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Sliding Window Installation: We Made A Big Mistake

Sliding Window Installation: We Made A Big Mistake

In the last conversion log entry on cutting a hole in the van, we made the mistake of applying 3M Window Weld with a less than adequate caulking gun thrust ratio.  We made a similar mistake when applying urethane for the sliding window.

The second and last big hole we will cut into the van was for a sliding window in the side door.  This brought our ventilation scheme to fruition.  However, not without some undue frustration.

What Sliding Window Did We Get and Why

We found we wanted a window in the sliding door for two reasons.  Primarily, we wanted to have cross ventilation through the living area of the van.  That meant, we need a window that opened at least partially.  Second, there is a massive blind spot there when driving and we wanted the ability to look over the shoulder and double check that area.  Basically, HEADS UP if you’re chilling and drafting off of a delivery van…they cannot see you on the right side of the van.  You can kind of see well enough with mirrors on a highway.  But, if you’re exiting a parking area or street that’s not quite perpendicular, they cannot see you. 

So, we found a company with excellent customer service reviews and decided to buy a window there.  That was one of the best decisions we made for this particular project.  When we searched for passenger side sliding door windows for a Ford Transit High Roof, we came up with a list of six.  Two were fixed glass, so we had four options of partially opening windows with insect screens.  One had the same configuration as our last van where you could open half of the bottom third.  Since we wanted to extend the sink cabinet into the sliding door area, this would not work.  Another window did that on top.  We briefly entertained that idea, but felt it did not have the right aesthetic.  That left us with two half slide options.  We chose the one that was backordered for less time. 

That left us with an AMA Passenger Side Sliding Door Half-Slider Window for a Ford Transit Van 15-21.  Now there’s a mouthful!

How are the Instructions?

What instructions?  None came with the window.  There were some basic, poorly written ones on the website.  We found a few trusty YouTube videos for the topic.  Unfortunately, the ones that were specific to the type of window were all installed right behind the driver’s seat, not the sliding door.

However, the customer service was supposed to be A+.  So, I called them up and explained that I needed a little clarification on the installation process.  The representative patiently addressed all of my questions and very helpfully gave me an overview of the whole process.  After that call, I would also give Van Windows Direct an A+ in customer service!

Sliding Window Preparation

Before we started, we had to complete some prep work.  We gathered all the tools we expected to use and drew the outline of the window with a sharpie on the inside of the door.  The window that we chose had a cutout that followed the factory imprint.  On the surface, this seems easy and it would have been easier behind the driver’s side.  However, the sliding door had an extra Y-shaped support.  For the bottom of the Y, we could take a straight edge and draw across it.  But, for the upper forks of the Y, we had a curve.  After some investigation, we noticed we needed to trace the curve ½ inch from the edge to the factory imprint.  This makes more sense in person.

Similar to the hole we cut for the fan, we put old sheets on the two chairs.  We had two vacuums ready to suck up those pesky metal shavings.  Apparently, if you leave metal shavings on other metals, they will rust.  And, nobody likes rust.

Using the Jigsaw to Cut a Bigger Hole

Just like Entry 4, we had to make pilot holes around the cutout in order to fit in the jigsaw blade.  We used a drill and slowly increased the drill bit size until the jigsaw blade fit through easily.

Pre-Drilling Holes Bigger and Bigger to Fit the Jigsaw Blade

We brought out the jigsaw for this project with a fresh metal blade with 30 tpi.  To try and protect the metal around the cutout, we used painter’s tape on the jigsaw foot, but it only worked to a point.  We also taped around the outline of the hole.

Inserting the jigsaw through the pilot holes, we began the cutout.  The curves presented odd jigsaw angle challenges that we expected, but in actuality felt weirder than we anticipated.  We switched around angles when they became awkward. 

Jigsawing the Window Cutout

As we made cuts, we used painter’s tape to hold the metal cutout in place to reduce vibration.  One of the YouTube videos we watched suggested leaving a small straight section on the top to hold the metal in place until the rest of the cutout was completed. 

