Last summer I found myself in a parking spot in Nice angry, sweaty and incapable to sleep.
Although it was quite a cool night, the van had accumulated all the heat during the day and it just felt like we were slowly getting cooked.
Despite all windows being slightly open to leave some air in, I was definitely going heat-crazy and was very close to take off my clothes and start running towards the sea.
It’s there, then, that I decided we needed a fan.
A van is not only great to get some fresh air in, it also allows you to reduce the amount of condensation inside the van.
After some research I decided to go with the Fan-Tastic fans cause I had seen very good reviews online and in all fairness they just look as cool as an air vent can look. I went for the 2250 Model which has 3 speed units, reversible flow and temperature control. Although this tutorial is specific to the installation of the Fan-Tastic fan, I’m pretty sure you can use it as a guide for for many the air vents out there.
- Jigsaw with metal bits
- Drill and Screw driver (I use a Makita combi drill) and bits
- Measuring tape and marker
- Low Adhesive tape
- Metal File
- Anti rust paint with brush
- Butyl tape and scissors
- rug and some alcohol
- Silkaflex and caulk gun
Beside from the fan itself, the costs to install a Fan-Tastic fan are minimal: I spent around 20euros to buy everything I didn’t already have (aka Silkaflex and Butyl tape).
WHAT TO DO
Although the prospect of making a hole in the roof of the van sounded quite daunting at first I realized at the end of the installation that it wasn’t so bad after all and I would happily do it again if there was the space.
Make sure you check the weather forecast to make sure it won’t rain, especially if you don’t have access to a garage. The installation shouldn’t take you more than half a day.
The most boring thing but also the most important. Check in your fan manual which hole dimension you need to fit the fan. In my case it was 14x14inch which is exactly the space in between the two back ridges in the Kangoo. The safe space to drill is where there are NO ridges, so make sure you are not cutting in any of those. Measure from the inside of the van first and then check your measurements from the outside. Check and recheck and recheck until you are 99% the measurements are right.
2. MARK YOUR SQUARE
Now that you are pretty sure your measurements are correct you can mark your square in the top of the roof .
3. MASK YOUR PERIMETER
Use your low adhesive tape to mask the perimeter of the square you marked on top. I actually used masking tape, the kind painters use and it was a bad, bad idea, don’t do that it’s a pain to remove. Instead use some low adhesive tape (thank you Jack for the tip) as it’s much easier to work with.
4. DRILL A HOLE IN THE MIDDLE
This is optional really, but if you are prone like me to mess up than do it. To check that the square on top is exactly where you need it to be, find the center of the square and drill a small hole on it. Now you have a reference point you can use from inside the van. From inside the van, find the hole and measure again. I’m very glad I did this step as in fact my measurements on the top of the van where 2cm wrong which means I would have cut into the ridges, well done me.
5. DRILL HOLES IN THE ANGLES OF THE SQUARE
Before you start cutting your square with your jigsaw, you’ll need an entrance point for your metal bit. For this reason you’ll need to drill a hole in all 4 angles of the square. Those will allow your jigsaw to have an access point and also to turn at 90° when you reach each angle. You can use a hammer and a drill bit to make a dent in the metal to allow the drill bit to “bite” and then go ahead and drill the holes.
6. CUT YOUR SQUARE
IT’S TIME! Be brave and go get that jigsaw. Make sure you have a metal bit fitted and start jigsawing away. Make sure you don’t cut yourself with the metal sheet, it is sharp. Once you finish cutting, admire your work and have at least 10mn where you have fun poking up your head through the hole and confuse your dog.
7. CHECK THAT THE FAN FITS
Pick your fan and check that it fits snugly in the hole you just cut. Pat yourself in the shoulder if it does, cry if it doesn’t.
8. FILE AND APPLY ANTI RUST
I forgot to do this step and I regret it. Any parts of your car where the paint has been taken off should be painted with anti rust to prevent (guess what!) rust from forming. Go ahead, file those edges and apply a little anti rust so you can sleep at night.
9. REMOVE THE TAPE
Thank him for its valuable job and get rid of it. If you did the mistake of using the painter masking tape this will take you at least 30mn in between episodes of rage and inconsolable desperation.
