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Camper Van Vent Fan Guide (Maxxair Install & Wiring)

Installing a camper van roof vent fan is one of the most important things you can do to improve air quality and control the inside temperature. This vent fan guide will discuss the advantages of having a vent fan, where to place it, how to install the fan on the van’s roof, and how to wire the unit to the batteries.

In our step-by-step installation guide, we will include tips, pictures and recommend all the materials you’ll need to finish the project.

Cutting through the roof and installing a vent fan in your camper can initially feel daunting. But if you plan well, go slow, and are methodical, your installation experience will go smoothly.

Just need the schematics? Skip down to our vent fan wiring diagrams.

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First Off, Do You Even Need A Roof Vent Fan?

Putting in a vent fan is near the top of the list when we think about ‘van life essentials.’ We understand that installing a fan is nerve-wracking and reduces your van’s stealth, but a fan is critical if you believe in promoting clean air flow, reducing stuffiness, and keeping your camper cool during the summer months.

Maxxair fan cooling down a camper van and a human's feet
Enjoying the cool breeze from our vent fan.

Installing a fan is especially important when traveling full-time. The reality of long-term van life is that, over time, dust and odors build up in a van. And sitting around inside a hot van with no airflow is a recipe for an unenjoyable van life experience. You should prioritize comfort and livability; interior air quality plays a significant role in loving your van’s inside space.

Where To Install The Vent Fan?

There are two things to consider before finalizing the location of the vent fan.

Bedroom vs. Kitchen

Generally, you’ll have to decide whether to install the fan above the bed or in the kitchen. Having the fan in the bedroom helps cool down the bedroom while you sleep, but a fan in the kitchen helps vent out greasy air and steam while you cook.

(We prefer the fan in the kitchen.)

Some people with longer vans opt to install two vent fans for stronger air circulation, with one fan kept on exhaust mode and the other on intake mode.

Consider Solar Panel Size & Placement

Assuming you will install solar panels, the vent fan will need to share rooftop space with these panels. Before finalizing your fan’s placement, knowing how many solar panels (and their dimensions) you’ll need is a good idea. It can be a headache to install the fan first only to realize later you cannot fit all the panels you want because the fan is in the way.

In the diagram below, you can see that we reserved the back half of our van for the solar panels.

Showing the free available space for solar panels on a camper van roof
Available roof space

Tip: Read our solar panel roof layout guide to help get you started.

Our Recommended Vent Fan: Maxxfan Deluxe

Before installing a camper van vent fan, you’ll need to choose which fan you want to go with. In our experience, the Maxxair deluxe fan is the only one worth getting. That’s because the fan comes with a rain cover that allows you to continue operating the fan even when it’s raining outside. Just make sure you get the Maxxair ‘Deluxe’ version, the only model with this rain hood.

Maxxair | Maxxfan Deluxe

A high-quality vent fan is a top van life essential. It exhausts stale, greasy, & musty air and promotes fresh air flow into the van. The Maxxfan's unique rain cover allows you to continue operating the fan even when it's raining hard outside.

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Learn More: Our Maxxair vent fan review provides a detailed product overview and discusses why we love it for van life.

Admittedly, the Maxxair fan isn’t the cheapest option. If keeping within a tight conversion budget is critical, the following fans are popular alternatives. However, these fans use traditional ‘lid-style’ openings and are not practical when it’s raining.

Maxxair Vent Fan Installation Guide

This section provides a 14-step guide to installing a Maxxair rooftop vent fan on a camper van conversion. We’ll review all the needed materials and provide helpful diagrams and installation tips.

For electrical: Skip to the electrical installation.

Step 1: Get Your Tools & Materials

Before getting to work and installing the fan, you will need several tools and materials to help you through the process. Below is a list of all the materials we used for this project.

