Pop-top Canvas (Screens have own topic)


New member
We have a 92 Euro CV. What is the best product for treating canvas?

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Capt. Mike

There are a number of posts in the archives on canvas cleaning & preservation.

One recommends Thompsons Water Seal -- I disagree. Thompson's contains solvents that can attack the material, oversprayed items and is hazardous to health & environment. Big to-do about it in Consumer Reports a few years ago. It does not test well in independent tests for it's orginal purpose -- wood & masonry. My personal opinion -- too many good canvas-specific products out there to risk using a substitute. I just picked up a fresh supply at Eureka, the big tent maker. They sell Camp Dry by Kiwi (the shoe polish people). If anybody knows canvas, they should. Any sporting goods store should have a similar product in the tent section. You are looking for the clear, silicone based treatment.

The idea of any treatment that puts an allegedly waterproof wax or coating on canvas is not good from a breathability point of view. Canvas is not WATERPROOF -- it's water resistant. It prevents most water from entering while allowing vapor pressure to escape and the interior to breath. It does this by the fibers swelling when wet to repeal water, then shrinking slightly when dry to breath. A waterpoof treatment will drastically increase sweat -- a MAJOR problem with Westies -- and condensation. All will add to other problems like wood rot (Westy top is wood framed underneath that fiberglass) downs the road.
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Capt. Mike

Transferred & consolidated from archives.
mold in the tent

heidi 5/14/99 (11:39 AM)

My tent was closed...wet...so now there is mold growing on the inside! yuk! any clues on how to get this stuff to go away!?!?

Paul Garner 5/19/99 (4:56 PM)


Go down to your friendly corner supermarket and purchase a bottle of mildew remover used in showers. Spray it on and the mold will disappear. After it has disappeared,wipe the area down with clear water, rinsing often. Leave the top up until it COMPLETELY dries.

Waterproofing canvas poptop tents.

Alan 12/8/98 (12:10 AM)

Cotton canvas can be waterproofed and preserved very effectively by coating it with Thompson's Waterseal. I'm on a search and rescue team and we use it to preserve tents, coats, etc. I used it on my original '71 poptop tent 12 years ago and water just beads up and rolls off like a duck's back. It's mainly the moisture that rots out the canvas. Note, it will smell bad for a couple of weeks until it drys, so do it before you are planning any camping trips. After dried, it won't smell at all. Every few years you can touch it up if needed.

When I finally replaced the top (and curtains)last year, I used marine grade ACRYLIC canvas, the same stuff used for window awnings and boat covers. It's waterproof and won't ever fade. I expect them to last at least until 2020. The trick is finding the right colors. I was satisfied with a resemblance to the original plaid curtain and poptop colors, not an exact match.

Capt. Mike Soehnlein 12/13/98 (3:48 PM)

Re: Thompson's -- Thompson's contains solvents that can attack the material, oversprayed items and is hazardous to health & environment. Big to-do about it in Consumer Reports a few years ago. It does not test well in independent tests for it's orginal purpose -- wood & masonry. My personal opinion -- too many good canvas-specific products out there to risk using a substitute. I just picked up a fresh supply at Eureka, the big tent maker. They have a web-site.

Second, the idea of a vinylized canvas replacement is not good from a breathability point of view. Canvas is not WATERPROOF -- it's water resistant. It prevents most water from entering while allowing vapor pressure to escape and the interior to breath. A vinyl replacement will drastically increase sweat -- a MAJOR problem with Westies -- and condensation. All will add to other problems downs the road. Again, personal opinion, there are too many very reasonably priced OEM style replacements.

I'll add that almost every sporting goods store and most Wal-Marts/K-Marts carry a canvas renewing or waterproofing product. Since canvas gets it's 'waterproofing' ability from it's ability to expand when wet, the challenge is to keep the fibers in good condition, pliable and not dried out.

