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Old 03-17-2015, 04:21 PM   #1
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Removal and Installation of SOKIII slide out toppers

Well, I finally mustered the courage to tackle the onerous task of removing the existing OEM Carefree of Colorado acrylic slide topper awnings and replace them with the far better made Stone Vos vinyl awnings. Although only one slide topper had failed miserably (see attached pic of the large dining room slide out awning) I had decided to replace all 4 at the same time as I knew that it was only a matter of time before the rest of them would eventually fail. And as usual with things like this, it always fails in the worst possible time at the worst possible location. Being at home and in no hurry to travel, I decided that the time was ripe to do it now....not to mention the mild and sunny winter that we have been having here in sunny South Surrey, BC, and there was enough motivation to get me going.

The only concern I did have, besides never having done this project before, was doing it 90% by myself (see below for the other 10%). I donít have any friends who would be keen to do this, let alone feel comfortable standing 11 feet high on top of an 8 foot step ladder. Chris, from Stone Vos did reassure me that I could do it by myself, and others on this Monaco forum have also told me that it is possible. However, I caution to warn others attempting this project, that because all 4 of these slide out toppers have the same design on this particular coach (other years and models are different), that one needs some type of mechanical assistance, or 1-2 other people, to make this work well. The particular design of these SOK (which stands for Slide Out Kover) III awnings is this: all of them have the large internal spring on the RIGHT hand side of the awning as you look up at them. This means that for the 2 slide out awnings on the driverís side, the large spring will be on the rear, or the stern of the coach. On the passengerís side, the spring will be on the bow side (of the coach) of the slide out toppers. This presents an unusual challenge in only one of the slide outs: the one with the stupid patio awning on the passenger side which fits OVER the slide out awning. So, to get at this one, one has to extract fully, the Patio Awning, and then precariously use an angle drill to remove the 2 screws that attach the coach rail to the white polycord embedded in the awning fabric.

Although some people on this forum have claimed that you can remove and replace all 4 slide out topper awnings without removing the roll bar (which contains the spring) I found it much easier just to remove the fabric from the coach roof first (best is to cut it off with a good sharp utility knife) and then remove the roll bar. Once the spring has been properly pinned with either a small screwdriver, allen wrench or 3Ē cotter pin (as suggested in the Carefree of Colorado awning service manual) there is no fear of the spring suddenly retracting and spinning free. As soon as you insert the tool into the spring holes (which can be challenging), the spring will catch it and snug up to it, thus making it difficult for it to be removed, not impossible, but would require some force to remove the allen wrench or cotter pin. It is important to insert the spring holding tool through both holes (one on either side of the same end of the roll bar) to make sure that the spring is indeed held tightly.

The hardest part, by far, was not removing the existing fabric (I just cut it off before I removed the bar) but inserting the new fabric with the small sized black polycord into the old roll bar and inserting the other larger sized white polycord into the awning rail affixed to the coach roof. Chris does recommend using silicone spray and I canít emphasize enough to use it liberally. At one point, while stretching the small black polycord through the awning fabric, I was pulling too hard on the polycord and was at a point of breaking it....I soon stopped and sprayed more silicone spray onto the roll bar rail area to prevent any further damage to the cord.

The design of these SOKIII awnings presents one challenge. As the springs are all mounted on the RIGHT hand side of the roll bar, the fabric can only exit and enter from the other side. You cannot slide the fabric through the roll bar on the spring side. It has to come in from the other side. Because of this, I do not see how it is possible to remove and replace the existing fabric with new fabric while leaving the roll bar attached to the roll bar end covers on 2 of the awnings: the rear driverís slide out awning and the passenger side kitchen slide out awning. On both of these, you would need to attach the fabric on the left side of the roll bar while attaching the fabric, at the same time, on the right side of the rail attached to the coach. Unless you open up the awning rail by some type of mechanical means, and then close it again after you have finished, I donít see how it can be done? As well, pulling a long length of fabric through a metal rail is dicey enough..everything has to be straight. I wouldnít want to try and risk ripping the fabric with a bad angle or sharpened edge of metal.

As you can see by the pictures below, living up here with no friends or relatives to help you requires the use of more brain cells to think of ways to replace those extra handy set of hands that come in handy. In my case, it was using a drywall lift that I had bought a couple of years ago to hang up drywall, by myself again, in doing some renovations at home. I needed to figure out a couple of things before I started. The actual height of the coach awning rail (in my case it was 11 feet bang on the nose) and some contraption to hold the roll bar with new fabric onto the drywall lift to prevent it from sliding off and crashing to the ground. In this case, I used a 10 foot section of 4Ē PVC pipe, available at your local Home Depot. What I didnít count on was the piece of metal sticking out on the spring side end of the roll bar which I had used to pin the spring. I simply cut off the required amount of too much tool sticking out using my pair of bolt cutters and then the whole roll bar with fabric could squeeze through the PVC tube with no problem. Again, this only presents a problem on only 2 of the slide out topper awnings, because of the design.

