottom right corner, then do the bottom left side, then the top right side, etc, etc.
You do not want to pull your clamp ring one way and then not be able to get all the screws lined up correctly when you are completing the window installation.
Outline the Window on Your Van
Next, use the template you just made to position your window. Once you have your template in the perfect spot, tape it down and trace the outline on the van.
It should look something like this.
Drill holes along the outline to help guide you. This also gives you some reference of where the window will be inside the van. We like to drill the holes very close together on curves, or else you may try to turn too much and break your jigsaw blade.
Make one hole larger than the rest so that the jigsaw blade can fit through. This will be the starting point for cutting.
Once you have drilled the holes, put tape around the outline. It will prevent any scratched to the paint, which can cause rust.
Cut the Hole
Start in the largest hole you drilled and slowly make your way around the outline. Don’t be afraid to take your time! Once you have cut the hole, test fit the window. Cut any metal preventing the window from fitting.
Do a final test fit to make sure your window installation will fit nicely.
File and Prime
Now that you have completed your cut, take a metal file around the edges of the hole. This will help you get the perfect fit and get rid of any unwanted jagged edges.
Once you have the edges filed down, you need to prime the bare metal. We did this with 3 coats of primer and then 3 coats of paint.
Apply the Sealant
Take your window and apply a bead of marine sealant all the way around the edge of the window.
Typically we prefer to use Butyl Tape for windows, but in this case, we did not have enough to make a thick gasket. We did have the marine sealant on hand and have read it works wonders, so we settled for it on this one.
Position the Window and Secure
Have someone hold the window in from the outside, and work together to get it centered!
Once it is in the perfect spot, put the clamp ring on and begin screwing it all together.
A neat trick we learned is to screw the screws backward until you hear/feel the screw fall into the threads you created. This way you know everything is lined up perfectly and will not mess up your threads!
Again, make sure you zig-zag around when doing this. We like to start at the top left corner, then do the bottom right corner, then do the bottom left side, then the top right side, etc, etc.
You do not want to accidentally pull your clamp ring one way by installing all the screws on top. If you do this you may not be able to install all the screws incorrectly when you are actually completing the window installation.
Place the plastic pieces in the weep holes on the top of the window, and clean up any excess silicone around the edges!
Finally, enjoy your new window!
Happy travels, friends!