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My Alu Cab review

Discussion in 'Tonneau Covers, Caps and Shells' started by Louisd75, May 25, 2020.

  1. May 25, 2020 at 10:47 AM
    #1
    Louisd75

    Louisd75 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    So, I've been debating on a post like this for a while now. I've commented elsewhere and I'll try and consolidate my thoughts and experience into one post. Others are welcome to chime in or ask questions. My goal is not to disparage Alu Cab or their distributors. It's possible to have this ordered and delivered to you, which means that you might be a considerable distance from customer support. That is something to consider and keep in mind, especially if you're expecting the greatest canopy ever. Some of these issues I think might be unique to a 2nd gen and the earlier generation of Alu Cab. Some of these issues are straight up shoddy workmanship.

    TL;DR: The canopy is very sturdy with some nice design features. My experience has been that it took a lot of work to fix the leaks, the paddle latches freeze and dust was only slightly slowed down before getting into the bed. I like the mounting system and the use of tracks for construction. The side doors are spacious and allow great access.

    The story:

    I'll do my best to separate my opinions vs what I've actually experienced :) FWIW, I live in the PNW. There are times of the year where it's cold and wet. I've had my AluCab for a couple of years now, bought it in Sept of 2017.

    I've had issues with my AluCab leaking. So far, I've experienced leaks from the driver side door, front window rubber seal, rear window rubber seal, roof rack tracks and the seam where they bond the roof panel to the frame and from water being directed by the roof rack tracks directly onto the seam of the back hatch. Condensation is also a significant issue.

    I purchased the canopy through Adventure Ready and have nothing negative to say about my experience with Tom. Tom offered to have me bring it by so that they could take a look at the leaks but that would equate to six hours of driving round trip for someone else to apply an $8 tube of RTV. My concern at the time (and the reason I post about the leaks) is because these canopies can be shipped and I'd rather not have it be a surprise to someone. What happens to the end user when their canopy has a problem and they're in San Diego? Shipping on these things isn't exactly free... On that note, Tom also offered to deliver it himself to my house. That didn't work out due to scheduling issues. I guess I'm just trying to clarify that I'm doing my best to differentiate my issues with the canopy from the service I got from Adventure Ready. I've got no complaints about Adventure Ready. On that note, Adventure Ready is no longer an Alu-Cab dealer. The current dealer closest to me is now Mule Outfitters, though close is relative. I'd still be looking at about six hours round trip of driving to visit their location.

    The paddle latches freeze shut. Certain times of year we get humidity in the evening combined with dropping temps that leave a nice layer of frost. Unfortunately, the moisture gets into the latches. Morning comes and you can't open the canopy due to condensation on and within the latches freezing. I've taken to keeping a water/rubbing alcohol mix in a spray bottle that I keep on my front porch in case I need to get into the canopy. I've also had this issue driving in rain up to the mountains to play in the snow.

    You cannot open the paddle latch from the inside. This wasn't the end of the world for me, with a DCSB and a family of 4 I'm not exactly going to be spending the night in the bed. I did spend about half a year for three years living out of my 1st gen XtraCab with a Leer canopy and I could open/latch the twist latches from inside provided they were unlocked.

    The doors can freeze shut. This is a separate issue from the paddle latches. If you get water around the perimeter of the door (especially along the bottom) and it freezes, it's not easy to open it up. You can mitigate this a little by wiping down all of the rubber seals with silicone spray, but that still doesn't stop moisture from building up on the bottom of the door and freezing it shut.

    The front of the canopy is vertical. Previous fiberglass canopies I've had hug the back of the truck cab. The Alu-Cab leaves a wedge shaped gap that collects snow and other crap. It's not really any easier to get into to clean it out vs the extra amount of crap it seems to collect. If you decide to be a lazy bum and not clear the snow out of that gap, you end up with a frozen clump of hard snow that rattles back between the cab and canopy as you drive. It's annoying. A drop down canopy window for ease of cleaning is not an option as it is with many fiberglass and some commercial aluminum toppers. The gap:

    Gap.jpg

    The canopy doesn't sit flush with the edges of the bedrail. Aesthetically, it doesn't look great. Functionally I don't mind it as it allows me to climb onto the canopy very easily (step up onto tire, step up onto bedside, step up onto canopy).

