How to Install a Maxxfan Roof Vent on a DIY Van Conversion

Maxxair Fan Installation

How to Install a Maxxfan Roof Vent on a DIY Van Conversion

Installing a Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe roof vent on a DIY camper van conversion helps controlling interior temperature, relative humidity (condensation and moisture), indoor air quality and creates air movement. It’s typically one of the first modification performed to the van, so it’s super intimidating… but you are not alone: it’s a rite of passage for all DIYers and we still have to hear about someone who messed it up. With proper planning and extra precautions, you’ll get it right, learn from it and boost your confidence. Below, we fully documented the installation of our Maxxfan to our Ford Transit; hope that guides you in the right direction!

Last Update: March 2020

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait

Time Spent

0 HOURS

Total Cost

$ 0 USD

Material

ITEM QUANTITY MODEL LINK
Maxxfan Deluxe 1 5100K (White lid, manual opening)  Amazon
6200K (Smoke lid, manual opening) Amazon
7000K (White lid, auto opening) Amazon
7500K (Smoke lid, auto opening) Amazon
Roof Vent Adapter 1 Transit Low Roof eBay
Transit Mid/High Roof eBay
Sprinter NCV3 Low/High Roof eBay
ProMaster eBay
Others (Sprinter T1N, Nissan NV, E Series, Transit Connect, etc.) eBay
Roof Vent Backing Frame 1 This goes inside the van eBay
Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant 2 White Amazon
Grey Amazon
3M Window-Weld 1 Fast Urethane Amazon
Butyl Tape 1   Amazon
Machine Screws 16 #10-24 thread, length TBD, Stainless Steel, Round Head Amazon
Nuts 16 #10-24, Stainless Steel Amazon
Washers 16 #10, Stainless Steel Amazon
Primer 1    
Paint 1    
Clear Coat 1    

Tools

Item Description Quantity Link
Caulking Gun For 10 oz cartridge 1 Amazon
Jig Saw DEWALT Cordless Lithium-ion 20V 1 Amazon
Blades for Jig Saw Thin Metal Cutting, 5-Pack 1 Amazon
Metal File To break the sharp edges 1 Amazon
Sandpaper Surface preparation before touch-up 1 Amazon
C-Clamp To hold everything in place when drilling 4 Amazon
Duct Tape   Amazon
Painter Tape    1 Amazon
Isopropyl Alcohol    1  

Resources

Good To Know

Maxxfan Models

Rain Shield

All the DELUXE models are designed with an integrated rain shield, meaning that the lid can remains opened at all time, even when it rains. Neat! That’s a major advantage over the competitors… Indeed, you’ll want good ventilation during rain episodes.

SPEEDS

The 5301K & 6401K Maxxfan models feature only 4 speeds, cannot be run as intake and doesn’t have an “automatic” mode. For these reasons (but mostly because there’s only 4 speeds), we wouldn’t really recommend it.

Electric Lid Opening & Remote

The 7000K & 7500K Maxxfan models feature an electric lid opening & remote (as opposed to the model 5100K & 6200K which must be opened manually and there’s no remote). We personally have the manual lid opening and we’re perfectly fine with it. We chose it because we worried that the electric opening might have a hard time in snow/ice. We also don’t have the remote and we don’t mind it either, because we’re always an arm-length distance from the fan anyway!

White VS Smoke Lid

At last, you have the choice between a white lid, or a smoke (grey) lid… that depends mostly on personal taste and your van’s color!

maxxfandeluxechart

Maxxfan Power Consumption

SPEEDCURRENT (A)
10.1A
20.2A
30.3A
40.4A
50.6A
60.9A
71.1A
81.5A
92.0A
102.8A

Do not use a grinder!

Using a grinder to cut the fan’s hole is pretty bad ass. But all these cool sparks are actually metal chips going all over the place and each one of them is a potential ignition point for rust! These tiny chips stick to the van and it’s just impossible to clean them afterward, so DO NOT USE A GRINDER.

grinder metal chips rust
So cool. So manly. So wrong.