Adding Tape Over the Cuts Reduces Vibration

The Ford Transit had one funky area to work around: the door lock.  The old school pull up/push down door lock would not allow for us to cut a 3-inch section from the inside of the van.  This was true whether it was up or down.  Luckily, the internet had solutions when we researched this problem. 

Don’t Jigsaw the Door Lock!

Using a piece of the foam that shipped with the window, others cut a piece and taped it to the bottom of the jigsaw.  This made the blade protrude less.  I stayed inside the van using a rag to gently pull the door lock inward, while Karma sawed from the outside with the foam on the jigsaw.  It worked well enough as the lock was still intact after cutting that area. The final cut on top dropped the window out and we had a very large hole in the door!

Post Cut Clean Up

Just like installing the MaxxAir Fan, we had to clean up the sharp edges on the metal cutout.  We used a metal file to smooth down the cut metal.  The sound a metal file makes on sheet metal is eerily similar to nails on a chalkboard.  I know that made you feel a shiver!  It made quite a bit more noise than the roof hole.  Neighbors began “casually” walking to the end of the cul-de-sac to investigate the noise under the guise of exercising.  We did find it odd that they never seemed to want to ask any questions though. 

Smoothing the Cut Metal Edges

When we shaved the cut metal sufficiently smooth, we wiped the outside clean with rubbing alcohol.  Then, we hit it with Rustoleum to protect it from rust.  While the Rustoleum dried in the sun, we had to clean up.  Despite our best efforts to keep the metal shavings contained, we had a lot of work on our hands.  We each used a vacuum to get as much as possible removed.  It did indeed feel weird using a vacuum hose on metal walls. 

Trim Lock

By the time we got all the metal shavings vacuumed out, the Rustoleum had dried in the sun.  We grabbed the trim lock and set to work.  From our phone call with Van Window’s Direct customer service, we knew that it was best practice to put the trim lock over both pieces of metal.  Most YouTubers only put the trim lock over one of the two pieces.  The customer service rep emphasized it was better to get both even though it would be harder.

Adding Trim Lock Over Both Metal Pieces

With the help of a mallet, we did manage to get the trim lock over both metal pieces.  Karma ingeniously noticed that if he used the round side of the mallet, he could roll the trim lock onto both metal pieces.  It sped up the process significantly. 

The Mallet Roll Technique

Because we touched the outside while doing this, we rubbed the area outside of the van with rubbing alcohol again.  Our window installation kit from Van Windows Direct also included some specific automotive primer to use before adding the urethane.  We waited the suggested 10 minutes after applying the primer to continue.

Caulking Guns and Trust Ratios

Here’s where we made a mistake.  We trusted that any caulking gun would work for all things you can put into a caulking gun.  NOT TRUE.  Technically, it worked.  But, it did not work well.  At all.

We cut the urethane open in with the suggested v-notch to make a large cone shaped bead of urethane.   This would go around the cutout hole and would adhere the window to the van.  We had left the urethane tubes in the sun to warm up, but that was not sufficient for the thrust ratio of the old caulking gun. 

Within seconds of beginning, we knew it would suck.  Let me just say, it was possible.  Although, Karma strained several muscles in the process and I made it about 4 inches of the bead before Karma took it back.  While he worked with one tube, I placed the other tube on my bare stomach and curled around it to try and warm it a bit more.

Moral of the story: when working with polyurethane or urethane, spend the money for a higher ratio caulk gun.  It is 100% worth it to not suffer.  All puns intended.

The Moment of Discovery that We Made a Mistake

Putting the Sliding Window in Place

We had prepped the sliding window so as soon as we had the cone shaped urethane bead complete, we could grab the window. 

Quickly, we hoisted the window up and slowly placed it over the hole.  The customer service rep we spoke to gave us the tip to barely hold it in, then step away to make sure it was straight.  Each of us took turns checking and then we pushed hard.  As we held it in place, we grabbed the tape and began taping the window in the place we wanted vertically.  We used quite a bit of tape in the process, but the window stayed where we wanted it to and did not droop. 

A little of the urethane seeped out on the top and we had to fix that a few days later.  It’s messy.  Try not to have that happen. 

After 24 hours, the tape came off and we had a beautiful half sliding window!

The Window in Action!