The waterproofing solutions sold in a spray can are basically clear, silicone based, fiber conditioner. They won't waterproof a tear, crack or hole, but they will prevent that bleed-through type leak as well as keeping your canvas from becoming brittle and getting damaged. This is what Eureka (US's largest tent manufacturer) recommends & sells at their outlets. There are many brands -- mine is Johnson Wax.

They also sell seam sealer, usually in a stick or wax form that is meant to waterproof the larger holes where the needle has gone through during manufacture. It's good for its purpose but don't overdo in an attempt to 'waterproof' bad canvas.

Finally, you can still get the heavy, almost cosmolene style, GI canvas treatment. DON'T. It's the stuff that makes old-fashioned canvas green, waxy and smelly. Works great, I admit, but not for the pop-top tent. Save it for the old heavy-duty tarps!

Capt. Mike

Transferred from another post to consolidate topic.

Junior Member posted 07-14-2000 03:25 AM

The handle that locks the tent into place on my 86 westy has left grease spots on the interior of the tent. What do I use to clean these spots off? Is there a different grease that can be used to lube this clasp?
This is my first post, please advise if I need to do anything differently.

Thank you.


Capt. Mike Moderator

posted 07-17-2000 12:31 PM

One of the most overlooked degreasers is Go-Jo, the hand cleaner. You can rub it in, which lifts the grease, and then it will wipe off or wash as being water soluable. Retreat your canvas afterwards with one of the spray tent preservatives from the camping stores -- see post under EXTERIORS. (Great for degreasing laundry, too. Rub in & then wash.)
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Capt. Mike

ben, Member, 05-11-2001 01:26 AM

Simple question, my Westy is ALMOST ready for my first camping weekend. Last job, gething the canvas water proof!!! There are 2 main kind of product on the market, one is Silicon base (newer light tent model and the second one is Wax base (older canvas tent).
Which one to use??? (of what i know our Pop top canvas is more like the older model!!!)

Capt. Mike, Moderator 05-11-2001 09:25 AM

Question was answered in this post just a few lines up [9-27-2000 0904 post]. You don't want canvas to be "waterproof"; you want it to be "water resistent." There is a difference.

Finally, you can still get the heavy, almost cosmolene style, GI canvas treatment. DON'T. It's the stuff that makes old-fashioned canvas green, waxy and smelly. Works great, I admit, but not for the pop-top tent. Save it for the old heavy-duty tarps
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Capt. Mike

To clarify some previous posts and Archives, I use a normal car wash solution to clean my canvas. You can use certain other cloth cleaners like Woolite. What you want to avoid is a cleaner that disolves or washes away the natural oils of the canvas. That will dry out the canvas and reduce its water repellency.

Thus avoid cleaners like '409', most laundry detergents and dishwashing soap. Car wash soap is meant not to destroy wax so is generally safe. There are also tent & canvas cleaners from sporting goods suppliers, as well as detergents for various waterproof and water-resistant hunting & outdoor clothing. They have them without harmful UV brighteners. I personally like Outdoor Research brand, but have used H S Scent brand with good results. [Both available from Redhead -- the hunting division of Bass Pro.]

If required to do serious degreasing or mildew cleaning with chemicals that may strip the canvas fibers, retreat BOTH sides and especially all seams.

Capt. Mike

Transferred from other posts to consolidate similar topics.

Replacing pop-top canvas

hailcall12 Junior Member # 44 posted 05-26-2000 09:56 AM

I need help. It seems as though my pop-top is shifting. About 4 months ago I put new canvas and seals on the pop-top and luggage rack. The fit was great and the top sealed tightly. Now I am noticing an increasing gap, as much as a 1/4", between the seal and the roof on the passenger side. Is it possible that my roof has warped? I have tried adjusting the rear hinge to no avail. Any help is greatly appreciated as I am scheduled to start a cross country trip next week.

Nate Richmond
'83 Westy

Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 05-26-2000 09:07 PM

Roofs can warp, but I'd first look at the new canvas to see if it's shrunk or is putting a strain on the inner wood frame that is putting a twist into the shell. The canvas might need to be released and then resecure without strain.

Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 10-01-2000 08:41 AM

I've accidentally erased another post on replacing the pop-top canvas, but the response dealt with attepting to refurbish the underlying wood with epoxy or Plastic Wood to "tighten" the previous staple holes so that the new staples will hold better if they happen to hit any of the old holes.
I also suggested a power stapler as the hand stapler, besides the quantity of staples, would also be less likely to have bent or incomplete staples and would probably put less strain on the top as most hand stapler require high pressure to trigger & set deep. I think I said it probably wouldn't matter if it was air or electric, and suggested rental or borrowing if it's not a tool you want "left over" in your set.

I apologize to the original poster. It happened as I was attempting to consolidate a couple of posts into one thread.
Replacing Canvas Pop Top in a 82 Westy

erikclark, Junior Member, 03-19-2001 01:16 AM

I am thinking about replacing the canvas in my 82 Westy. How long does this job take? Is a Power stapler the only 'special' tool I will need? Does anyone have instructions? I would appreciately any assistance!



Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 03-19-2001 07:49 AM

"How to" is in the Bentley, secctions 75.4 & 75.5. Most indicate that it is a tedious job and requires an assistant because of the awkward working conditions and holding things in place while attaching. Others indicate it is a good idea to repair the wood of old staple holes and reseal. If purchasing from site sponsor GoWesty, they should have some instructions and suggestions.

When you replace, I'd suggest the 3-window version for better ventilation and the ability to open a couple at least partially in rain -- the single front window allows even light rain into the cabin and ventilation in a Westy is very important to control condensation.

Geoff Barnes Member # 744 posted 04-22-2001 06:58 AM

GoWesty advertises the 3-window canvas replacement for $250.

They also have a listing for "80 thru 91 Poptop Acrylic Canvas 3 Window Price: $379.95."

I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with this Acrylic. The fabric they use is well documented at [urlhttp://www.sunbrella.com/[/url] and it sounds like it might be worth the extra $120. Some good technical information on cleaning to be found at that site also.

Canvas replacement instructions.

steelerbus Junior Member # 1850 posted 08-05-2001 11:20 PM

Hey Westy freaks. I have a '79 Westy and finally got tired of patching the holes in the canvas and window screen and bought a new one from the Bus Depot. Now it is on its way and I need to put it in. Is there any place I can find instructions on how to do this. I can use all the input I can get.

Kevin -- Vwgretchen@prodigy.net

surfnbus Junior Member # 1385 posted 08-12-2001 02:27 PM

I recently replaced my canvas pop-top on my '82 Westy. I did download the instructions off VWpoptops.com http://www.poptops.com/ . It was very helpful, definitely more helpful than the 1 page text that came from the GoWesty canvas. I did buy the 3 window model and was very happy with the final results, as it does add a significant amount of cross-ventilation to the van. HOWEVER, don't let anyone tell you it's not a very labor intensive, arduous project. I took nearly three complete afternoons to get it all done. It took a full afternoon just to get the original canvas off, and two more to get the new one in. It helps to have somebody as an assistant, preferably a very patient and flexible one. I used an electric screwdriver, which saved my wrists and energy and also purchased some new screws to replace some of the screws that were stripped upon removal. I also suggest you open the roof at regular intervals during the installation (stapling) process to check the fit with the corners as well as the lower portion of the canvas. I spend a substantial amount of time stapling canvas (art canvases to stretchers), so had some experience with the process of stapling and stretching, but was not fully prepared for the amount of work that this installation required - so electric stapler is a great recommendation. There are lots of tiny, tight corners and tricky angles that can really become a challenge. Very best of luck.

steelerbus Junior Member # 1850 posted 08-05-2001 11:20 PM

Hey Westy freaks. I have a '79 Westy and finally got tired of patching the holes in the canvas and window screen and bought a new one from the Bus Depot. Now it is on its way and I need to put it in. Is there any place I can find instructions on how to do this. I can use all the input I can get.

