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How to install a Perfectwall Dometic awning

This blog post will explain how to install a Dometic PerfectWall PW 1500 awning on a Mercedes Sprinter or VW Crafter. Fitting a Dometic awning to a Fiat Ducato will follow a similar process. Every vehicle will have a slightly different mounting bracket and mounting location, however the process of installation is very similar.

Contents

Why should you install a campervan awning?

When you are living or travelling in a relatively confined space, being able to get outside is crucial. However, the weather doesn’t always play ball! After our first trip away we quickly realised that an awning would not only let us sit outside in sunny Spain whilst escaping the harsh heat, but also provide us double the living space when it’s raining and still be able to admire the view from outside.

woman opening a perfectwall dometic slide out awning on a campervan

Can I install a campervan awning myself?

Yes absolutely, if you have already fitted other exterior products like skylights and windows, there are some similarities. It took us about 5 hours to fit our Dometic awning with mainly one person working on it full-time and with some intermittent help from another. In terms of difficulty, we felt it was more complex than fitting windows and skylights but not as bad as fitting an underslung LPG tank without a vehicle lift, so a 7/10 on the installation difficulty scale!

If you read this article and you’re worried about installing your Dometic awning yourself, don’t worry! Your awning supplier will be able to recommend an awning fitter, just expect to pay an additional £150-£200 to have your Dometic campervan awning professionally installed.

Ideally, installing your Dometic awning will be completed at the same time as other exterior equipment such as windows and skylights, right at the start of the build. However, not everyone may have planned to have an awning from the start of their build (us included!), so we will go through the installation process in a way that helps everyone.

The vast majority of the installation time revolves around modifying the awning brackets and attaching them securely to the roof. Attaching the awning to the brackets should only take a few minutes providing you carry out the previous steps well! 

What components do you need to install your van awning?

Included with the Dometic PerfectWall PW1500 awning:

  • 3x aluminium mounting brackets (PR2000, PR2500)
  • 3x adhesive backed rubber mounting strips
  • 6x coach bolts, nuts and washers
  • 6x bolts, nuts and 3 retaining plates
  • 12x sheet metal screws

 

An additional pack of brackets are supplied if you are mounting to roof rails, but we won’t cover this in detail here as it’s not very common and is already documented well online.

Tools & components Quantity Link
Sabatack 750XL
1
Sealant or Mastic gun
1
Hex socket set
1
Cordless drill
1
Drill bits: 3, 5, 9, 10mm and a countersink
1
Utility knife
1
Degreaser suitable for vehicle paint (WD40)
1
Lint free cleaning cloth
1
Step ladder
1-2

Does it matter what adhesive I use?

Choosing the right adhesive to attach your Dometic awning to the roof of your campervan is incredibly important! We spent a lot of time researching the most appropriate adhesive to use and concluded that Sabatack 750XL was most appropriate for several reasons:

  • It has incredibly good shear stress performance
  • It remains strong whilst allowing the adhesive to stretch and extend when it is under large forces
  • It creates a reliable flexible seal to prevent water from ingressing
  • It performs at it’s best when bonding aluminium and steel, just like the bracket and steel roof of your van.
 
Many adhesives don’t have the same strength and flexibility characteristics and are therefore liable to cracking, and where there’s a crack there’s a leak! This link provides some further nerdy insights to Sabatacks performance if you’re into that kind of thing!
 

How to install a Dometic campervan awning

The Dometic awning is provided with instructions but they are fairly vague and at times hard to interpret, so hopefully the combination of the Dometic official instructions and this post will help you.

Cleaning the van roof

Unfortunately, before you start installing your campervan awning, you will need to clear the roof of your van. If your van is anything like ours it will be covered in a thick layer of dirt, which not only looks grim, but will also make adhering the brackets to the roof pretty much impossible! So give the roof a good scrub, jet wash it and use an automotive degreaser like WD40 to remove any layers of grease which will affect the performance of the adhesive. Whilst the roof of the van dries you can move onto Stage 2.

Preparing the brackets

We would highly recommend attaching the three aluminium brackets to the awning when it is still on the ground, and crucially before you start drilling any holes! This will allow you to position the two aluminium brackets just shy of the end of the awning and the smaller central bracket in the centre. The brackets need to be spaced as wide as possible to help spread the load of the awning evenly across the roof. This is especially important when the awning is extended, because the mechanism which helps to extend the awning cantilevers from the van at either end. Dometic provides a table in their instructions to help you define the bracket spacing depending on the length of your awning.

Many adhesives don’t have the same strength and flexibility characteristics and are therefore liable to cracking, and where there’s a crack there’s a leak! This link provides some further nerdy insights to Sabatacks performance if you’re into that kind of thing!

Once you are happy with the bracket positions, note down the spacing between them so you can replicate this on the roof of the van. Most vans, including Mercedes Sprinters, VW Crafters and Fiat Ducatos, have pre-cut holes in the roof which are covered with plastic caps. You should try to align the brackets with these holes if possible, as this will save you from needing to drill additional holes.

The awning will be attached to the roof in three ways: with bolts, screws and adhesive.First, you will need to uncover some of the bolt holes in your van roof. In our case the mounting bracket wasn’t long enough to span between two of the existing holes, so we decided to use one of the existing holes and drill a new hole.