    The gap between the rear hatch and tailgate is massive (note, I've got one of the earlier generations of Alu-Cab mounted on a 2nd gen, I don't know if this is an issue with 3rd gens and newer canopies). I can almost fit my entire hand through it. Needless to say, this lets in a lot of dust. I've played around with various rubber seals and have finally come to the conclusion that I'll just need to rivet a piece of aluminum angle to extend the sealing surface down so that it's actually close to the tailgate.

    I've had another issue with water being channeled by the roof rack tracks when the truck is parked on hills. The water has been running to the roof rack track which then directs it aft. It runs down the back of the truck right at the gap between the canopy and back hatch. In my case, it was somehow collecting in the trough inside and at the bottom of the hatch. The result was that when you opened the canopy you received a drenching that would also get anything near the tailgate wet. The water is somehow working around the seals in the area. I've tried several times to seal the joints better, but I think I'm at the point to where there's not much else I can do. I wound up installing some aluminum rain gutter trim that was leftover from my teardrop trailer build. It catches and redirects water running off my roof so that it goes outboard of the tailgate. You can see the aluminum trim in these pictures:

    Drip Rails Reduced (1).jpg

    Drip Rails Reduced (3).jpg


    I do really like the design of the canopy inside. The tracks on the ceiling are handy. I've got a shovel mounted up there with QuickFists on one side and a homemade canoe paddle bag on the other side. I've got plans for another paddle bag and a couple more QuickFists. There are perimeter tracks that are used for attaching the canopy to the bed, but as they are tracks they can also be used for tying stuff down. They sit a few inches higher than the factory Tacoma tracks.

    I do like that the paddle latches are easily adjustable from the inside to increase or decrease the latching force. I don't know how big of a deal this is in reality. I never had an issue adjusting the latches on my Leer windoors (just bend the tab), but I did have issues with the windoor tab strike pad moving out of the way. The Alu-Cab latch won't have this issue.

    The AluCab is made of rectangular tubing. This made it easy to route wires using wire clamps. You can drill through one side of the rectangular tubing and either rivnut or rivet without too much worry about strength or going through the other side.

    The wiring for the AluCab third brake and interior cargo light is glued to the canopy and they run right where you'd grab if you were trying to climb up onto the tailgate to get into the bed. I've ripped the brake wire off. It's still connected and works, it just hangs down now. It's on my list of things to fix.

    The AluCab door hinges are plastic. This hasn't been an issue for me yet, but it's something that I keep an eye on. It is a security concern though... Anyone with a box cutter and a couple minutes could easily score through the hinge and then open the canopy side doors by pivoting them downwards. This leads to another aspect of the doors...they're solid and opaque. Anything in the back is difficult to see. The downside to that is that it's also a little more work checking your right side before changing lanes. My hinges are a few years old now and see regular use. I haven't seen any signs of failure yet, but they're plastic and exposed to sunlight. I'm already thinking about what I'll do if/when they fail.

    The black canopy gets really hot in the summertime. At the time I bought mine gray canopies were a special order item. I'm probably going to wind up painting the roof white or silver (Rustoleum Aluminum is decently close to the '15 silver sky whatever)

    I'm still working on slowing down/stopping the dust intrusion. Currently I'm toying around with a positive pressure system, similar to what's available on the RLD canopy. I also need to finish redoing the lower seal on the back hatch so that it's more than decorative.