Kevin -- Vwgretchen@prodigy.net

Fixing rips in pop-top without replacing

jeffro71 Junior Member # 1877 posted 08-08-2001 02:11 AM

I need some input on fixing rips in the canvas without replacing the whole thing. jeffashmore@hotmail.com

judlandis Member # 800 posted 10-12-2001 04:28 PM

My '82 canvas and screen are OK, but the zipper for the canvas window (behind the screen) is starting to fail. The teeth of the zipper come apart after it has been "zipped," allowing the canvas flap to hang open. Being clueless about zippers, it's my desperate hope that someone knows a way to repair this zipper without replacing the whole dang canvas top.

Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 10-13-2001 07:29 AM

1. The canvas repairs like any other tent material. There are numerous solutions from the camping & tent supliers, including self-adhesive patch material and canvas cements for gluing patches on. Small rips can be hand stitched. The boating industry has 'sail needles' and 'sail palms' specifically for canvas work. However, a full machine sewing repair requires taking the canvas off. If you have several or severe, chances are the canvas is now dry rotted or sufficiently damaged that repairs are not going to be particularly effective or long-lasting.

2. Zippers are a mechanical set of teeth and damage is usually restricted to one or two teeth. IF the damaged teeth are at the bottom (start of zipper), you can usually get it zipped and then do a binding stitch across the teeth above the damage so that the slide won't come back into the damaged teeth again.

If at the top, where the zipper actually separates, then you will have to replace the zipper as attempts to trim the zipper shorter are not likely to work as the last tooth is usually a special feeder tab. Replacing the zipper can be done, although doing so without removing the canvas will require lots of patience and talent with the needle! You might consider a velcro tab to hold the zipper closed at the end. Often the 'unzip' from the wrong end can be held if the pressure is off the one bad area.

Many newer VW window sections have gone to Velcro strips along entire sides, though again installation will require lots of patience. The peel & stick velcro won't hold on the canvas for long without proper preparation of the material and will probably require some stitching, at least at ends and corners.

[This message was edited by Capt. Mike on September 06, 2003 at 07:37 AM.]

Capt. Mike

Looks like I will have to replace my tent in my pop-up Camper. I also need the plastic air vent cover. Any thoughts about the best place to order this and who in the NC/VA area installs this type stuff. I am not the mechanical type. I have a great mechanic/body work place. Is it something that a standard shop could do or do I need a specialist?

Judith Forrest
PO Box 51249
Fort Monroe, VA 23651

Capt. Mike

Capt. Mike

I'd suggest an automotive upholstery shop for the canvas replacement as the job does require some power staplers and other tricks a mechanic/dealer may not have or be experienced with. Also, the canvas replacement is very similar in procedure to other upholstery jobs.

Capt. Mike

Capt. Mike

ajb5 Junior Member posted May 17, 2002 08:23 AM

I need some suggestions about products that can be used to dye an original '75 westy pop top canvas to a new bright color. Also, what products work well for cleaning the canvas? Thanks for your advice everyone!!
Peace, ajb5≥

Capt. Mike

Capt. Mike

By the time you have removed the canvas to do a full and proper dye job, you would probably be better off replacing it, which would also get you new condition and can take advantage of the newer materials. You can even upgrade to the more desireable 3-window version if yours has only one.

If you are just trying to do some touch-up, contact one of the vinyl repair firms. They also do fabric upholstery repairs and can spot dye to excellent match. I'd ask a couple of the premium brand used car lots who they use for repairing used cars for their lot.

Capt. Mike


New member
Okay, the money is in. I can buy the sunbrella or the canvas to replace the shot tent in my 87 Westie. (The Westie was bought used with some small rips in the canvas that have become large patches.)

I have looked in the archive, through the posting, read the sunbrella site, but I am looking for people with first hand experience with the sunbrella. I have read that they do not open as easily and they they are VEry tight. My worry is that they would be easier to tear.