It was fortunate that my drywall lift has a maximum lift of 11 feet. It worked so perfectly that I am proud of it. One needs to make sure the PVC tube is secured to the top of the lift, AND to make sure that the PVC tube does not dip at one end when the roll bar is inserted full length into the tube. I used some strong rope to attach the pipe at both cross over bars and then one more to hold down one end of the cross over bars to the base of the drywall lift so that it doesnít sag: this needs to be tied down to the base once the drywall lift is at the correct height. In my case, that was maximum height.

There were a couple of small concerns I had with the slide out topper construction, besides the poor draining of water that occurs on top when the slide out is extended. On all of my slide out topper metal covers (2006 Endeavor) I had found 4 metal pins using compression springs as well as one hex head bolt on each side of the end caps. These are all used to hold the awning cover securely in place so that it will not come off. After reading and re-reading the SOKIII service manuals over and over again, I came to the conclusion that mine was only supposed to have either the slide out pins and compression spring OR the hex head bolts securing the awning covers: NOT BOTH!

I had to replace 3 of the compression springs because they had rusted out and a couple of the metal pins were rusted in place, proving difficult to remove. The new end caps, if one orders them, do not have the holes for the metal pins, so it would only be held on by the hex head bolts. It is possible to use the existing covers by removing the metal pins and springs. If one is looking for the right size compression spring to use, I found these to be a pretty good match: 7/32 x 1 ĺ x .020 thickness. I paid $5.60 CDN for 3 in a pack...it took me 2 days to find a specialty spring manufacturer up here. These could not be found at any hardware store.

As well, I spent the better part of 2 hours cleaning up the awning covers, roll bars and rails using a combination of compressed air and soap and water. They had 7 years of dried vegetation consisting of cedar needles, twigs, branches, dirt and other assorted goodies. Beginning this year, I am going to make it a part of my annual list of things to do by removing the slide out awning covers and cleaning them good. Now that I know how easy it is to remove the covers, it shouldnít be that hard of a job. Like anything, once you have done it once, it seems easy.

Total length of time to do all 4 slide out toppers including a thorough cleaning? I started on a Wednesday and finished the following Monday. I took one day off (it rained heavily that day) and it only took me 3 hours on the Monday to finish putting back 3 of the slide out toppers, including the 2 biggest ones. I figured it worked out to about 14 hours or straight work, including all of the cleaning, but not the research or shopping for compression springs. If I had to do it again, I still figured it would take me no less than 2 hours per awning, and that would be with help of other people helping me inserting the new fabric and poly cords and helping me on their own ladders. I don't see how anyone can do this massive job in under 7-8 hours. There is just so much walking up and down a ladder and finicky work. The old Monaco service center in Coburg wanted 1.5 hours (6 hours total) to do this job. Man, they must work fast, or they don't bill for the extra time. I consider myself a fairly quick, but detailed and finicky worker whenever I do things around this coach. Perhaps they have their awnings pre- threaded with poly cords from Carefree? That would certainly speed things up....but really, I cannot see doing all 4 in under 8 hours by doing it my way below. Perhaps if one had 3 trained technicians, I could perhaps see a shorter time frame....

It is very hard, perhaps impossible, to try to insert the new material with the small black polycord, into the roll bar all by yourself. Someone needs to hold one end tight and help feed it through the opening in the roll bar. Fortunately, I had my wife to assist me with that task. She did try to climb an 8 foot ladder to help me with the first small bedroom slide with me on the roof, but it didnít work out so well and I decided to do all of the others by myself by standing on an 8 foot stepladder and just moving it from one end of the awning to the other (one needs to move it several times for each awning to get all of the pins, hex bolts, screws and other things into the right place)

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

#1. Buy good quality fabric. I bought vinyl fabric from Stone Vos for a good price which includes a 105 discount for being a Monaco forum member. Chris is a good person to work with who helps you along the way. As well, on his website there is a good link to a YouTube video of someone replacing the hard-to-do patio awning slide out topper using 3 people. Good video and good advice. I chose vinyl fabric because it is easier to clean and repels algae growth better.

#2. Have a plan in mind how you are going to proceed. Will you be using other people or doing it yourself?

