If you have the optional dormers on your Aliner, which over the dinette I highly recommend, they come with compressed gas shocks on either side to help you lift the roof of the dormer, and to keep the panel from dropping down a bunch when you are stowing the dormer. They do their job well unless your Aliner is new and from some unnamed dealer in the Phoenix, Arizona area. I don't know if the trailers come from the factory with these installed, but who ever put them on would be ashamed if they knew how to be ashamed.
During the walk-through I mentioned to the guy that the bracket for the top of both of the gas shocks looked like they were coming loose. He said they were supposed to be that way. Does that look "right" to you? Well, now I know better.
Everything hung in there for about five camping trips, and many cycles of
raising and lowering the dormer while working on the trailer, but that sixth
trip was the last straw. When I went inside to lower the dormer to pack up
there was a 'pop'. One of the brackets had become so far out of position that
the socket at the end of one of the gas shocks of the ball and socket mounting
system finally popped loose.
The ends of the shocks have nylon sockets that go over the ball of the metal brackets. Once it is in place when you are installing a shock you slide on a curved piece of spring metal into the slot(s) in the socket and that locks the end in place. I had little luck in getting the pieces of metal out of the socket without stretching them out of shape. Once you do that they don't grip the ball very well when you reinstall them. Oddly enough you can't buy just those pieces of metal, so if you take the shocks off you just about have to replace the whole shock. Tricky capitalists.
The next week I started working on making things better. They couldn't get much worse. Turns out the brackets holding the gas shocks to the top of the dormer were not held on with anything but screws going through about 1/16" of aluminum trim. The 1/8" of fiberglass outer surface of the roof panel wasn't doing anything, and the styrofoam core of the panel was doing even less. The screws only went part way through the roof panel. The brackets where not being held on by anything more than the metal trim not wanting to slide across the threads of the screws. The brackets were totally loose and the screws pulled right out after the shocks were removed. Good job, Aliner.
I came across some replacement brackets that were sturdy enough to hold gas shocks used to open Minute Man missile silo hatches. Probably. I couldn't reuse the old screw holes, so I moved the backet over a little and went to town. I repeated the ol' Aliner screw trick for the fist two holes, but these ones were long enough to go all of the way through the roof panel and into a wooden 1x2" inside the trailer. Four #10 bolts then ran through the roof panel in the other four holes.
The four bolts went through a backing plate on the inside since there was no firm support for anything in there.
I do believe that sucker will not be moving around anytime soon. Because of the height difference I put a small piece of LDPE plastic in there to hold up the inner end of the bracket. I may have to do something with the Nylock nuts at some point. The silicone caulk inevitably got on the bolt threads and the Nylock portion of the show doesn't resist spinning too well. We'll see.
The brackets on top of the roof where always trying to be ripped off of the roof, but the bottom brackets were in a little bit better shape. The force from the shock was always down or sideways, so even with loose screws and stripped threads they didn't want to move around much, which was good, since out of the six screws four of them were loose and/or stripped. They were partially glued in place by the sealant. The screws here were also not very long.
I repeated bolting the brackets in place for these by drilling all of the way through the old screw holes into the interior of the trailer. Part of dormer alumninum frame was 1/8" thick, so that acted as the backing plate for these bolts. I cut off and filed smooth the ends of all of the bolts for the dormer to make them look nicer and not have them act as deadly weapons, respectively. Nipping off the ends of a stainless steel bolt leaves some sharp edges.
I was able to order two replacement gas shocks from a store in Canada. They
had the ones with the same specs as the original ones, but I ordered ones
that were the next step down in pressure just to lower the stresses everywhere
a bit. The original shocks were able to push the roof up almost to fully open.
These ones fall a teeny bit short of that, but it's easy to just push the
roof up the last couple of inches from the inside when putting the interior
braces in place. It's even pretty easy to put this dormer up and down without
gas shocks at all. It's just a little heavy. The dormer that can be ordered
over the back sitting area would be even easier since it is smaller. I don't
have that one. The couch is where I sleep, so I just don't need it, and it
adds a bit of weight to the trailer. I also thought it would make sleeping
under it a bit colder with the dormer up, and that the canvas would be in
the way if I kept it closed.
The dormer in front really makes the interior less claustrophobic. I like it, and now I don't have to worry about the lifting system until the shocks wear out.