For the canvas, despite Cpt. Mike claims that they stuff last 15 years, I am worry about it ripping in the snow-wind storms in which my wife and I camp. (Since the dogs get the bottom, we get the top in comfy down bags.)

Either way, I am having the work done at a shop since I have not the time or spare set of hands for the job.


Capt. Mike

Curtis Junior Member posted June 06, 2002 08:04 AM

My '87 Westy has developed a small amount of persistent mildew and has rotted several holes along the low strip of canvas at the very back of the van. Questions:

1. Anyone else dealt with mildew and holes, and could recommend some solution or whatnot to ensure the mold is deceased before I repair the holes with canvas cement?

2. Anyone else found a way to ensure this small strip of canvas doesn't stick out the back of the pop-top when lowering the top? I go around the tuck in the sides before locking down, but I often can't get the 1/4 inch or so of canvas to stay underneath in the very back. (It billows out when lowering.) When camping with someone else we can do stuff it in together, with one on the lid and one suffing, but I can't figure out how to do this when I'm solo .


Capt. Mike

Capt. Mike

Mildew is basically a fungus so treating/cleaning is much like any other. The ingredient in most cleaners is ordinary household bleach, which in proper application will not hurt the canvas IF well rinsed and retreated afterwards. You might look at the cleaners for shower curtains and the likes. Many of the common disinfectants such as Lysol will also work, though you will probably have to use a combinations of mildew products followed by canvas cleaning products or ordinary car wash, then retreating as above. Most mildew occurs when owners fail to wash and throughly dry their canvas following a trip. Some other mildew cleaning suggestions will be found in INTERIORS "Pop-top" topic that may be applicable to the canvas.

When lowering your top, just as you get near the lower point, grab your canvas in the middle of each side and 'roll' it. This will remove slack and pull the canvas under the pop-top. You will need to do this to all 3 sides. This will achieve a roll of canvas that fits inside the pop-top's seals to the roof and keep it remarkably dry.

Exposed canvas or bad pop-top seals/fit may be the source of your mildew from continuous wetting.
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Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

#vwmike# Junior Member posted October 18, 2002 03:53 PM

Hey y'all-

Please check out my new canvas renewal and poptop re-painting website!! Address - www.princessann1.home.mindspring.com

I would like to make this the ULTIMATE website for canvas replacement, so please spread the word!
ps. If you're having trouble b/c all you see is files, click on "Mike's Poptops.html" and this will bring the web-page up. Thanks for visiting...



New member
Where can I get some fabric to replace two holes in my top, one large one in back dead center and the other in front where top latches down.The previous owner was not careful.Cant afford to buy a new top now due to unemployment.

Capt. Mike

Why would you want to replace the holes? Most of us would rather not have them. Just kidding . . .!

Most large camping supply stores carry yard-good canvases and repair tapes if the hole is small. They are also most likely to carry seam sealer to seal stitching, canvas treatment (see posts elsewhere this site) and the necessary canvas needles, proper thread and even stitching awls (can do a lock stitch of double thread from one side of the canvas). The later is also found at most leather working supply shops and marine suppliers. Eureka Tent (contact info posted in SUPPLIERS) is one of the best.

You can typically find these yard-goods in major fabric stores & mill outlets.


New member
I am planning on installing a new canvas this weekend and I just wanted a little last minute advice from anyone who has installed a "GOWESTY"
canvas. The canvas I purchased from gowesty has a felt border around the top(connecting to the fiberglass)of the canvas. Do I staple the rubber strips into the felt itself or staple just above or below that border and directly into the canvas?
Im sure it matters as the canvas probably doesnt have alot of slack. The instructions from gowesty and all the the other Methods I have found do not deal with this


New member
Some additional notes on replacing the canvas.

I just finished putting on a new tent on my 1984 Westalia. I bought an acrylic three-window pop-up from Go Westy. The quality was fine, but I did spend some time trimming back leftover material at the edges. I bought the acrylic top in an effort to reduce the likelihood of mildew actually rotting the material, which is what happened to the orignal canvas when previously owned.