Step 2: Make a 14″x14″ Cut Template From Cardboard

To fit a standard vent fan (including the Maxxfan Deluxe) on the camper, a 14″ x 14″ square must be cut out from the vehicle’s metal roof. Since you only, realistically, get one chance to make a perfectly square cutout, we recommend creating a cut template from cardboard.

Perfect squares, with exactly 90-degree angles, are hard to make. That’s why we recommend picking up a framing square. This tool makes creating a square template quick and easy and also comes in very handy for other parts of your van conversion.

Framing Square (16" x 24")

A framing square was one of our most used tools throughout our van conversion. Useful for drawing straight lines, making exact measurements, and creating right angles.

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Step 3: Position the Cardboard Template Under the Roof

With your cardboard template and standing inside your van, locate the exact place you want to install your fan and place your template on the UNDERSIDE of the roof.

Why? You want to finalize the fan location from the underside of the roof (instead of when on top of the roof) to ensure your fan is not intersecting any of the van roof’s interior cross-support ribs. Refer to our picture in Step 5 to see how we placed our cardboard template between the roof’s supporting cross ribs.

With the cardboard template in position, tape it to the underside of the roof to keep it in position.

Step 4: Trace Around the Cardboard Template With a Marker

With the cardboard template still taped to the underside of your van’s roof, use a thick marker to trace around the template. When you remove the cardboard, you should have a perfect 14″ x 14″ outlined square, which should look similar to the diagram below.

Marker line after tracing around cardboard template.
Marker line after tracing around the cardboard template

Step 5: Drill Holes Through the Four Corners of the Outlined Square

With a power drill and a 1/2″ drill bit, drill one hole in each corner of your 14″ x 14″ outlined square. The purpose of the 1/2″ holes is to fit the jigsaw blade through the roof to start cutting.

In the picture below, we left the cardboard template still attached to the underside of the roof while we were drilling, but you can remove the template when you’re ready to start drilling.

Installing Maxxair Vent Fan - Drilling Corners Of Template
Setting the template on the inside roof of our van and drilling at the corners.

Important! Ensure the circumference of each drill hole does not extend outside the square’s perimeter. After drilling the four corner holes, you should have something like the diagram below.

14" x 14" square with four 1/2" holes drilled in each corner of the square.
Drill 1/2″ holes in each corner

Step 6: Use a Marker To Connect the Corner Holes (on the Roof)

When you get on your van’s roof, all you should see are the four holes at each corner of the 14″ x 14″ square you marked out under the roof. You should see something similar to the diagram below.

Four 1/2" holes on the van's roof
Four holes on the van’s roof

Take your marker and the framing square and connect the outside edges of each hole so that you recreate the 14″ x 14″ square. When you’re done, the result should look like the diagram below.

Connecting the corner holes with a marker.
Connecting the corner holes with a marker

Step 7: Place Painter’s Tape on the Outside Edge of the Marker Line

We recommend placing painter’s tape along the outside edge of the marker cut line to keep the saw cut neat. Once complete, your working area should look like the diagram below.

Painter's tape around the edge of the marker cut line.
Painter’s tape around the edge of the marker cut line.

Step 8: Cut Along the Marker Lines With a Jigsaw

With a jigsaw, insert the blade through one of the 1/2″ holes and cut along the marked lines. Go slow as you cut from corner to corner.

Installing a Maxxair Fan - Cutting Out 14x14 Hole
Connecting the 4 drill holes in each corner with our jigsaw

Jig saw tip: Keep the jig saw blade moving at full speed, but advance the jig saw slowly along the cut line to prevent pushback from the saw.

Ensure you use a jigsaw blade specifically made for cutting sheet metal. The assorted blade set we recommend below has several blades designed for sheet metal.

Jigsaw Blade Set

14-piece jig saw blade set for cutting both wood and metal. Essential purchase since most jig saws don't come included with blades.

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Installation Tip: To prevent any tiny metal shavings from falling into your van, tape a plastic bag on the underside of the roof to catch all the metal bits. (Refer to the image in Step 9.)

