The Camper Shell

I traded in my old mid-90’s snugtop camper shell for a brand new snugtop Hi-Liner. I now have no idea why.

my old blue shell on the white Tacoma
The Old Shell

I am extremely disappointed in the fit and finish and lack of attention to detail they took when making it. The installation was of the same low caliber as well. Aluminum drill shavings were left in and on rubber seals and gutter areas. The drilled holes are not cleaned up or out. Edges on cut pieces of aluminum are still raw and sharp as shit. I have since vacuumed out the sharp drill droppings and used my Dremel to smooth the sharp edges away. My head is much happier and less bloody now when I whack it on the open windoor.

vicious, sharp edges left behind
Vicious, sharp edges left behind

There is more than a few areas of glue overspray for the liner and areas where the rug liner has been pushed into a corner so hard that some piece of metal has stuck out through it. I had LED lights put in and it’s like they’ve never done that before and never heard of conduit for a neat install and just crammed the too long wires in a bundle next to each light and then slapped the liner over that which left misshapen areas. UPDATE: The interior LED light work only sporadically now. It seems to depend on the weather and/or if the wind is blowing from the East. Just kidding on that last part but they regularly do not work when I push their individual buttons. Its about a 50/50 proposition.

When you open the little sliding windows on the windoors there is a gaping 1/4 gap between the insect screen and fixed window area which means that “feature” is actually useless for what it’s meant to do. The rear window/door frame is not centered so the gap on one side is noticeably larger than the other. Whoever put on the little oval snugtop decals on the right and left rear of the shell didn’t care enough to put them on straight. It actually leaks exactly where they riveted in the warning to not ride in the shell when the vehicle is running or in motion!

It is merely misting outside
It is merely misting outside

The rear latch mechanism does not actually catch on both sides, you have to push in to get the right side to latch. But, worst of all, during our first test in the wild (a Humboldt county night of “light showers” which was actually more like heavy mist) and it actually channeled water INTO the bed area! Amazingly lame. I had to prop open the rear window about a half-inch so that it would not direct water onto the top of my tailgate and then into the bed where it had already soaked the shit out of the bedding.

rain-soaked bedsheets
Again, it was merely misting outside

I thought they might have improved their design or made some improvements compared to the old snugtop from 1995 but it is, literally, no different from the 20-year-old model I just got rid of.

Through the sheets onto the pad
Through the sheets onto the pad

People on Tacoma World have told me it sounds like I just had a bad install. That is only a small part of the problem. Yes, part of the leakage has to do with the install and I have found several more examples of poor installation practices since then. They ran the wire for the shell’s electrical supply sloppily under the truck and chose to tie wrap it on the high pressure fuel line. Good idea, let’s attach a vibrating/rubbing 12V wire to a 60 psi fuel line. I fixed that when I installed the solenoid and wiring for the dual-battery system. When they spliced into the Tacoma’s brake light assembly for the brake light on the shell, the installer dropped my brake light lens right in front of me, took a look at it, said nothing and screwed it back it. A week later I see the large crack in the lens. (Insert Rage Face Internet meme here).


screw right through an electrical wire
Not detail oriented

When he screwed it back in hastily because he was embarrassed, he didn’t tuck the wire in correctly and put the screw right through it. Oh, and Tacoma brake light lenses have four screws; two short and two long. He reversed them and cracked the internal attachment points in two places.

When I took it back to the install place they didn’t really believe the leaks were as bad as I had said and were hemming and hawing about what they could, should and would do. Then they did the leak test and immediately shut up and got out the forklift to take it off and make some changes.

The big “fix.”

The big fix, a huge bead of silicon pumped into the trough in the snugtop factory seal and then spending 30 minutes wiping all the excess that oozed out and all over the place. They also placed the shell a bit farther forward on the bed rails so now the rear hatch doesn’t close without extra pressure and some awkwardly pushing in at both bottom corners while trying to engage the latching mechanism’s bars.

Since the “fix” the Tacoma has now gone through a proper Humboldt storm. Three days and nights of torrential rain and high winds…and it still leaks. Better than before but still less than I hoped for.

still leaks a little bit
Better but obviously not perfect

So, yes, it’s not just that the people at snugtop obviously didn’t care and slapped it together late on a Friday or hungover on a Monday morning or whatever. Regardless, they were non-detail-oriented and obviously don’t care about quality. And yes, the installers at least didn’t put it on backwards or upside down so I really don’t know what I am all bent out of shape about 😉

So, is it better than no shell at all? Yes.

Is it better than the 25-year old shell? “Better” is relative.

Yes, it has a liner and LED lights (that sometimes work). Yes, the color matches and it doesn’t smell like the back yard where the old one sat for 10 years. Yes, it fits the access cab exactly, not like the old one which was made for a standard cab and left a bit of an asymmetrical gap between the shell and truck rear slider window. Yes, the rack system is new, lockable and not rusty.

Is is $2810 better? Only time will tell but so far, right off the bat…not even close.

I expect I will buy anything but a snugtop next time.

In the meantime, to show my annoyance, I’ve removed all three traces of snugtop branding they slapped on it, crookedly, and refuse to spell their company name with a capital S. So there.

One thought on “The Camper Shell

  1. Steve

    Go with and ARE DCU aluminum, I think you can get up to a 36” height, not all that cheap, but well built. I have one on my 2500 Ram, 8’ with opening side doors, no windows except the back. They can option a ladder rack I think, but you might want to contact them about using the gutter mount Yakima brackets, since they build them to order, they should be able to reinforce the mounting areas for the gutter mounts.
    Good luck, treats for Willow!

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