You will need to make sure that any new holes you will be drilling won’t be directly above any beams, as you won’t be able to easily access the bolt from the inside of the van to attach the nut and washer. If this is not obvious, try tapping on the roof. If it flexes and makes a noise, you’re probably tapping on thin sheet metal, but if it’s more solid and makes less noise you’re probably tapping on a beam.

Back on the ground you will need to drill a series of holes into the aluminium brackets:

  • 2x 10mm holes for the main mounting bolts
  • 4x 5mm holes for the sheet metal screws

We decided to place 4x 5mm holes in the longer aluminium brackets and just 3 in the shorter bracket to account for the size difference.

The image below highlights the hole spacing we opted for in each aluminium bracket. The process of drilling the holes is very simple as Dometic have added a subtle groove down the length of the bracket to indicate where to drill. This means that all you need to do is mark the hole spacing with a pen.

As the brackets are aluminium, a high speed steel (HSS) drill bit will cut through the bracket like a knife through butter. To finish off the bracket modifications, we used a countersink drill bit to remove any nasty sharp edges or burrs from each side of each hole.

The next task is to prepare the three adhesive backed rubber mounting strips. These rubber strips allow the bracket to flex slightly when it’s on the roof which reduces the chance of the awning damaging the roof. It also provides a method of sealing the bolt holes from water ingress. Dometic recommends drilling 9mm holes through the rubber strips which need to align as closely as possible to the mounting holes in the aluminium bracket.

Marking out and drilling holes

First, use a knife to remove the plastic caps that cover the pre-cut mounting holes in the roof of the van. This can be a bit fiddly, so wear a pair of gloves to save yourself a trip to A&E. Remember, you don’t need to remove all of them, just the ones that sit below your brackets!

Now the brackets are finished you can use them as a guide to mark out any additional bolt holes you will need to drill. To do this, we aligned one of the holes on the bracket with the freshly exposed hole on the van. You can then use the bracket as a guide to mark where the new hole will need to be drilled.

If you have an empty van you can skip this next paragraph, as we will cover how to dismantle your ceiling to access the bolt holes from the inside of the van!. Thankfully, the holes all sit at the very edge of your roof, so you hopefully won’t have to remove too much of your ceiling. Once the ceiling covering is removed you can start to work out where in the roof the holes are. You will need to cut through the vapour barrier and insulation until you discover the hole. Once you have found one of the holes, it’s simply a case of measuring across by the same spacing used on your brackets to find where the next hole will emerge. This process can be repeated until you have a series of insulation cut outs in your ceiling.

Now you can hop back onto the roof and start to drill the 10mm bolt clearance holes. We decided to keep one of us in the van to catch the shards of metal whilst the other person drilled the holes. Once the three additional holes had been drilled we used a countersink bit to gently remove any burrs from each hole as it’s important the surface you are bolting to is as flat as possible.

Finally, drill the 12 3mm holes for the sheet metal screws to screw into. As with the other holes, use the bracket as a guide and mark the hole locations with a pen before drilling each 3mm pilot hole.

Mounting the brackets

Now for some quick progress! Mounting the brackets is actually very simple. Firstly, place the rubber mounting strip into the rail on your roof and use the coach bolts to help you align the holes. The mounting strip comes with an adhesive back, so use this to stick the strip to the roof of the van.

dometic perfectwall awning installation

Next, ensure you have all of the bolts and screws to hand as you’re about to get the adhesive out and will want everything to hand to limit adhesive going everywhere! Apply the Sabatack generously around each of the five 3mm holes and across the surrounding ribbed portion of the bracket.

Next, position the bracket onto the rubber strip and align the holes. Before inserting the bolts apply a generous amount of Sabatack into each hole to seal the hole against water ingress. You can now push the bolts most of the way through the roof. Once the bolt is aligned with the hole in the roof, apply a generous amount of Sabatack around the underside of the coach bolt. You can then start to tighten the nut and washer from the inside with a hex socket set, compressing the coach bolt head, bracket and rubber strip against the roof. You will hopefully see adhesive emerge around the head of the bolt which indicates you have sealed the hole correctly.

Once the two coach bolts are fully tightened you can then screw in the sheet metal screws. It’s really important that you don’t over tighten these, as the screw thread could damage the hole and the quality of the mounting. As with the coach bolts, try to apply a generous amount of sealant around the underside of the screw head to limit the chance of each screw creating a leak path.

This process can now be repeated with the remaining brackets until they are all in place. Don’t be afraid to apply more adhesive around any connections you fear may leak, as it’s better to have a slightly untidy gluey mess on the roof of your van than pools of water inside it!

 

With this complete, you can now add the insulation back, tape up your vapour barrier with aluminium tape and replace your roof covering.

Mounting the awning

With the technical work done, it’s now time to lift the awning into position and slide it onto the mounting brackets. Once it is in place, a series of nuts, bolts and retaining plates allow you to securely lock the awning in place. The challenge we haven’t detailed is how you get the awning onto the roof in the first place! Our installation video will do a better job of explaining our method, however ideally we would suggest a person holds either end of the awning and you both slowly and carefully climb step ladders at the side of the van until it can be mounted to the roof. We only had one very old and wobbly ladder so opted for something that resembled a carefully choreographed slow motion caber toss!

You should refrain from using the awning for 48 hours to allow the adhesive to fully cure.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions feel free to drop us a message on here or via Instagram!  

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