Step 9: Smooth Out the Sharp Edges With a File

Once the square has been cut out, remove the painter’s tape. The bare metal edges of the square will be sharp and jagged. With a metal file, smooth out any sharp edges that may have formed along the cut line.

Installing Maxxair Vent Fan - Filing The Edges
Filing the edges of the hole cutout

The specific metal file we used is cheap, works well, and was useful for other parts of our van conversion (like our windows installation).

Metal File

Perfect for smoothing rough, abrasive edges. We use this tool to file down the sheet metal edges when installing our vent fan and windows.

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Step 10: Apply Rust-Oleum to the Bare Metal Edge

The exposed sheet metal edge will rust unless the surface is treated. To prevent rust, spray Rust-Oleum into a plastic cup. Then, apply the anti-rust primer to the bare metal edge with a Q-tip.

Rust-Oleum Spray Paint

Spray on bare metal surfaces to prevent rust corrosion. We use Rust-Oleum after cutting through our van's sheet metal frame and for touch-up purposes while we travel.

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Step 11: Add Butyl Tape to the Maxxair Fan Flange

With the square cutout completed, you’re ready to move on to prepping the vent fan for installation. The first step is to ensure that you create a leak-proof seal so that water can’t enter the van when it’s raining.

Start by adding a layer of butyl tape on the underside of the vent fan’s flange. This is the side of the flange that will make contact with the top side of the vehicle’s metal roof. Butyl tape is a putty-like material that will compress when the flange is screwed to the roof and remove any gaps and crevices to create a water-tight seal.

Prevent Water Leaks
Dicor Butyl Sealant Tape

Adds protective sealant barrier against water leaks. Useful for vent fan, solar, and window installations. We've used butyl tape for all our exterior projects and haven't experienced any leaks...yet. Works in conjunction with Dicor's Lap Sealant.

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Don’t skimp on this step: Roof leaks aren’t something you want to deal with later when traveling. Do a good job, and use plenty of butyl tape under the flange to get a solid, water-tight seal.

Step 12: Attach the Maxxair Fan Flange to the Roof With Screws

Fit the vent fan flange into the 14″ x 14″ hole. The butyle tape will adhere to the sheet metal roof. Next, use the provided screws to fix the flange to the roof with a power drill.

Man screwing the vent fan flange to the camper van roof.
Screwing down the vent fan flange to the roof

Good To Know: When putting in the screws, the flange will press down against the roof and begin to squeeze out some of the butyl tape. This is good and indicates that a waterproof seal is being formed.

Step 13: Seal the Edges of the Flange With Dicor Lap Sealant

Person applying silicone sealant around the vent fan flange
Sealing around the vent fan flange

Once the vent fan fan flange is installed with screws, seal around the flange’s edge with sealant to provide a second layer of waterproof protection. Add a generous layer of sealant around the edges to ensure waterproof protection.

Sealant Recommendation: We’ve tried several sealants during our van conversion, and for this job, we highly recommend Dicor’s lap sealant. This product is made specifically for RV roofs and is highly viscous, making it super easy to apply and cover every crevice.

#1 Recommendation
Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant

Whether you are sealing the vent fan, solar brackets, or roof rack, Dicor's lap sealant is the go-to brand for vans and RVs. This viscous sealant is self-leveling, meaning it spreads out evenly to easily cover all gaps and cracks to prevent water from entering. UV resistant.

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Step 14: Attach the Maxxair Fan & Rain Hood

Best Vent Fan For Camper Vans - Finished Maxxfan Installation
Finished Maxxfan Installation On Our Camper Van

Lastly, attach the Maxxair Fan unit & rain hood to the flange with the supplied nuts & bolts. This step was easy 🙂

And hey, you’re done!

Maxxair Fan Installation Video

Need more resources? Check out this helpful video from the manufacturers showing how to install a Maxxair fan in a camper.