#3. Download the correct service manual for your awning. On mine, the SOKIII, most of the information was correct, albeit somewhat simplified. It took me 6 hours of trying to figure out why my awning was not coming off the first slide out topper when I realized that some of the information was wrong in their manual. Trust your instinct and donít force anything off. Once the awning cover is off it is easier to see what lies ahead. My covers were held on with 2 pins on each side as well as 1 hex head bolt on each end. They are not heavy, but the long ones can be awkward to hold onto.

#4. If your covers are held on with pins, watch carefully for any pins and/or compression springs that fall to the ground. I almost lost 2 of them that way.

#5. Once the cover is off, be prepared to clean away any and all debris filling the awning fabric and roller tube. I had almost half a garbage bag from all of my covers when I was finished! I was amazed that the awnings still worked with all of that crap inside. Clean the inside well and inspect the compression springs and metal pins to see if they need replacing. Carefree deems both parts obsolete, so you may need to do some digging to find replacements or, simply buy new end caps as you donít need either with the new end caps Carefree will sell to us online now.

#6. Decide if you are going to cut away the old fabric or try and repair it. Everyone told me that Monaco put lots of extra fabric inside the roller tubes. Mine only had 8 extra inches that I could use. I decided beforehand to replace all of the fabric with a better made and better stitched product. This is just too much high altitude work to have to redo every few years. Do it once and do it right! If you are going to repair or re stitch the old fabric, you will need to take the roll bar off first and then remove both the roll and fabric from the coach rail at the same time. This is quite an onerous task and is not covered below. I did this for the first slide out then quickly realized what a PITA it was. That was when I decided to cut off all of the remaining awning fabrics from the coach first before I removed it from the roll bar. Much easier and less complicated.

#7. I found it easier to remove the roll bars rather than try to somehow remove the old fabric and then install new fabric onto the roll bar. The roll bar is not that hard to remove, ONCE PINNED CORRECTLY, and is only held on the end cover by one large hex head bolt on the other side of the bar (the unpinned side). When reinstalling the roll bar I found it useful to also remove a smaller hex head bolt on that same side that would allow the cover to fall down (not off) to enable an easier installation of the roll bar with new fabric. The side of the roll bar that is pinned (RIGHT SIDE OF ROLL BAR) is held onto the end cover by grooves on the end of the roll bar. You have to insert this end first when installing the bar later.

#8. Go slow and try to remember how you are taking things off. To install, simply reverse the procedure. I had forgotten about the middle fabric guide support attached to the bottom of the roll bar casing and had to remove my first awning to do it properly a second time. On the larger ones, it takes bit of patience and time to do this by yourself.

#9. After you have cut away the old awning fabric, make sure to pin correctly the spring side (RIGHT HAND SIDE) of the SOKIII roll bars. You can tell if it is pinned correctly if you cannot easily remove the tool that you used to pin it with. I used both allen wrenches and small screwdrivers as well as a cotter pin (not all on the same roll bar). You may have to rotate, slightly, the end of the roll bar as you try to line up the two holes to pin the spring with. Do not remove the roll bar without pinning it correctly first. Once pinned, simply remove the large hex head bolt on the other side if the roll bar and the roll bar slips right out. It is rather heavy on the spring side so make sure you are standing somewhere in the middle of the awning to prepare for the added weight. Do not drop it!

#10. The awning fabric is easy to remove off the roll bar once it is off the coach. Clean both the coach rail track as well as the roll bar track well. Lubricate both well with silicone spray once cleaned. This facilitates insertion of the new fabric and the poly cords that are inserted into the sewn fabric at both ends.

#11. Follow the instructions that come with your new awning fabric. I did and still missed a step (which I corrected later).

#12 If you do not have a drywall lift, and cannot find anyone else to help you, you can rent what is called equipment lifters from most major rental companies. I would hesitate trying to install the long slide out toppers without some type of personal or mechanical assistance. It is easy to remove all of the toppers and roll bars by yourself, but installing them is another story. Once covered in fabric, the roll bar is quite heavy and tricky to insert into the rail on the coach. It is hard enough to insert the small black poly cord and then the awning fabric with the poly cord into the roll bar....this also requires one additional person to help straighten out the fabric and hold tight and also to feed the poly cord with awning. But imagine doing this 11 feet in the air while trying to hold onto one end of the heavy roll bar with one hand and trying to insert it with the other hand....absolutely impossible without some type of help. That is where the drywall lift worked well. It took the place of 2 extra people and it didnít talk back!

#13. Use lots of silicone spray into both rails when inserting the poly cords and awning into the tracks. The long ones are very difficult to move once into the tracks without some type of friction lessening device. You may need to adjust them back and forth to place them correctly in the exact same location to align them with the end caps. Once in, do not screw the poly cord into the coach rail yet.

