Tom Zizzo, a journalist, has also spent many years selling truck and SUV accessories.
It's Time to Finally Replace Those Worn-Out Props That Hold That Back Door Up
After many years of selling truck tops, toppers, camper shells, canopies—whatever you want to call them—I have learned that the absolute number-one-selling item to repair or maintain on any top are the gas-pneumatic arms that hold up the rear door. We generally call them "props," but I've heard other terms like lift supports or arms.
They are very easy to replace, but for some reason, most people make the process way too complicated. I will try to help because it really couldn't be easier.
Identify the Size and Weight Rating of the Camper Shell Lift Struts
You first need to identify what you have. This is probably the most important part of the process; you need to know exactly what you're replacing before you can replace it. Not to worry, it's really quite easy and I will explain.
Most people try to identify part numbers. Don't bother. I repeat, DON'T bother looking at SUSPA numbers, etc., they really only confuse matters. You only need to know two things: their size overall, and the amount of weight they are rated to hold.
The size is the length of the prop when it's fully extended. You need to take it off to measure it, and I will explain how to do that. And trust me, that number does not need to be that precise. In other words, if the props holding up your door measure out at 16 and 1/4 inches, or 16 and a half inch, a 16 inch or even a 17 inch prop will probably work just fine.
The other question has to do with the weight rating. Most gas props are rated between 30 to 50 lbs. If your camper door is from a utility shell, meaning it is all metal with no glass, it will be heavier, and require a heavier prop.
So, to recap, the average camper shell, top, topper, has props that are around 40 lbs. You may see a number on the prop that says "40 lbs," or just "45", or "30," or "35": if so, you're good, that's what you need. If after you attach the new props, the door swings up really fast and hard, and is difficult to close, the props are probably too heavy.
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Removing and Replacing the Prop
You will have to remove the props in order to measure them.
Removing a prop is so simple that it can seem like it should be more complicated—it isn't. Simply insert a flat-head screwdriver in the tab at the end of the prop, and pop it out just slightly—you DON'T need to pull that whole tab out—then gently pull on the prop and it should pop right off the end of the ball stud. Be ready for the door to fall down, so try to prop it up with a stick.
Putting on the new props is just as simple—they just pop right onto those ball studs.
Yes, it's that easy, and most shops that sell toppers/campers/shells should have these, in various sizes of course, and many will even install them for you as a courtesy. And if they don't—as you can see, they're really easy to do.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.