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How to fit a C-Channel C-Profile Awning Rail to a VW T4, T5 or T6   10 comments

The most secure and weathertight way of connecting a drive-away awning to a VW T4, T5 or T6 is to fit a C-Channel Awning Rail and connect via an Awning Drive-Away Kit.  Sun canopy type awnings will slide directly in to a C-profile type rail.

How Do C-Profile Systems Work?

C-channel describes the ‘C’ profile of an awning rail which can be fitted to the side edge of a van roof in or next to the roof gulley of a Volkswagen Transporter.custom-cut-length-of-c-profile-c-channel-awning-rail-length-100cm-to-149cm-length-6556-p

Awning Kador beading which is sewn-in to the top edge of all drive-away awning connection tunnels will slide directly into a C-profile awning rail to create a secure join between the awning and the van. However, if you plan on driving out for the day, an Awning Drive-Away Kit is necessary to allow one person to easily detach and reconnect – for more information on how to use an awning drive-away kit, read our blog page How to Connect a Drive-Away Awning to a VW T4, T5 or T6 – Which Drive-Away Kit

Which C-Profile Rail Should I Fit?

There are a few different types of C-profile rails on the market and they differ significantly in price, fitting position and how they’re fitted. These rails can be put into two categories C-channel awning rails and multi-rails which incorporate a C-profile rail. Use the information below to make an informed decision on which rail would be right for your particular Bus.

Reimo Multi-Rail Profile

Reimo Multi-Rail

Multi-Rails

The more expensive options are the multi-rail type awning rails which are usually bonded and screwed to the edge of the roof just above the top of the doors.  These rails are known as multi-purpose because a drive-away awning can be connected using either the C-channel with a Kador Drive-Away Kit or via the gutter using a Pole & Clamp Drive-Away Kit.

Some manufacturers also claim these rails disperse rainwater… although we feel this is a negligible amount as the side roof gully will usually disperse the majority of roof rainwater on most vans.

These aluminium rails are normally very good quality and come in matt/satin black with plastic end stops. If you’re confident… and capable enough, multi-rails can be DIY fitted, although most owners tend to get them fitted by a VW conversion company or vehicle body shop.

One of the most popular awning multi-rails is the Reimo Multi-Rail which is also the best quality.

VW Mult Rail with C-profile insert 1

VW California Rail

Important: the Volkswagen multi-rail fitted to most VW California campers is for use with a rubber C-profile that inserts into the rectangular profile part of the aluminium rail and is sold as a separate part… we have had many Cali owners calling us over the years frustrated that their drive-away awning or sun canopy keeps detaching.  However, if your Cali doesn’t already have the rubber insert fitted, don’t waste your money (£75-£90).  The C-profile part of this rail does not retain 6mm core industry standard Kador as used in all drive-away awnings, sun canopies and awning drive-away kits.  The rubber flexes especially when it heats up in the sun and allows the awning Kador to detach.

If you already have the rubber insert part fitted you can use a Pole & Clamp Drive-Away Kit in the upper ‘gutter’ part to securely connect an awning.  Alternatively, slide both twin sections of a TWIN 6mm to 6/4mm Awning Drive-Away Kit directly into the aluminium channel rail.  

Pros: High quality anodised aluminium, good fitting position for use with a drive-away kit and can be used with a 6mm Drive-Away Kit or Pole & Clamp Drive-Away Kit.

Cons: Expensive, rail is always visible and the side of your van will need to be drilled or have adhesive used on it. The rubber C-profile insert of the VW California rail is too flexible and will not retain the Kador connector on camping products.

C-Channel Awning Rail 

C-Channel in T5 Roof Gully

Aluminium C-Channel Awning Rails are normally much cheaper to buy than multi-rails and can be fitted inside the roof gully of a VW T5 or T6 day van using the existing roof fixings to connect.  As T4’s don’t have any fixings in the roof gully a C-channel awning rail will have to be bonded into position.  Whichever van you have, if your roof gully is free to use this is a great option as it won’t change the look of your van at all – the rail is concealed in the gully.

If you have a VW Campervan with an elevating roof, the roof gully fixings will usually be already used for the scissor hinge and gas strut of your ‘Pop Top’.  In this case a C-Channel Awning Rail can usually be bonded vertically to the side of the roof gully just in front of the hinge and strut so it is concealed when the elevating roof is closed – see bottom section for more details.

If your T5/T6 has roof bars fitted, you can buy a pre-drilled rail with an extended C-profile and wider base specifically designed to sandwich under roof bar connections at the existing roof bar fixing points.

