Picture this, you wake up to a light breeze coming in through your window right next to your bed. It smells of brisk mountain air and it’s the perfect temperature to wake up to. In the far-off distance, you can hear a stream babbling and life feels perfect. Having campervan windows can be quite an upgrade when living on the road. They provide a cross breeze, open up your space, and bring in light. The trick is most vans do not come stock with back windows. So is installing van windows an option for you?
After our Sprinter van, we realized we really wanted windows in our next camper van. During our third van build, we bought Motion Van windows and since we were on a budget, we decided to install them ourselves. Although it was really scary to do at first, we researched a ton and learned how to install them ourselves and ended up with two fantastic back campervan windows!
If you are interested in installing van conversion windows, then utilize this post to help you during the process. We take you from the kinds of conversion van windows available all the way to installation.
Originally posted on 09/15/20 and Updated on 03/25/22
Table of Contents
Installing Van Windows
Although you could likely use these instructions for installing campervan windows in a Sprinter, Ram Promaster, or another van, this is how we specifically installed our Ford Transit van. Before beginning make sure and get an idea of where you want your windows to be placed. Check on the inside and the outside of the van.
Step 1: Make a Template
The first thing you want to do when installing van windows is to make a template to trace where you will be cutting your van. Using the cardboard box your windows came in, trace the outside of your window frame, and then cut to fit.
Step 2: Print off Radius template
With your template, you can make sure that you have the proper dimensions but you want to make sure your corners are exact as possible before you Install van conversion windows. To do this, print off the template provided by Motion Windows here. When you print it off, make sure and measure it to determine that the print size matches the diameter of the template. If you don’t “print to size” then the template will not be the proper size, as it should be 5.5 inches from arrow to arrow.
After printing cut the radius template out and match it to your window corners. The template is made for two different window corner sizes and you want to make sure you are using the correct one.
Step 3: Draw Template on Inside of Van
Pro Tip: When deciding where you want to place your windows, take into account that the window will need to slide up into the ridges of the van. Close to the top and sides of the van, it will be more difficult to move them up, as there are foam and glue. So if you are placing windows close to the cutout of the van, give yourself a few inches from the top and side.
Once you have decided where you want your windows, use the template to trace an outline on the inside of the van. Ensure that your window template is level by measuring each side to make sure it’s the same. Another method is to ensure your window is even and level is to use a leveling tool. If you use a level you will want to check the level of the van above and below the window as your van may not actually be perfectly level. So if your level runs to the right then so should your window, or if it runs to the left then your window template should as well. Next, using the radius template, trace your corners.
Step 4: Cut the Ridges on the inside of the van
On the Transit vans, there are ridges or pillars that are on the sides of the van where you would typically place your windows. To make the cut smoother and easier, we used an angle grinder with a fine cutoff wheel to cut the ridges out before doing the big cut with the jigsaw. Sparks will likely go everywhere, so make sure that you are dressed in clothing that covers your arms and legs so you don’t get burned, unlike Shawn above who got a few pieces of hot metal on his arm and between his toes. Seriously though don’t wear a t-shirt or sandals.
Step 5: Drill Radius Holes
Once the ridges have been cut, on the corners of the template where you traced out the radius template, drill three pilot holes on each corner. The idea is that on the outside of the van, you will now have a starting point so you know exactly where to install your van conversion windows. We placed our holes closer to the interior of the window so it would not be too big of a hole.
On the corners of the template where you traced out a radius template, drill three pilot holes.
Step 6: Draw Template on Outside of Van
Now that you have pilot holes as a guide, place your template on the van and trace. Again we used the radius template on the corners for a more perfect corner.
Step 7: Tape Around Template lines
Now that you have traced your template, put masking tape around the window template. We used painter’s tape and put about three layers wide of tape around the window tracing. The tape will prevent the jigsaw from scratching the van. If you don’t want scratches on your van, DON’T SKIP THIS STEP.
Step 8: Drill Pilot Hole
Using a drill bit a little larger than your jigsaw blade, drill inside of your template line. We chose to put the hole a little further away from the template so it would give us room to get used to sawing into metal. The portion inside the template doesn’t matter so much since it isn’t near the edge where your window will sit.
Step 9: Use Jig Saw to cut the window hole
Using your jigsaw and a blade meant for metal, Motion Window suggests a metal blade with a minimum of 24 teeth per inch, cut on the template line you made on the outside of the van. Don’t be afraid to take your time and be easy, cutting a hole into your van can be intimidating and there is no rush.
As you cut a few inches run a piece of tape across the cut to keep the metal from wiggling around this will help keep the cutout stable while you finish the cut. After you have cut out the window, using the beauty bracket or window, check to make sure the window fits in the hole you just cut. If not remeasure and adjust as necessary.
