Vanagon – pop top assist struts

“Jack Bombay” makes a great kit for attaching gas charged struts to the pop top lifting mechanism to help lift the top. I have helped install 2 of his kits onto friends vans, and I recommend buying the kit from him. But, a friend gave me 4 ball end attachment bits and I had some old but still fairly strong rear hatch struts, therefore to save face I had a go at making my own set up. All I can say is if you don’t have a welder, then it is really not worthwhile doing it. I made mine from stainless steel angle, hacksaw, grinder, belt sander, files, and sweat.

Below is one on the rear hinge. There is a black steel strip underneath the hinge base (barely visible) which is the tapped backing plate I will be using when I attach the hinges to the roof of my syncro. I have not angled the tab where the ball end is screwed on, Jack Bombay’s kit has it angled towards the tent a few degrees, I forgot to do it until I saw this picture. But the lack of angle does not seem to make any difference. Get the idea that I was tired of this little project?

More pics, showing the pop top end of the struts. These struts do not have a ball at that end, so I am using a bolt, nuts and washer arrangement. I hope there will be enough lateral play in the set up so that it won’t bind (was no need to worry, worked perfectly).

That’s a roll of “dum-dum”, a butyl based non-hardening mastic that I will use to seal bolt penetrations in the steel roof, and on the underside of the pop top canvas lower securing track where it goes over the raised portions of the roof.

  1. #1 by jim on May 20, 2015 - 9:49 am

    HI, i built a similar system to this but my struts are not strong enough? Do you have any idea what the weight capacity, and extended length of your struts are?

    Great Site by the way, you do great work!

    Best Regards,


    • #2 by albell on May 20, 2015 - 9:58 am

      Hi Jim,

      I used old hatch struts on the pop top assist. I think I measured them at around 80 pounds force to compress.
      I have swapped in a few different hatch struts to get the best worn out pair :-).

      I don’t have the compressed/extended lengths at hand. But they were the standard rear hatch struts.
      Hope this helps a little,


      Ps i do really notice the difference in lift with my Thule roof box on. I put the box as far back on the roof as I could ( have to watch out for interference with rear hatch) to give the struts a helping hand. If I put on struts to make lifting the top easy with the box attached then it would be fairly hard to pull the top down with no box. It’s a compromise which works out ok for my use. Typically we unload what we need from the box ( camp chairs, my Fiberglas bridging ladders that we often use as levelling ramps, canvas water buckets, grill, etc) before I pop the top so that helps.

  2. #3 by jim on May 20, 2015 - 10:10 am


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