    You can probably tell that I've given some of this some though, but that in no way means that I'm 100% right. I also realize that I could have gotten a canopy built on a Friday afternoon which could explain the issues I've had. I've got a pretty good handle on which issues are design problems vs manufacturing problems with my canopy. In the end, would I buy the AluCab again? I'm not really sure. I've got it and it works for me, though it's not ideal. Problem is that, IMO, the perfect product isn't on the market. You just have to find the product that ticks the most boxes and compromise on the rest
     
    Fast1, Peace1, Thunder Fist and 4 others like this.
  2. May 25, 2020 at 12:19 PM
    #2
    Kyle831

    Kyle831 Well-Known Member

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    Awesome details in this review, thank you for writing this all up!
     
    Peace1 likes this.
  3. May 25, 2020 at 2:30 PM
    #3
    doublethebass

    doublethebass aspiring well-known member

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    Great honest review. I totally agree that there’s no perfect option. I‘m all over the map between hard tops and soft tops, and leaning softopper. This has been super helpful
    :cheers:
     
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  4. May 25, 2020 at 7:26 PM
    #4
    nvnv

    nvnv Well-Known Member

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    I have had an Alu Cab canopy on my 3rd gen for a little over a year now and have had a lot of the same issues as you, although I think they would be issues with other brand canopies not just Alu Cabs. To me they are minor and over I love mine and would buy another one.

    I have not had an issue with leaks. I see one extremely small leak from a rivet and another one where the wire for the third brake light goes in. Both solved with silicone. The other leaks are due to the bed of the Tacoma and not the canopy.

    The fit of the 2nd gen canopies sucks. They fixed with the fit of the 3rd gen canopies a couple years ago and mine follows the bed sides perfectly.

    I have the same issues with the latches freezing shut. I’ve found I can usually pry them open easily with the tip of my knife. I’m looking at maybe adding some kind of pull tab that I can use to pull them open. I’ve also found dust and dirt makes them hard to open. One thing I’ve found really helps is keeping them lubricated with Tri Glide. I rarely have issues if I keep up on that.

    The vertical front and back doesn’t bother me and I like the more commercial look.

    Now for my final point. THE DUST. This is more an issue with the Tacoma beds and not the shell but holy shit the back gets dusty and there’s no amount of weatherstripping that will solve it. Last month I finally broke down and cut a big ass hole in the top to add a positive pressure vent like the RLD canopies have. I get ZERO dust in the back now and it stays way cooler. Yeah it sucks cutting into the $3k shell but it was so worth it.

    I used a vent like this from eBay that opens both ways. https://www.ebay.com/itm/113371371546

    Overall I still really like it and would buy it again. I don’t think there’s really anything else out there that offers the low weight strength and utility. 4785B39D-D16B-4CAA-B88C-F44ACB64637C.jpg047455D0-0B49-4156-B5B8-3467FC5AE980.jpgEF8ECB50-AB7D-4636-86F3-FA68708D0DF6.jpgB1C34829-E470-407F-8BB9-C3E7596A6221.jpg30B8F925-D335-4ED1-90D9-C873E99C98AC.jpg
     
  5. May 25, 2020 at 9:26 PM
    #5
    Louisd75

    Louisd75 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the lead on the vent. I've been wanting to add a positive pressure system for a while but so far all I've been able to find are big honkin horse trailer vents that stick up really high when closed. I should have enough room to fit a vent like that between the solar panel and roof rack track:

    Truck Panel.jpg

    The Renogy 160w flexible panel juuuuuuuust barely fits lengthwise on the DCSB canopy.
     
  6. May 25, 2020 at 10:34 PM
    #6
    nvnv

    nvnv Well-Known Member

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    Yeah it took me a while to find the right vent that would fit under my tent. This one is nice because it can open either way and it has like 5 open positions in each direction. Also it seems to be watertight when closed. I’ve power washed it a couple times now and it hasn’t leaked.

    I’m really surprised Alu Cab hasn’t at least added it as an option on the canopies. It’s amazing to pull up to camp and not have all my stuff covered in dust.
     