MAXXAIR MAXXFAN Deluxe Installation

Vent Fan Wiring Diagram (Connect To The Batteries)

After installing the van vent fan on the roof, you’re ready to wire the fan to the batteries to get the fan running.

Out of the box, the fan will come attached to one red and one black wire. You must extended these wires to the 12V fuse panel. The panel will then be wired to the bus bars, which will be wired to the leisure batteries.

Wiring diagram that connects a Maxxair vent fan to the 12V panel and bus bars.
Camper van vent fan wiring diagram

Above is the summary wiring diagram illustrating how to connect a vent fan to the batteries. We will zoom into each section of this diagram in the subsequent four steps and provided recommended materials to complete each part.

Step 1: Attach Butt Connectors to the MaxxFan Wire Ends

The vent fan’s wires must be attached to the 12V fuse panel. However, the supplied wires are only a few feet long and are not nearly long enough to reach the fuse panel. So you will need to extend the length of the red and black wires. The first step to do this is to attach butt connectors to the red and black wire ends.

Attaching butt connectors to MaxxFan supplied wires.
Attach butt connectors to MaxxFan wires

To do this, you will need butt connectors, a crimping tool, and a heat gun. The heat gun activates the blue heat shrink material and seals around the wire. Below are the three items we recommend to complete this first step.

Step 2: Insert 14 AWG Wire Into the Butt Connectors

Next, insert 14 AWG wire into the other side of the butt connector. Crimp the connector over the wire. Doing this extends the length of the vent fan’s wires to help you reach the 12V fuse panel. Refer to the diagram below.

Extend the MaxxFan wire with 14AWG wire
Extending MaxxFan wires

Wire tip: You will need a lot of 14 AWG wire to connect all your other devices to the 12V fuse panel. So we recommend getting at least 50 feet. But depending on the size of your van and the number of devices, 100 feet might be more appropriate. We recommend the wires from GS Power.

GS Power | 14 AWG Wire

Get this 14AWG wire for all your 12V device connections. We like the tough outer jacket that protects the inner wires from the constant vibrations when driving. These tinned copper wires are 'marine grade' for superior resistance against corrosion.

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Watch our YouTube review: We tear down this wire to reveal why we recommend these rugged 14 AWG duplex wires for all van conversions.

14 AWG Wire Product Review - GS Power

Step 3: Attach 14 AWG Wire to the 12V Fuse Panel

The 14 AWG wires can now be attached to the 12V fuse panel. You must crimp #8 ring connectors on the red and black wire ends to do this. These ring connectors can then attach to the panel.

Wiring Maxxair Fan To 12v Distribution Block
Connecting 14AWG wires to the 12V fuse panel

Below are our recommended fuse panel and #8 ring terminals. This is the same fuse panel (Blue Sea Systems) that we use in our van and it’s been working flawlessly over the past five years.

Need more wiring diagrams like this? Download our free electrical wiring PDF.

Step 4: Wire the 12V Fuse Panel to the Bus Bars

The next step is to wire the 12V fuse panel to the bus bars. To complete this section, we recommend using 4 AWG wires and a 120-amp circuit breaker.

Wiring diagram connecting bus bars to 12V fuse panel
Bus bars to 12V fuse panel

Below are the materials we recommend to connect the fuse panel to the bus bars. The product sizes we’ve selected align with what is recommended by the fuse panel manufacturer (Blue Sea Systems).

How to crimp lugs onto wire ends? For strong connections between the lugs and thick electrical wire, we recommend using this hydraulic crimping tool. It helps you make high-quality, consistent crimps every single time.

Hydraulic Crimping Tool

This is the tool we wish we had for our build. This hydraulic crimper makes high quality, strong copper lug crimps every time (we can't say the same about the cheaper hammer crimper). Works on lugs from 2/0AWG down to 12AWG.

