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Roof - Maintainence, Painting

Painting Your Westy Poptop
Year(s):  All
Model/Type:  Vanagon
Bentley Page(s):  Not in Bentley

From:  Scott Wetzel

FileDownload:  More Pix
FileDownload:  Paint2.jpg
Symptom(s):  Grungy Roof

When I looked through the archives, I found a lot on how to maintain
the poptop, but nothing on actually painting it when it was beyond
waxing. I meant to post this last summer when I did the job, but
didn't get around to it then so here is a springtime project if your
Westfalia's poptop is "cosmetically challenged" like mine was. The PO
decided that steel brush and cleanser was the way to clean it (as well
as remove the gel coat). The roof was kind of fuzzy and was a haven
for mildew up here in perpetually damp Oregon. I wanted a quality
paint job, but no auto body shop in the area would consider it for less
than $1000 (2 refused to even look at an 82 VW van because they were
"high quality shops and Maaco would be a better choice for me").

A guy at a boat supply store suggested Interlux Pre-Kote primer and a
top coat with semi-gloss Interlux Premium yacht paint. It took a few
days but the results were great and it cost less than $150 for all of
the supplies. I needed 2.5 quarts of primer and 2 quarts of the paint
to complete the job.



After scrubbing the top with Marine Clean (Por 15's cleaner) and
rinsing with a high pressure nozzle at a self-serve car wash, I removed
all of the bolts holding the top on (but didn't remove the top). I did
remove the luggage rack.

Masked off all areas below the top to prevent drips ($.99 plastic drop
cloths work well for this). To prevent drips through the holes in the
roof onto the canvas below, I stuck corks up through the holes from the
bottom. I didn't use tape because I didn't want to damage the fuzzy
liner on the inside.


I painted the top with a thin coat of the primer using a small diameter
foam roller I got at Home Depot. This went on easily and with the
small roller I was able to get into all of the crevices on the top.
(Learn from my pain - if your are working in direct sunlight wear
sunglasses - the top with a fresh coat of white it is VERY BRIGHT!)

After a few hours to dry, I lightly sanded with 220 sand paper to knock
down the fibers which were sticking up. Finished off by wiping down
with tack cloth.

Then I painted on a second coat of the primer. After drying I sanded
again with 220 grit sand paper and the top was smooth and had a lightly
textured appearance like it did originally. Again wipe with tack cloth
before applying next coat.

I put on the first coat of paint using a paint brush to insure complete
coverage on the grooves on the roof before using the roller to paint.
The paint dries quickly so only do one section at a time. One other
tip is to roll completely across the top to get the best looking job.

I let the paint dry for 24 hours then lightly sanded with 400 grit
paper just to dull the finish and provide a surface for the top coat to
stick to.

After a tack cloth wipe down, I final coated and then waited 24 hours
before putting hardware back on the top. I took this opportunity to
upgrade hardware to stainless steel so there will be no nasty rust
stains in the future. Finished it off by using a new seal and new
Westfalia sticker. The hardest part was aligning the new sticker
(adjusting the roof so it closed properly was a close second).



In the end, the top looks as good as it did when it was new (good
enough to help me get me 2nd in Class (behind a 2003 EV Camper) in a VW
show a month later). It is bright white (other colors are available)
and the texture is nearly identical to the original. Best of all, it
was much cheaper than having it done by someone else and I get a sense
of accomplishment and smug superiority when I see other Westies with
roofs almost as bad as mine used to look.

Good Luck,

Scott Wetzel

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