The ideal tool for the job is called a Metal Cutter Shear (amzn.to/33MLAK0). As opposed to a grinder or a jig saw, it does not create any metal chips. Why didn’t we use one then? Because, like most people, we had a jig saw on hand and didn’t want to spend 100$ on a tool we would use only once or twice…

Metal Cutter Shear
A sheet metal shears doesn't create any metal chips, how cool is that!

Where to install: Back or Front?

BACK

Most people choose to install their fan in the back of the van, as it creates an air flow that runs through the entire van: air enters by the front door windows and exit by the fan in the back.

We think it’s the ideal location, except if you’re in a similar situation than us (keep reading “FRONT”!).

FRONT

Because we live full time in our van during skiing season, cooking with the doors open is not an option. Therefore, we installed our roof fan straight above the stove/oven (faroutride.com/wedgewood-vision-range-review). That way, the cooking smoke & smell are evacuated immediately.

But there is a drawback: air in the back of the van is not well recycled. To compensate, we should have add a window in the back (faroutride.com/van-window).

BACK... & FRONT!

We see many people with 2 fans on their van: one in the front, one in the back. Typically, one fan acts as the intake (OFF) and the other fan acts as the exhaust (ON).

People with this setup are really happy about it, as it creates excellent ventilation. It’s cheaper (and easier) to install a second fan than a window, but the drawback is that it uses more real estate on the roof. If you planned on adding a patio on your roof, that might be an issue.

Adding framing strips or not?

You can order the Roof Vent Adapter with, or without, framing strips (see eBay link under “Material” section above). The framing strips provide additional support to the roof, and are recommended if the fan is installed at a location where the beams are more than 18 inches apart.

In our case, we installed the Maxxfan in the front of the van where the beams are close together, so we didn’t need the framing strips. 

 

Framing-Strips-for-Roof-Fan-installation-(Van-Conversion)

And now let's get to work!

1- Install the painter tape and mark the fan cutout.

To mark the fan cutout, we used the inside of the roof vent adapter.

2- Practice makes perfect…

We “simulated” 2 holes and a straight line to practice drilling & cutting on the panel we were getting rid of. It’s a good thing we did it! We learned that it’s better to make the corner holes a bit outside of the cutting line (the fan flange allow some over cut) AND that a storm of hot-burning metal chips will blow on your face and into your hair. WEAR PROTECTIVE GLASSES AND A SEXY BANDANA ON YOUR HEAD. You’ve been warned.

3- Lion's face: you own the tools, the tools don't own you!

Or: we're scared, but let's pretend we're not.

4- Drill a hole at each corner, large enough to let the jigsaw blade pass through.

5- Cut each side, then apply duct tape to retain the panel from falling at the last cut.

6- Break the sharp edges with a metal file and smooth the edges with a fine sandpaper.

7- Install the roof fan adapter and the fan flange and drill all holes.

We used four C-Clamps to ensure nothing moves during the process.

8- Surface preparation.

- Remove the roof fan adapter and the flange.

- Break the holes sharp edges and smooth with a sanding paper.

- Clean the surfaces to be touched-up with isopropyl alcohol.

9- Apply Primer, Paint & Clearcoat on all the cuts and holes.

This is an important step to avoid corrosion in the future. Indeed, paint plays a much bigger role than just adding color: paint protects metal from rusting. So take note: adding primer + paint + clearcoat should be performed ANY TIME you make a cut or hole in your van. Get used to it!

TIP: All-in-one products don't work well; so primer + paint + clearcoat = 3 different products. Go to an Auto Parts Shop and give them your color code (it's on the driver side door's sticker), make, model & year and they'll prepare paint that matches perfectly the color of your van. Paint in spray can work well, because you can spray what you need in a small plastic container and re-use later (after use, turn the can upside down and spray for a few seconds; this will clear the tube and prevent from drying and clogging).

10- Clean the fan flange with isopropyl alcohol.

