A camper roof vent is a must if you are to enjoy your experience on the road. A campervan without a fan will quickly become a sweaty hammam in the summer. Even worse, a fanless van will lead to very bad air quality in the van due to cooking, moisture, and smelly clothes. To ensure your van has good indoor air quality, you need to install a van roof vent. In our Roaming Home study, we found that 52% of vans have a fan installed - lower than expected quite frankly! In this guide we will learn how to install a campervan fan, skylight, and air conditioning.
I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for years; I'm the author of Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan,writer of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course over at Udemy. And full-time vanlifer for 4 years!
So let's jump in and have a look at camper van roof vent installation!
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What is the best camper van roof vent?
The two most popular brands of campervan fan are Maxxair and Fantastic.
I personally have a Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe and absolutely love it.
These are the unique features of the Maxxfan;
It has a built-in rain shield, making it great for all weather conditions. This is a super important feature, not to be understated
It is a 10-speed reversible fan with intake and exhaust
It has a programmable thermostat and a remote control
Another great option is the Fantastic fan. The two most popular options are:
Fantastic vent 7350 – best
Fantastic vent 1200 – budget
You could also look at buying a cheaper, 'no name' campervan fan from Amazon. This one is particularly well-reviewed and good value.
Another way of staying cool in a campervan is with air conditioning. I don’t own an air conditioner, but sometimes in the depths of summer, I really wish I did! In the Roaming Home study, we found that 11% of van conversions have AC installed.
Back in the day, campervan AC was all 110V/230V, but these days you can easily buy a 12V air conditioner. Here is a comparison of three of the most popular air conditioners:
Keeping a van bright inside is a great way to elevate your mood, plus it makes the vanterior look great!. A skylight is the best possible way to brighten up your van. In our 2023 study we found that 42% of vans had installed a skylight.
Note: If you are in extreme climates (very cold or very warm), a lot of windows or a big skylight will make temperature regulation very difficult.
The air that a campervan fan extracts needs to be replaced with fresh air from somewhere or it won’t be able to do its job properly! A great place to take in cold air is through a vent in the floor. The air underneath your van is shaded and cooler.
If your fan is at the front of your van, then the floor vent should be at the back.
Whilst you could use a simple drop out vent for this job, in cold climates you might regret having a permanent opening in the floor.
A friend of mine built a hinged floor flap which he could manually open and close whenever he liked. Alternatively, you could install a blast gate valve.
How to install a camper van roof vent
Note: Though we are discussing the installation of a Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe camper van roof vent here, the process for installing a skylight, air conditioning, or another campervan fan is the exact same.
Step #1: Locate the site where you want to install the campervan fan
From within the vehicle, find the location in the roof where you want to install the fan. Make sure you consider the size and location of your solar panels / roof rack.
From the inside, mark/trace out the interior dimensions of the fan. This is 400 mm x 400 mm for the Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe.
Drill four holes in the four corners of the markings you just traced.
Step #2: Cut a hole in the roof
Hop onto the van roof and cut out a hole with a jigsaw - connecting the pilot holes.
Tip: Stick a tarp (black bin bag) to the inside of the van to catch swarf).
Step #3: File the sharp edges
Use a metal file to smooth the rugged or sharp edges of the hole.
After that, you can smoothen the uneven edges further with fine sandpaper.
Step #4: Clean the area
Use isopropyl rubbing alcohol to clean any dirt and filings on the roof and around the cut-out. Do this both inside and outside the cut-out area.
Step #5: Apply metal paint to the cleaned area
After the alcohol dries, apply some Hammerite metal paint. This will guard against corrosion in the future on the exposed metal. If your metal paint does not contain primer, you will need to paint the surface with primer first.
Step #6: Make a wooden frame for the camper van roof vent
First cut four pieces of 2X2 (inch) wood with measurements on the interior of 400 mm X 400 mm. I built the frame using mitred butt joints (45° angles). You can do this with a mitre saw, or with a mitre block. Though this is purely aesthetic, basic butt joints will do!
Next, glue the four pieces of wood together using a wood glue - Gorilla glue is the most popular choice. Clamp the pieces together and leave it overnight. I used corner clamps, but you can use regular clamps too.
Step #7: Add a Mastic/Butyl tape seal to the top of the van
Van roofs are frequently a farshot from flat, the Ford Transit has rungs running along the surface. To smooth out the roof's surface apply strips of mastic tape. Also known as butyl tape, it has the added benefit of waterproofing the area too. Mastic tape has a playdough texture. You will need about 6 m of Mastic tape.
Lay down strips of mastic tape on all four sides around the cut out area. Lay down the strips until the area is nice and level.
Step #8: Stick the backing flange to the top of the van
First apply a thin bead of Sikaflex sealant / adhesive to the inside of the plastic backing.
Then flip the plastic backing over and stick it into the hole in the van
After placing down the plastic backing flange, adjust it on all sides of the hole so that it is evenly distanced from the edges.
Press the frame onto the mastic/butyl seal to make a water-tight bond. Then clamp it down for a few hours You can apply sealant around the edges of the mastic to double ensure you have a water-tight seal
Step #9: Stick the wooden frame to the inside of the van
First apply Sikaflex adhesive to the inside of the wooden frame.
Then clamp the frame to the roof of your van from the inside.
Step #10: Screw the plastic backing into the wooden frame
Hop onto the roof of your van and screw down the plastic backing. Self-drilling screws will make this much easier as they can be screwed directly into the roof.
Put a little bead of silicone on top of each screw head after they have been drilled in.
Step #11: Attach the body of the fan into the roof
Place the body of your fan into the plastic backing on the roof.
There are four screws which attach the body to the plastic backing.
Step #12: Attach the fan trimming to the inside
On the inside of the van, get the plastic trimming and insert it to the fan. Fit it into the frame with four screws. And that’s it! You’re done.
Step #13 (Optional): Check whether the campervan fan installation was a success
The Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe camper van roof vent comes with a remote control that you can use to switch on the fan and adjust its speed settings. If you already have your electrical system setup, wire up the positive and negatives and switch on the fan. If it starts working, then your installation was a success! 🥳🥳 If it fails, then there is a problem with the wiring. Recheck the wiring, and make sure that you have wired it correctly. If it fails to work again, change the fuse (it could have blown out). For this reason, always have spare fuses just in case.
I hope you found this guide to installing the Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe Camper van Roof Vent useful! You are well on your way to a beautiful self-build campervan!
Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you join).
If you're looking for some guidance with your van conversion, you might be interested in Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. In the 380-page book (or ebook), you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!
Until next time,