Hydraulic struts to assist a pop-top: Any opinions?

Discussion in 'Mech Tech' started by BayWatcher, Oct 22, 2011.

  1. Woodylubber

    Woodylubber Obsessive compulsive name changer

  2. In 1998, I retro-fitted gas struts (salvaged from the rear hatch, of a Volvo 300-series hatchback), to the elevating roof (i.e. pop top, in North American parlance), of my 1973 VW Type 2 Westfalia Continental campervan. So far, I believe I have briefly documented the upgrade, in various VW forum topic threads, as follows. Details are also being published, in the forthcoming issue of Transporter Talk; the bi-monthly magazine, of the British, Volkswagen Type 2 Owners' Club.

    Bay Window Bus > Gas strut assisted pop tops?


    Body > Westy Interiors > Lifting that poptop!


    Bay Tech Clinic > Body > Gas struts for Westfalia elevating roof


    VZi, Europe's largest VW, community and sales > Tech Forums > Aircooled Mechanical Tech > [INTERIOR] Upgrading 1968~79 VW Type 2 Westfalia campervans


    Board index > KamperChat Forums > KamperTech > Gas-strut assistance retro-fit, for Westfalia elevating roof

  5. OK I know this is about fitting hydraulic struts, but it's got me going on the existing set up. I decided to take mine apart to see what's inside.


    When it's unhooked there's this spring inside the strut. A cable runs the full length pulling at the bottom end.


    I was hoping to find it would be adjustable, but it doesn't seem to be, so I added a stack of washers which has taken up a lot of the slack.


    The improvement is amazing. I can't quite lift the roof one handedly, but it no longer requires a weight lifter's physique.

    The hard part is getting the cable on and off, so side 1 was a real pig. The trick is to take off the pin in the centre joint (you can see this in my pics of Oct 23). This normally stops the whole mechanism folding forwards. With that out of the way you can carefully let it rest against the fabric and so get enough slack. I was initially trying to compress the spring from the bottom, but this isn't necessary. I did side 2 in 20 minutes.

    Also I started with a prop on the roof but it's not needed if you do one side at a time. It'll still stay up with one strut in place.

    If you've got the original stuff in place and a full pair of arms you don't need hydraulics! 8)
  6. Pure genius, Andyv. I had no idea there was any kind of spring-loaded assistance at work in these tops. I still don't understand where the spring is or how you got it out though. Is it inside the bottom pole?
    If the cable is pulled tight when the top is down, and these tops have been down for the better part of 3 decades, then it makes perfect sense that the cables would have stretched.
    I can't wait to work on this. (as soon as I finish my 4 million other projects)
  7. Hi BW, thanks to this thread I've finally got to sort out for myself how this mechanism works.

    The spring and cable is inside the bottom pole. You can disconnect the bottom end by taking out a metal pin and then letting the strut hang loose over the roof opening. Then you need to disconnect the cable from the centre joint. To do this you take out the centre pin. This is like the one in the bottom but slightly bigger. They two are held on by toothed washers which are prised off with a screwdriver.

    You can then let the centre joint fold forward and rest on the canvas. Then unclip the cable and the spring will drop out of the pole. Long nosed pliers are helpful here.

    The aim is then to take out the slack in the spring by adding some spacers. You can see how I've added washers. You will need to experiment until you get the right number so you can only just get the cable back on again, and it's under slight tension when you get the centre pin back in.

    I think you'll be suitably impressed by the improvement. It would be great if someone somewhere knows where to get new parts though.
  9. Thanks Paradox. I'm going to try this spring business first. I'll post how it goes.
  10. If any Devon or Viking owners need new struts with the original spec then you can get them here:


    A bit pricey, but might be better than bodging something from a scrapped tailgate taken from an old car.
  11. Oh don't take old struts out of a car. They're probably past it already anyway. They're cheap enough at the dealership. They're even cheaper at places that sell aftermarket generic struts. They're probably just as good, they just don't have an Audi sticker on them.
  12. vwcamperroofs

    vwcamperroofs Sponsor

    Hi guys i know this is an old thread but i run vwcampervanroofs i was going to let you know we do a gas strut kit for the late Westy roof also the T25 Westy. Easy to fit (About an hour and a half) you get to keep your original handle and locking mechanism you just lose the lifting H framework. The roof is then nice and easy to lift up and pull down not original but a nice mod. The kit is £125 plus the vat and posting.

    Just thought i'd let you guys know.

    Thanks Pete.
  13. Sounds good, got any pics or even better a video of it all. :)
  14. @vwcamperroofs. Any chance you will be developing the range to include early Westy?
  15. vwcamperroofs

    vwcamperroofs Sponsor

    The problem with the early Westy roof is that the hinges are fairly flimsey and operate on sliders this means the gas struts tend to try to twist the hinges out of shape and make pulling the roof down difficult. The only way we have found to do it nicely is to fit the later Westy style hinge which is much beefier and more of a scissor action instead of a slide. This makes the process far more exspensive around £600.

    We are thinking of re- manufacturing the early hinges but in 3mm steel would anybody be interested in them?

    I do have fitting instructions for the late Westy when i get my head round it i'll try to post some pics.

  16. vwcamperroofs

    vwcamperroofs Sponsor

    Oh another thing i can get most gas struts made up as long as i know the length the stroke and the (NM Newton Metres) or even the code from the old gas strut. You can also get adjustable gas struts they come pre-pressurised and have a small alan key screw in the body which lets you relaese the pressure in the strut until its right.

  17. Sounds good, got any pics or even better a video of it all. :(
  19. vwcamperroofs

    vwcamperroofs Sponsor

    Hi Chrisradioman, i'm in the middle of moving workshops at the mo. I'll try and get some pics up during the Christmas week.


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