11- Clean the van's metal with isopropyl alcohol.

12- Apply butyl tape on the fan flange (on the surface that will be mating with the fan adapter).

13- Apply 3M Window-Weld on the roof fan adapter and the backing frame (on the surfaces that will be mating with the van).

14- Install the roof fan adapter, the fan flange, the backing frame and the hardware.

15- Apply Dicor self-leveling sealant around the periphery of the flange.

While she's working, make yourself useful and start cleaning the work area. Or don't and just be a nuisance by making duck faces for no good reasons.

16- Install the Maxxfan unit through the fan flange and fasten using the 4 provided screws.

17- Look at our fan.

Just look at it.

18- Final Test.

We tested our Maxxfan using the wires from an adjacent light that we removed. (note: we blew a fuse doing the same thing afterward: no surprise, the interior lightning fuse of 7.5 amp located at position F32 is not designed to withstand the load of an additional fan… no big deal, the fuse was replaced and the light is back!) It works!

19- Have a pint of fresh Homebrewed Session I.P.A.

Well deserved!

On Second Thought...

We've been using our Maxxfan since 2016 and it does exactly what it's suppose to: it's powerful, doesn't draw too much power and being able to run it when it rains is SO IMPORTANT. If we had to start over, we would definitely install the Maxxfan again!

Maxxfan Review

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about us

Nice To Meet You.

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

81 thoughts on “How to Install a Maxxfan Roof Vent on a DIY Van Conversion”

  1. Just bought your plans and digging through the first steps to cut holes in my new-to-me 2016 Transit. Two questions on the fan install: First, my thought was to install the fan in front like you did but put a Passenger side sliding bunk window back by the bed to provide cross ventilation. Good idea or not? Second, admittedly I haven’t read your entire build journal yet so I haven’t read about your ceiling install around the fan but just wondering how you trimmed around the fan opening in your ceiling? I know your work is very clean and tidy so I imagined you trimmed the fan out nicely. Thanks, Jim

    Reply
  2. Hello! Thank you so much for this site. It’s so unbelievably helpful. I was wondering what size backing frame you used, 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch and if you found it necessary? I have a 2018 Ford Transit high roof. 🙂

    Reply
  3. I would like to mention that the Metal files you recommend are quite small, and I noticed you are using one that is quite a bit bigger. You might add a larger file to your tools list for this project.

    Reply
  4. Very curious to hear your thoughts on whether it’s OK or not to install one of the max air fans on the roof that slightly starts to go down toward the front windshield. As you know, Ford Transits have quite a lot of space there, so we were hoping to utilize it. Or is it only recommended to install on the roof that is leveled? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  5. Hi! Love the site and the guides, they are proving truly helpful when planning out my build.

    I just got a Sprinter 144 with a fixed window in the rear passenger side. Do you think it’s necessary to have two fans? I was thinking of a MaxxAir 7500 in the back and then a MaxxAir dome on front. What do you think?

    Reply
  6. Hi – really great blog all around. Graphics, the layout/organization and writing are all well done. In reading about the fan install I thought of an better tool to cut the hole. It is something called a nibbler. It is powered by a drill and works really well. It might be a little harder to cut a straight line with it than your tool but it costs a lot less. I would recommend cutting from above (on the roof) since the little pieces it nibbles will fall down.

    Here is a link to one on amazon.
    https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=sheet+metal+nibbler&i=tools&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

    Reply
  7. Regarding the frame strips, it was mentioned that they are recommended if the fan is installed at a location where the beams are more than 18 inches apart. Are the beams more than 18″ apart in the rear if it is placed above the bed? Cannot measure quite yet as I am picking up my van this weekend and would like to get a few things ordered ahead of time. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Hi there, just a a quick question regarding the 3m window weld. What was the reason you used the window weld between the van and the adapter as opposed to more butyl tape? Thanks so much!