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Below, we provide a step-by-step crimping video tutorial. We discuss all the tools you’ll need to ensure you have a strong crimp every single time.

How To Crimp Lug Terminals Onto Electrical Wire

Step 5: Connect Bus Bars To The Batteries

The last step is to connect the bus bars to the auxiliary batteries. This will complete the circuit to provide power to the van’s vent fan. You can refer to the below wiring diagram to see how to do this.

Wiring diagram for camper vans connecting leisure batteries to bus bars. Includes fuses, battery switch, and battery monitor.
Wiring 12V batteries to bus bars

For more detailed information on this step: Visit our 12V system guide.

How To Clean a Camper Van Vent Fan

When cleaning a Maxxair vent fan, there are four parts of the fan to clean.

A man cleaning the inside of a Maxxair van vent fan
Wiping the inside of our Maxxair vent fan
Maxxair mesh and fan blades resting on the floor of a camper van
Removing mesh and fan blades

Interior Flange & Controls Area

Occasionally, we clean the interior flange area with a wet wipe. This is the easiest part of the fan to clean.

Fan Mesh

The mesh fan needs to be removed to be properly cleaned. To remove the mesh, rotate the four retaining knobs 180° outwards. You may need to jiggle the knobs a bit, but they should eventually rotate around.

We then rinse the mesh in warm water with a light detergent. This method helps loosen all the grease attached to the mesh. We will still use our hands to work in the detergent. We avoid using hard abrasives against the mesh because we’ve heard that the mesh’s exterior coating can be rubbed off, leading to rust.

Fan Blades

If you’ve already removed the Maxxfan’s mesh, you might as well remove and wash the fan’s blades as well. But to remove the blades, you’ll need the proper size Allen wrench. And just like the mesh, we only used warm water with a light detergent. A lot of grease gets stuck on the blades, so it’s essential to be thorough,

Rain Cover

Cleaning the Maxxfan’s rain cover is the most challenging part of the roof fan cleaning process.

To remove the rain cover, you’ll need to get onto the roof of your campervan. Unfortunately, there’s no other way around this. Once you get to the roof, remove the four nuts holding the vent cover to the central fan unit. You can then remove the rain cover and wash the cover with warm, soapy water.

Vent Fan FAQ

Do You Need A Vent Fan For A Van Conversion?

We strongly recommend that all camper van conversions install a ventilation solution to bring in fresh air, wick away condensation, and control interior temperature. The most cost-effective way to promote air circulation in a van is by installing a rooftop ventilation fan.

How Do You Ventilate A Camper Van?

You can ventilate a camper van by opening the windows to allow fresh air to enter. However, the effectiveness of this method is limited without a device that helps to actively pull in outside air. This is why we strongly recommend installing a rooftop ventilation fan to circulate fresh air in a van.

Which Maxxair Vent Fan Is the Best For Van Conversions?

Make sure you get the “Maxxfan Deluxe,” which comes with the all-important rain cover. We recommend the MAXXFAN Deluxe 5100K, which has a 10-speed air intake & exhaust feature and a built-in thermostat. For ultra-convenience, the 7000K model has a remote control for convenient operation.

Do You Need Ventilation When Sleeping In A Camper Van?

Ventilating a camper van while you sleep is essential to bring in fresh oxygen from the outside and exhaust stale air back out. If you plan on running a portable propane heater while you sleep, then venting the van’s interior is critical for your health and safety.

How Can I Cool My Van Without An Air Conditioner?

Cooling a camper van with a rooftop ventilation fan is a cost-effective alternative that does not require much battery power to operate. Combined with opened windows, a vent fan can rapidly cool down a van’s interior temperature by actively bringing in fresh air from the outside.

Conclusion

We hope our camper van vent fan installation guide was informative and helps you install your own vent fan on your camper.

Please comment below if you have any questions regarding the vent fan installation process. Or visit our van conversion guide for more information.

Happy building!

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