I will reinterate that it is not a fun job.

I initially tried to replace the canvas to the fibergalss pop-top while it was still on the Westy. It was a mistake. You just get all turned around in there and nothing seems to line up.

Instructions frequently refer to "patient" helpers to help remove the pop-top. Patience has got nothing to do with it. Find two of your pickiest friends -- the two who complain when you lean against their car. My two available helpers were my wife, who thinks nothing of putting a sand-covered beach cooler on the trunk lid of my Mercedes, and my 13-year-old daughter who feels she has been roped into too many of dad's projects and is just trying to get through the project quickly. As a result, I scratched the rear top corners of the Westy in two places. The two big rear hinges were the culprits. It's a clumsy job and it's just hard to keep everything off the paint.

I used a little magentic tray to hold all the screws I removed and this, I think, was the reason I didn't loose any. $4 at autoparts store.

I suggest doing this job early in the spring, because you need both light and coolness when you're working on it. In 75-degree weather, I got so sweaty working on the back bottom edge, I had to break to dry off the screw driver.

I've read several reports on where to start to attach the canvas to the Westy body, after you lift the top back in place. Do it exactly in this way: attach the rear first, followed by the front, then both sides at the same time. You will read several reports about starting in the middle and working to each end. Do so on the back and front, but on the sides, you need to start in the middle, but then go to each end to make sure the aluminum strips fit betwen the front and back strips.

Get an awl -- a tool made for poking holes in canvas and leather. I'm not sure I could have done it without it. I used it to poke holes in the beading and to line up aluminum strips with the body holes.

The job isn't as bad as some make it out to be, but I hope I don't have to do it again very soon. It has all the charm of a difficult upholstry job and shingling, all rolled up into one. I spent about six hours total ( I didn't have the kind that is stapled to the top) but it is cramped and frequently frustrating.

I also replaced the seals at the same time -- the seals around the bottom of the pop top and luggage rack and the seal between the two. This was comparatively easy. I think I did all three in a little over an hour and much of that time was cleaning the edges. Again I bought the seals from Go Westy,and they seem fine. But the glue for the flat seal, that covers the gap between the pop-top and luggage rack, is messy and difficult to remove if it gets where it shouldn't. It seems to hold fine, I just can't believe there isn't a better product on the market for this. I used a rubber mallet to tap the other two seals into place and it worked great.


New member
Just replaced the canvas on my 78'. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but still very tedious, and time consuming. Although it only took me and a buddy about 4.5 hours from start to finish, and we did it with the top on. And I must say we did a pretty damn good job with it. The best advice I would is to remove all cabinetry from the back of the bus, i.e. the clothes closet, the overhead storage, and the upper bunk, it makes the job alot easier. It is kind of a bear to get all that stuff out and back in, but I did it on my own so it can be done. Also plan to spend a saturday just removing the bellows(bottom steel tracks that hold the canvas to the body) and all of the staples from the top and the staples from the plastic strips that hold the canvas to the top. Before you are ready to get to work sit the plastic strips out in the sun for a while to make them a bit more plyable. We used a few 2x4's to jack the top up half way, and unlatched the support arms( make sure you tie them together as they are under alot of torque and will go through the top if you let them go) We started on the top front middle and made a few staples there, then a staple every couple of inches. Then moved to the side and repeated, then to the back and repeated. After the top was in place we put staples every .5 inches or so all the way round the top. CHECK CONSTANTLY TO MAKE SURE EVERYHTING LINES UP BOTH TOP AND BOTTOM. We reattached the support arms to see if we were on the right track. For the bottom we used the same system as the top again making sure we were lined up as we went. We used the sharp end of a compass to make the hole through the vinyl on the bottom edge of the canvas. On the canvas from Gowesty there is vinyl piping that goes around the bottom. Make sure that the piping is flush with the inside edge of the steel tracks when you tighten. After we finished we sat back popped the top on the bus and on a few cold ones and admired a job well done.
Well I hope that didnt confuse anyone more than help. good luck