How Does A Four Wheel Camper Roof Lift Work?
So the videos… Pretty Cool, right?
But as I found out after I built my popup roof, the plywood levers on their own aren’t sufficient to lift even a “lightweight” popup roof. You might be able to do it if you have a simple box-shaped camper. But if you have a cabover, you’ll discover the issue pretty quick. While I could lift the back end of the roof with some effort, the front cabover end was nearly impossible to lift, because you have no natural leverage on that end! What you need is…
Additional “Lift Assist”:
I’ll admit that when I made my popup roof, I was so focused on the geometry of the lifters that I totally missed a crucial part of the patent — the part that actually does most of the heavy lifting — the spring-loaded hinges.
The part of the patent that I’d glossed over is that not only do the hinges need to be piano hinges — they need to be “spring loaded” piano hinges. As far as I can tell, that’s really expensive!
Fortunately there's another form of lift-assist that's commonly found in many lift mechanisms and much easier to find at any automotive dealer. Auto-heads might recognize them in the second video angled inwards above his head -- "struts" a.k.a. "gas springs". The question for installing struts for lift assist is where to put them that won't be in the way, either inside or outside. There's also a question of finding ones long enough if you need to raise your roof higher. (Which is the situation I am in at the moment.)
More Recent Developments!
The video below is from Phoenix Popup Campers, who are the original owners/inventors of the Four Wheel Campers brand. They have a new popup mechanism, very similar in principle to the original, but is made from metal bars on the sides, rather than the front and back. A great advantage of this system is that the bars don't obstruct the view on any side the way the original system does at the front and back.
A great feature of the side-side lifters is that rather than supporting the roof only at the ends -- leaving the middle of the roof to droop -- the sideways lifters instead hold up the "middle half" of the roof, which is great for keeping the integrity of your roof intact.
Another great feature is that the sideways lift system makes it very easy to dump rain or snow off of the roof or even tip it towards the sun to give your solar panels more juice.
I actually attempted to replicate this system in my first version of my popup roof using ordinary steel conduit from Home Depot. The prototype was pretty close to working, but I abandoned it when I discovered that the roof was "too heavy." That was before I realized my oversight regarding the need for "lift assist" -- it may actually have worked, had I some help with the heavy lifting part, but I can't really know now. (I do however use a sideways lift system on my current popup experiment, though it's very different!)
Update April 2015!
Here's a teaser video for my new sideways-lifting Popup Truck Camper. Full construction videos will be added to the 2.0 version of my video training around the end of May and will be a free upgrade for existing members. (So be sure to join before the price increase!)