    Reply
  9. What length machine screws did you end up going with? In the materials section it says: Machine Screws 16 #10-24 thread, length TBD, Stainless Steel, Round Head

    Were they too long or just right?

    We just ordered our fan and want to get everything else that is needed so we can install next week. We just started our promaster build!

    Thanks

    Reply
    • We intentionally didn’t specify the length, as it varies with installations. For example, the ProMaster corrugations depth are different than the Transit and therefore require different screw length. There is no way for us to list all the screw length! You’ll have to find out yourself… yep, sometimes it’s very hard to plan everything ahead. 😉

      Good luck!
      antoine

      Reply
  10. Hi, I just wanted to start off by mentioning this page has been so incredibly helpful, thank you! I am, trying to decide where I want to mount the fan. I noticed you mounted it above the kitchen to provide better ventilation during cooking but mentioned that it was an issue when allowing for ventilation in the back so you had to place a floor vent there. I have a long wheel base transit instead of the extended like you and was considering placing the fan in the very back of the van. Do you think that would be significantly worse when it comes to cooking?

    Reply
    • – If you plan on cooking a lot with doors closed (because winter), I’d consider installing the fan in the front. And add a window in the back, or another fan, for proper ventilation in the back.
      – If you don’t cook a lot and you can leave the doors opened, then I’d consider installing the fan in the back.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      • Hello! 🙂 For a 2019 ProMaster 3500 I plan to have Maxxair 06200 in the Kitchen and DOMETIC Heki Midi above the bed ( in the back). I’m still researching and was wondering your thoughts on if that’s enough airflow. We plan to travel in Us & other countries with dog and baby and don’t want them to be overheated. Thank you

        Reply
        • Yeah it would be enough! Personally I’d go for two Maxxfan, instead of the Heki Midi, as rain could get into it. It seems also more costly. But that’s just my opinion!

          Cheers!

          Reply
  11. Hello,

    I ordered the Heins adapter because of your recommendation. I have just watched several videos on Maxx Fan installations. I have not seen one with Heins adapters in them. Are these really necessary. I have a 2019 Sprinter and the surface where I plan to install the fan, (rear of the van) seams pretty flat. Do I need the adapters??

    Also I wonder why you don’t have the step of adding the interior trip ring after you complete your ceiling? All good information. I have started the build!!!!!

    David Jackson

    Reply
    • The interior surface is pretty flat, but there are corrugations on the exterior. So outside adapter is GREAT, inside adapter is not needed (I don’t know if they sell the interior adapter anymore anyways). If where you plan to install the fan is flat, then you don’t need the adapter 🙂

      Sorry what’s the interior trip ring? Do you mean the “decorative” trim? It was added later so there’s no pic in this article, but you should see it in our van tour: https://faroutride.com/van-tour/

      Good luck!

      Reply
  12. Hey all! We are about to start this project in our Transit Mid Roof… cutting a huge hole in a new van seems so WRONG! I wanted to ask you about your primer, paint, and sealant. Did you use epoxy or urethane primer? Did you use spray sealants? Excited to get our build started, thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    • I honestly can’t recall… We went to an Auto Parts and gave them our color code. Don’t buy the all-in-one (primer + topcoat) stuff. We recommend to get the spray cans, but don’t spray directly to the surface. Spray in a plastic jar to get a little paint, then use something to apply it to the surface.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  13. You mention “adapters” as in plural. However when I ordered the adapter from the above link, I received just one, which appears to be the one to mount on the outside of the van. There is no inside adapter. Has something changed?

    Reply
  14. Hi! We actually have a Ford e350, but we’ve adapted most of your instructions to work with our van! It’s been great. We’re about to install our Maxxair fan, but we’ve noticed that some other websites/blogs don’t use an adapter at all…but maybe they are making a huge mistake? Have you heard of anyone installing a Maxxair fan without an adapter and it being successful?

    Reply
  15. On the maxxair fan instructions it specifically says not to use Acetone on the plastic. Step 11 in your guide says to clean the fan flange with Acetone.

    Reply

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