Pros: Inexpensive and low profile aluminium rail which can be fitted in the van roof gulley with or without roof bars or under an elevating roof.  Usually very easy to fit.

Cons: Sometimes a bit more awkward to fit under an elevating roof.

What Length of C-Channel Awning Rail Do I Need?

Drive-Away Awning Connected to a VWT5 via 6mm Drive-Away Kit 2The Kador connection on most drive-away awning connection tunnels is around 250cm in length but your C-Channel Awning Rail can be shorter than this as the Figure of 8 extrusions of the drive-away kit are made from rigid plastic. The Figure of 8 extrusions can extend out at each up to 25cm further than the end of an awning rail and still keep the connection tunnel fabric nice and taught – so 200cm is probably the minimum length of C-Rail needed to connect most drive-away awnings.

How to fit a C-Channel Awning Rail to a VW T5 or T6

These instructions can be used to fit a C-Channel Awning rail to a van that has the roof fixings available to use (no elevating roof or roof bars fitted).   For vans with pop-tops see our ‘How To Guide’ – How to Fit a C-Channel Awning Rail Under a VW T5/T6 Elevating Roof

  1. Remove the existing roof blanking bolts or roof bar and clean the roof gully.
  1. Put some gentle bends of 30mm to 40mm downs towards the front and rear 40cm of the rail to roughly follow the curvature of the van roof – don’t over do it as this is just to help the rail ends sit better in the roof gully.
  2. Fit the standard profile rail using the blanking bolts or sandwich the extended profile rail under the roof bar connection points.  We have always fitted the rail directly on the roof surface and never had any issues, leaks etc. on any of our vans, however, if you are concerned that this may be an issue, you can use thin rubber washers or a small amount of silicone under the rail at the fixing point.

How to fit a C-Channel Awning Rail to a VW T4

These instructions can be used to fit a C-Channel Awning rail to a T4 van without an elevating roof or roof bars/rack.

  1. Lay the C-Channel rail in the roof gully approximately 5cm from the rear doors with the C-profile against the outer edge of the roof gully and stick a few pieces of masking tape on the van roof to mark the edges of where the rail is positioned. Mark the front and rear of the rail with a pencil approximately where the roof profile starts to curve downwards.
  1. Gently bend the front and rear 40cm of the rail downwards 15/20mm to follow the curved profile of the roof.
  1. Two parallel strips of masking tape can be stuck along the length of the roof gully to protect paintwork from any excess adhesive. Follow the guide pieces of tape and leave a 30mm gap where the rail will be positioned.
  1. Use Sikaflex 221 or similar automotive adhesive to bond the rail to the roof – apply a bead along the length of the gully and position the C-Channel rail.
  1. Wipe away any excess adhesive and apply a few strips of masking tape to keep the rail in position. Weight the rail where necessary and allow at least 24hrs+ for the adhesive bond to cure properly – always follow the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions.

*Please note: it is important to position the rail as far towards the rear of a SWB van as possible as a drive-away awning needs to be pitched practically back to the rear van pillar to allow enough room for the sliding side door to open fully without snagging on the awnings connection tunnel.

How to fit a C-Channel Awning Rail to a VW T4, T5 or T6 with an Elevating Roof

These photos show some examples of where our customers have fitted our C-channel awning rails under an elevating roof.

Depending on the type of roof you have fitted to your van, sometimes there is enough space to fit C-channel flat behind the roof gully. Alternatively, the rail can usually be fitted vertically along the outer edge of the roof gully, and if necessary, bonded on in sections (as in the photos of the blue T5).

 

c-channel fitted to side of VW T5 roof gulleyIt is a bit more tricky to bend the C-Channel Rail in a vertical position but still only takes a 5 minutes or so to get it close to the curve of the roof.

Put pressure on each end of the rail simultaneously with a wooden block positioned in the middle/where needed… this is obviously easier to achieve with two people and/or secured in a work mate/work bench vice. Offer the rail up to the roof 3 or 4 times to check the contour in between bending it just a centimetre or so at a time.

Many of our customers have fitted our C-Channel Awning Rail under their vans elevating roof.  However, as there are so many different types of Pop-Tops on the market, with some of the designs also changing over the years, unfortunately we cannot give a definitive answer as to whether it will fit on a particular roof make.

However, there are only 3 possible positions where you can fit a rail under any elevating roof and is usually just a process of elimination – see our How to Fit a C-Channel Awning Rail Under a VW T5/T6 Elevating Roof on our How To page for more in depth information about selecting and fitting.  If still in any doubt, we recommend getting a C-Channel Awning Rail Sample before ordering a full length to make sure it will fit under your particular elevating roof.

The Funky Leisure Team

 

 

 

 

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