Just like when cutting a hole for your vanlife fan, this can be a really scary part! Just remember to double measure and take your time!
Step 10: File down the window
Using a metal file, thoroughly file down the edges of the window to get rid of any rough edges and remaining metal debris. This is important to prevent rust and allow for a proper seal between the window and your van.
Step 11: Paint Edges with Rustoleum
To prevent rust, use rust-prohibitive paint around the raw edges of the window that you just cut. We used leftover Rustoleum from our flooring. We personally used a q-tip and sprayed the paint in the Rustomleum cap, away from the van. If you decide to use spray paint directly on the edges, make sure and cover parts of the van that might get off-spray from the paint.
Once dry, clean the sides of the window with Windex.
Step 12: Put foam on the window frame
If you purchased your windows from Motion Windows, then they would have prompted you to add the foam to the cart. Using this foam place it on the edges of the window frame. This will be your barrier between the window frame and the outside of the van. After placing the foam, spray with Windex. This will give a little bit more time to get your window placed inside your van evenly before sticking.
Step 13: Insert Window
This is the part that takes an extra hand. Once the window is in place, measure, and use a level to make sure your windows are placed properly.
Step 14: Measure for accuracy and screw in beauty bracket
After you have double and triple-checked your measurements for accuracy, place the beauty bracket (also known as a trim ring) on the interior of the van window and screw it into place. It is important to screw these in slowly one by one. You do not want to over-tighten or screw them in too quickly as this can warp your metal.
There you have it! You have completed your van window installation! Was it as scary as you thought it would be? Do you already have campervan windows? Was it worth it?
The Best Van Conversion Windows
There are several different van conversion window brands available. They all have different types of windows and different makes of vans. The three main brands that we would order campervan windows from are CR Laurence, Motion Windows, and Van Windows Direct. Note that installing van windows does not come complimentary from the manufacturer.
Motion Windows (Our Choice)
Motion Windows is a high-quality window company based out of Vancouver Washington. Our friends Heartwood Custom Vans and So We Bought a Van actually referred them to us. They typically run a bit higher than other window companies but the reviews I have read and heard, all say the windows feel much more durable and substantial. These are our recommendations for anyone looking for windows in their van.
Although most of their inventory is for Sprinters, Transits, Promaster, and Ford Cargo vans, they also offer custom-made windows.
CR Laurence is a popular van window manufacturer in the van life community. Many people I know have purchased from CR Laurence and are happy with their purchases. They offer products for Sprinters, Ford Transits, Dodge Conversion Vans, Promaster, Nissan Van, Ford van, and universal windows.
The benefit to CR Laurence is that they do offer many types of windows for an array of vans. If you have a Dodge, GMC, or Ford conversion van then CR Laurence might be an easy choice for you.
Van Windows Direct
Based out of California Van Windows Direct is another choice for van conversion windows. They offer windows for Sprinters, Ford Transit, Promaster, and also have universal window options.
Types of Campervan Windows
There are many types of windows that you can put into your conversion van. From sliding door windows to windows in the rear of your van, you have a few options to begin picking from. Each window type is not available in all vans. Make sure when purchasing that you are purchasing the campervan window that will fit your van make and model.
There are many different types of windows and I may have missed a type or two as there as many different vans with replacement windows available! Below are the best windows for van conversion.
- Bunk Half Slider
- Bunk Windows
- Front Quarter Panel T-Slider
- Side Door T-Slider
- Classic Window – Low Roof Ford
- Crank Out – Low Roof Ford
- Port Hole
- Vertical Slider
- Custom Windows
Why You Should Get Campervan Windows
Conversion van windows are a fairly decent cost to add to your van build and they can be scary to install. With all these things to do, why should you add one more thing to your plate when it isn’t necessary?
Chances are in time on the road, you will be chasing summer. Van life in hot weather is absolutely incredible as you spend all day outside swimming, riding bikes, hiking, and enjoying the sun. It’s also REALLY hot even with great insulation. Our first van – a sprinter DIY van was well insulated but it still got pretty stuffy during the summer months.
Once we had the chance to build out our Ford Transit we knew that back-side windows were in our future. Here are a few of the reasons I recommend installing van windows for your current or next campervan build!
- Ventilation – In a space this small it’s important to have proper ventilation. Even if you have a campervan fan, windows increase ventilation – meaning a less stuffy, less smell van.
- Quality Sleep – I love being cold when I sleep. When you add windows to your van you will have the cool night breeze over you lulling you to sleep.
- A beautiful View – Honestly it’s so nice to be able to see outside of your van. Chances are you are somewhere gorgeous and being able to wake up to that view adds to the magic of vanlife!
- Brightness Your Van – Even with the best campervan lighting, a van can feel closed in or dark. Windows open everything up and make it feel light and spacious!