The surface of the metal has to be 100% clean to allow the the butyl tape to stick to it. Use a rag and some alcohol to clean the area.
11. APPLY SEALING TAPE
Cut and apply your butyl tape. I applied it directly to the roof metal, however if I was to fit a vent again, I would apply it directly TO the vent bottom avoiding the screw holes. This is to avoid the screws getting caught on the butyl tape when you are wanting to fix the fan to the roof. If the roof of your van isn’t evenly straight, you will need to place more layers of butyl tape to make sure you are forming a flat surface for the fan to go in. This is necessary do avoid any water getting in.
12. FIX THE FAN
Place the fan in the hole making sure that the opening is facing the BACK of the van not the front. Use the screws provided in the box to fix the fan to the roof. The hood of the fan does come off (you just need to unscrew the screws on the base of the lid) removing it might make it easier to work on it.
13. SEAL IT ALL UP
Before you do that, make sure you have clothes you don’t give a damn about, this stuff is gooey. I used silkaflex sealant with a caulk gun to seal the perimeter of the fan and the screw heads. What can I say, I’m very generous at heart so I gave the fan two rounds of sealant.
14. WIRE THE CABLES
Wiring the fan is super easy, just connect the positive from the appliance to the positive feed coming from you battery and the negative to the negative (i used strip connectors). BE AWARE! On the 2250 model the black cable IS the positive cable and the white IS the negative. I know does not make any sense and it’s not written anywhere but that’s how it is.
Despite the wiring being easy I could not make it work at the start. After completely dismantling it and being about to give up, I realized that maybe the fan was not meant to work at very low temperatures (I was trying it in winter at less than 5°). I try it on a sunny day warm day and it worked. I’m not sure if this is a common thing for all Fan-tastic fans (customer support couldn’t say) but if your fan isn’t working and it’s a chilly day, try to activate it again on a warmer day it might do the trick. For the same reason, when you are trying the fan make sure that the temperature setting it’s at it’s lowest and that the lid is open.
15. FIX THE FRAME
The last thing left to do is to fix the frame of the fan to your roof. The plastic frame comes in the box and it’s ready to go. The frame is quite thick, so you might need to trim it depending on how much space you have between the external van roof and your internal one. Just place the frame and use the screw provided to fix it .
TAAADAAAAAN you now have a beautiful little fan that will allow you to live and breath even when you’re in the French Riviera. What a blast.
I have now used the fan several times now, mainly when cooking and I can say that it works like a dream. I try not to leave it on too long to avoid sucking up too much energy from my leisure battery but other than that I am very happy of the new addition and I don’t know how we survived before.
*Thank you to Dometic for giving us the chance to try out the vent! It made all the difference in our day to day life.
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6 thoughts on “How to install a Fantastic Fan in your van”
Well done Marina! I have the same car, also an automatic, but silvery grey. Unfortunatelly I mounted a solar panel on the roof, so it’s no longer possible to fix a fan on the roof. So, I drive in the morning and the evening, and try to stay cool during the rest of the day!
You are a star!!!!! My hero!!!!! You make things look super doable. Well done you. I can’t wait for the next videos.
Oh than you darling glad you’re enjoying the videos!!!
Hi. Are you still travelling full time? Just wondering whether you have got a leisure battery fitted otherwise surely your main battery will flatten if the fan is left on all night? Still think its amazing what you are doing. I keep talking about it and have done so for donkeys years but still never taken the plunge. .In actual fact it was my dog that held me back from doing what your doing some years ago. Well that was the excuse I used at the time. Amazing. You are very inspiring and I am sure you will never forget your experiences later in life.
Hi Baz! Go on then jump in and make your dream true 🙂 So I have actually taken a pause from full time to allow me to renew the van and save some money for traveling. I will resume my travels next month, cannot wait! Yes, I have a 110ah leisure battery installed with a split charge relay, you can find the blog post on it here https://pamthevan.com/2016/07/19/how-to-install-a-split-charge-relay-durite/
You are truly amazing and inspiring. Proving that it can be done on a tight budget. I love your dog as well. You must have created many memories for yourself that will stay with you forever. I am looking at buying a caravan and will be popping along to the caravan show at the NEC in Birmingham to pick up some ideas. I think I need a bit more comfort than a small van though. Thanks for your time and info.