Understanding Camping Trailers Roof Lift Systems

All pop up camping trailers have one thing in common: The roof must be raised before it can be used. The method to get it raised has been by an ever changing combination of springs, pulleys, and winches. For a number of years the simple winch and cable systems have dominated the market, maintaining the original basic design. However, within the past few years there have been several innovative methods introduced by manufacturers and after market companies. The Viking Corporation currently offers a special battery powered drill, requiring no modification of the existing system, that will quickly raise the roof. They have also introduced a GP model series that has a hydraulic roof system as standard equipment. For retrofitting existing vehicles with the Goshen Stamping lift system, Custom Cylinders International Inc. has introduced two miniature hydraulic kits that can be operated by a high speed drill or the 12V vehicle battery. For the majority of systems currently being produced, the following provides a general description and maintenance information.


Most of the vehicles manufactured today have three major components: a "clutch" controlled winch, a cable that connects the winch to the lifting mechanism, and pulleys that route the cable to the components that push the roof into the open position. For safety reasons the winch has been designed to require effort to raise or lower the roof. The understanding and occasional maintenance of this system will result in years of trouble free use of your vehicle.


The winch has evolved into a very reliable method of safely raising the heavy roof. A special "clutch / brake" is built into the design that will not permit the winch to "free wheel" during the raising or lowering process. A disadvantage to this type of winch is that a fair amount of effort is required to raise or lower the roof. An aircraft quality cable is attached to the spool of the winch, while the other end is attached to a distribution block that is attached by various methods to the mechanism, which evenly causes the four corners of the roof to move into the open position. Maintenance: The winch should be inspected each season for signs of excessive wear of the gears. The gears, reel shaft, and handle bearing or wear surfaces should be lubricated with qater resistant grease. Other bearings and shafts may be lubricated with a light coating of oil or silicone spray. CAUTION ! make certain that you do not permit any lubricant to come in contact with the "clutch" brake mechanism.


The cable is usually made of a high quality aircraft type stranded cable. MAINTENANCE : There is no maintenance necessary for this component. It should be inspected each season for any damage or fraying of the strands. If any damage or fraying is visible, the cable should be replaced as soon as possible.



The Goshen lift system is used by most of the pop up vehicle manufacturers. The cable is connected to a distribution block, enclosed in a tube running front to back under the vehicle frame. Within the tube is located a simple mechanism that utilizes one pulley to push four heavy duty springs through tubes routed to each corner of the trailer. As the springs are pushed through the tubes, the corners of the roof are pushed to the open position. The springs are maintained in a straight pushing position by square telescoping tubes that extend as the roof is raised to the full open position. MAINTENANCE: There are two grease fittings located on the main assembly tube: one is located on the bottom side, toward the hitch end of the vehicle, and the second is located on the top side toward the rear of the vehicle. At the beginning of each season use a grease gun and add grease to each end of the tube until grease appears around the cable (approximately 6-oz). There are four small tubes coming from the ends of the main assembly tube to each corner of the vehicle that encloses the lifting springs. Use a needle grease gun adapter and add a small amount of grease in the hole at the end that curves up to meet the bottom of the square telescoping tube assembly.


The Coleman Lift System
The Coleman lift system does not connect directly to the cable. the crank connects to a shaft that transmits movement through a chain linkage to a threaded rod. the threaded rod goes through the center of a distribution block that is captured in a track that keeps it straight and in alignment with the outgoing cables. When the crank is turned in one direction or the other, it turns the threaded rod that moves the distribution block forward or backwards in the channel. The outgoing cables are routed through a series of pulleys that are located in the body of the vehicle and inside the large telescoping tubes located at each corner of the roof. In summary, the rotation of the crank is transmitt4ed through a chain to turn the threaded rod that moves the distribution block, thereby causing the cables to extend or retract the telescoping tubes that raises or lowers the roof. MAINTENANCE: The system should be lubricated at the beginning of each season. The pulleys and lift height adjustment should be lubricated very sparingly with silicone spray.


The Jayco system
The Jayco system has the cable attached to a distribution block, which is located in the body of the vehicle. From the distribution block the individual corner cables operate through a number of pulleys to cause the push rods to raise the roof. The push rods operated inside the square telescoping tubes that extend as the roof is raised to the full open position. MAINTENANCE: This system does not require any lubrication of the pulleys at any time.


CAUTION! The use of silicone oil spray is recommended by all of the vehicle manufacturers, and is very effective in preventing wear and corrosion of metal parts. It is not very friendly to fabrics and the waterproof tent material. When coating the telescoping tubes that raise and stabilize the roof, make a fairly large cardboard shield to fit between the tube and fabric. By holding the shield behind the tubes no over spray will damage the fabrics. After the spray has been applied, wait 10 to 15 minutes then carefully wipe the excess silicone off the tubes.

NOTE: Note that an attempt to cover all of the methods used to raise roofs has not been made, therefore your pop up vehicle's roof system may not have been covered. If you have an interest in learning more about a specific system, or would like to have additional information about any of the above systems, send your request to the attention of Grover Taylor, Sr.

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