#14. After making sure that they are in the precise location as the end caps, insert the spring side of the roll bar in first into the right hand side end cap. Make sure it is inserted properly and does not fall out. Hand tighten it as much as possible and place it over the middle support bracket. Then try to align it with the other end cap. You should be working in the middle of the awning to make this work. Once aligned correctly with the left end cap, insert the large hex head screw into the middle hole and screw it in to hold the roll bar on. Make sure you are tightening this correctly. If the awning looks a bit wrinkly, you can pull at each end to try to straighten it out a bit. If this is the large slide out you are working on, you also need to insert the pin held in place by a small compression spring in the middle of the roll bar support piece.

Once done, go back to the spring side, wearing gloves, and using a pair of pliers, carefully remove the tool you had used to pin the spring. Once unpinned, the spring will coil up and take up any slack in the fabric that you see. At this time I would try the slide out switch from inside the coach to make sure it is working and that the fabric is looking as tight and straight as possible. If it looks alright, then reinsert the awning cover installing it the opposite of how you removed it. Make sure to add the last hex head bolt at each end once the cover is on.

On a scale of 10 for technical difficulty, I would give this a 3. On a scale of 10 for being difficult to do by yourself I would give it an 7. On a scale of 10 for taking it slow to make sure you do it safe and right, I would give it a 10. Being up 11 feet in the air and concentrating with the sun beating you down in the eyes requires a fairly strong nerve as well as strength to go up and down the ladder several times for each awning as well as moving the ladder several times. It is easier to remove the awning and roll bar than it is putting it back together, but it is not really that hard....just slow and time consuming to make sure you are doing everything correctly, including pinning the strong roll bar spring.

Hope this helps somebody. Cheers!
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Old 03-17-2015, 04:53 PM   #2
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Great write up !!

I think those that say the fabric can be changed while the tube is still in place, have SOKII's. The one I've changed so far, I had to remove the tube.
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Old 03-17-2015, 05:09 PM   #3
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i Helped a friend do his on his previous Diplomat. Not that hard and only took a few hours to do them all with just the two of us.
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Old 03-17-2015, 09:45 PM   #4
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I replaced mine with Stone Vos fabrics, without taking the roller tubes down and without taking the patio awning (above the passenger slide) off, with my DW's help. Of course, I had to use lots of special words and I had to take her craft shopping afterwards to ensure we were still on speaking terms.
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Old 03-18-2015, 07:55 PM   #5
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Thank you for the very timely post. I will be repacing our toppers (4) within the next couple of weeks. I ordered the acrylic fabric from Stone Vos last week. Looking forward to the new toppers but not the work getting there. I'll have some help just not shure how much. We'll be doing this at HAFB: NM Famcamp if any body would like to learn and help, any how thanks for the great write up. As alway this is such a fantastic source for information.
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Old 03-18-2015, 09:42 PM   #6
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George,

Check with Bill Willard for a novel way of replacing the fabrics without removing the tubes. He modifies the slot so the fabric can slide out over the end brackets. I took my tubes off and laid them on top of the slideouts, which were extended about a foot. From there, I was able to remove the fabrics by sliding them out of the tubes and the awning rail simultaneously. I was also able to slide the kitchen slide topper off under the patio awning after running the patio awning out about 6-10" --toward the rear of the coach after removing the passenger side bedroom topper.

Good luck. You will like the Stove Vos fabrics.

Roy
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Old 03-18-2015, 10:35 PM   #7
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I don't know if it's still around, but I posted a quick way to do this several years ago. I just used a dremel and cut a slot on the of the tube where the fabric was located and slid it out. I was able to R&R one in about 30 minutes.
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Old 03-19-2015, 04:38 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dutch Star Don View Post
I don't know if it's still around, but I posted a quick way to do this several years ago. I just used a dremel and cut a slot on the of the tube where the fabric was located and slid it out. I was able to R&R one in about 30 minutes.
Don,

The method you are referring too only works on the older SOK II toppers. Turns out we have two of the older SOK II toppers and two of the newer SOK III toppers so I am well versed on both. A tree fell on our motorhome a few years ago and destroyed the original slide topper on the roadside bedroom slide. The SOK II was no longer being manufactured and when Buddy Gregg finished the body work they installed a new SOK III. On a trip out west last October I did a stupid thing and destroyed the slide topper on the curbside bedroom slide and purchased a new SOK III and installed it myself. The bad thing there was I had recently replaced all my slide toppers with the Stone Vos canvas. That new canvas was also damaged and could not be re-used. The newer SOK III mechanisms are inferior compared to the older SOK II and have weaker springs. It is what it is. The nice thing about the SOK III is they are wider and extend past each end of the slideout helping to keep the rain off the top of the slide. You can also cut down the mounting brackets using Driffter's method to increase the slope and improve drainage.

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