How to Install Roof Rails to Your Sprinter Van

Taylor and I recently bought a 2015 Mercedes 170” Cargo Sprinter Van, with plans to convert it into a home on wheels. Our goal is to take this van all over North America eventually reaching Alaska.

How to install roof rails on a mercedes sprinter van in 7 simple steps
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To help inspire others, we are documenting our journey and each step of our van build, creating video tutorials on youtube along the way.

The 6th project of our van build series is installing roof rails.


Tools Needed to Install Roof Rails

tools Required for Roof Rail Installation on sprinter van

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Before we get into each step of the roof rail installation, below are the tools used during the installation on our Mercedes Sprinter Van (this tutorial could apply to other vans as well).

After unboxing the VanTech roof rails, we realized they provide a weatherproofing gasket along with the bolts and nuts.

unboxing van tech roof rails for mercedes sprinter van installation

Step by Step: Roof Rail Installation

Below is a step by step guide on how to install roof rails on your Mercedes Sprinter Van. We think this tutorial is helpful for other van builds as well, like a Ford Transit or Dodge Promaster.

To start, you will need your ladder and head to the roof of your van. You will need your heat gun (you can probably use a hairdryer worst case), your chisel (we used plastic ones so ensure we do not scratch the paint), and your channel locks pliers.

It’s a good idea to put something on top of your roof so you do not scratch it with your tools, we used a piece of cardboard which worked just fine.

Step 1: Pry Open Roof Rail Plugs

The first step is to heat the roof rail plug (circular looking lid on the roof rail) with your heat gun for 10-15 seconds. Once heated, take your chisel and pry open the plug, this should be relatively easy, if it’s not, apply more heat.

Apply Heat Gun and use chisel to remove plug - roof rail installation

Step 2: Remove Roof Rail Plugs

Once you lifted the roof rail plugs, pull it off with chanel lock pliers.

If plug lid brakes go underneath and hit it with a hammer-min

In the unfortunate event that the lid tears, simply go into the van and hit the plug with a hammer.

hitting the plug with a hammer to pop it out - how to install roof rails on van

Step 3: Remove Excess Glue

If excess glue remains after removing the plug, apply heat with your heat guy and chisel the rest off. You can use acetone to help remove this as well.

Step 4: Line up the roof rails

Once all of the roof plugs are removed as well as the excess glue you are ready to line up your roof rails. If you purchase your roof rails from VanTech, the rails come in 3 pieces, marked A, B, and C.

  • A = the longest
  • B = mid-size
  • C = smallest

Make sure you line up your roof rails in the proper direction (use the van tech instruction. Piece A is in the front of the van, piece C is in the back, B is in the middle.

install roof rails on sprinter van

Step 5: Apply Weather Proofing Strip

Before you apply the weatherproofing strip to the roof rails, make sure you connect all three pieces with the connecting adaptors. Once this is done, apply the weatherproofing to the pieces.

VanTech gives you 6 pieces of weatherproofing strips, 3 different sizes. Apply the largest weatherproof strip to piece A, mid-size to piece B and smallest weatherproof strip to piece C.

apply weather stripping to the back of the rails how to install roof rails

Step 6: Thread Bolts Through Roof Rails

Now you’re ready to thread the bolts through the weatherproof strip. I used a drill bit to create a pilot hole to allow the bolt to easily go through the weatherproof strip to ensure the bolt doesn’t pull off the weather stripping.

thread the allen key bolt

Step 7: Tighten Down The Rails

how to install roof rails to your van.

The last step for installing roof rails to your roof is tightening the bolts down from the inside. The instructions say to use a 7/16th’s but that is too big. Instead, I used a 10mm socket which worked great!

tighten down the bolts of your roof rails to the roof - install roof rails to your van

Don’t forget to use the washer’s VanTech provides to help secure the bolt in place.

How to install roof rails to a sprinter van

Summary – Roof Rail Installation

Overall this project is relatively easy and you can do it! It took me about 4 hours from start to finish and that includes the time spent worrying about capturing the content on camera. I did this alone, but if Taylor was able to help with this project I am sure we would have completed it faster.

We definitely think you can install roof rails yourself if you have the right tools! But if you don’t feel comfortable consider getting it installed professionally.

7 simple steps to install roof rails on a sprinter van
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Check out our other Van Build blog post:

Thinking of buying a van?

Before we decided to buy our own van we rented one to test the waters! This helped us realize it’s something we really want to do since buying a van and converting it is a lot of money and a lot of effort! We rented a van in Portugal and absolutely fell in love with van life!

A heads up: This blog post is a review of the van we rented, not really a van life video.

If you have any questions about how to install roof rails to your van, drop a comment below! If you’re interested, please follow our van build series where we will document every step of the build process as well as our youtube channel!

As always, thank you for reading/watching our content!

About The Author

Kevin Mathers

A washed-up hockey player, surfer, and husband currently working towards financial freedom and showing you how we do it as a couple. I started this blog initially as a personal finance blog but after getting married, Taylor (my wife and best friend) and I decided to switch gears into the travel world sharing our experiences with you along the way.

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