  7. May 26, 2020 at 10:14 AM
    #7
    dman100

    dman100 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys for the balanced comments. I think the AluCab is one of the better design concepts and the one or two I’ve seen seem to have good workmanship, but these details are critical. Honestly, I’m surprised that Toyota doesn’t offer a factory (designed and made) shell with effective sealing, integrated remote locking, etc. It’s as if there’s an agreement between the auto manufacturers and the “stuck in the seventies” shell manufacturers to let the independents keep the business, and most of the US brands are junk, except maybe Access/Tradesman and even they lack tooling, automation etc. I’m always thinking about getting another shell (used to have an ARE, not bad but not good) but have found the convenience and versatility of my soft tonneau has worked for me for a couple of years.
     
    Peace1 likes this.
  8. May 26, 2020 at 10:31 AM
    #8
    TRD Ted

    TRD Ted Well-Known Member

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    I’ve been waiting for a post like this. I had one for two months and ended up selling it. I had a lot of the same issues. The last straw was the latches freezing shut. I spent 20 minutes one morning trying to get one of the doors open so I could grab a snow brush. They are plastic so you need to take it easy prying at them. For some reason the moisture collects in them and if it’s freezing out it’s impossible to get open. I also found the keys were very small and hard to get in with one hand. I also wasn’t too impressed with the construction for $3k but it was my first cap ever so that’s comparing it to nothing. It would probably be a great cap in the type of environment it was designed in and mostly used which is Africa. If you don’t mind the utilitarian look I think contractor caps appear to be more robust and user friendly.
     
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  9. May 26, 2020 at 1:08 PM
    #9
    Louisd75

    Louisd75 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    The latches are a head scratcher for me. The kicker is that they're not unique to Alu-Cab. RLD and GFC uses the same style of latch. I pointed out the freezing problems and inability to open from the inside to GFC early on when they first started showing their campers. They said they were working on a different design but it looks like they're still using the same on. I gotta admit, they're a great looking latch and I'm sure they're less likely to snag on brush. In all the years of traveling in my 1st gen with the Leer windoors I never had an issue with the T-handle style of latch. Plus you could open them from the inside (provided that you unlocked the key part first)

    There's another issue regarding the keys as well. I haven't been able to find a locksmith to make duplicates. This isn't an issue... yet, and TBH I haven't made it a point to go out and track down someone who can make it, but the two local key makers that I use haven't been able to make spares. My Leer came with two keys per lock, multiply that by six locks and I've got twelve spare keys. The Alu Cab comes with two keys.

    At this point I'm sticking with the canopy. I've been able to address many of the workmanship issues. I think if I were doing this all over again that I would learn how to TIG and build my own. It probably wouldn't be cheaper but I would have nobody to be frustrated with but myself.
     
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  10. May 26, 2020 at 1:26 PM
    #10
    TRD Ted

    TRD Ted Well-Known Member

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    I think the purpose of those type of latches is so they don’t get caught on anything while off road. Mine came with like 6 keys so I’d speak to your dealer about that. I didn’t have any leaks though. A lot of water comes in under the bed rail. There is also small gaps in the front of the bed that I filled with putty.
     
  11. May 26, 2020 at 1:40 PM
    #11
    Louisd75

    Louisd75 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    I get why they went to that style of latch, I'm just wondering if it's necessary. I haven't had an issue with the T-handle's that stick out on my Leer windoors and that truck and canopy is pinstriped all to hell. :notsure: Personally my experience is that I have had a lot less issues in thirteen years with the T-handles than I have with three years of the flush mount latches.
     
  12. Mar 12, 2021 at 4:44 AM
    #12
    vorkuta775

    vorkuta775 Well-Known Member

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    I was also concerned with the 1/4 gaps on the front end of the bed on both sides. Before installing the alu-cab on my 3td gen I read about other brands like rsi/rdl using butyl tape. I went to home depot and got a roll is was very inexpensive as well as a roll of black gorilla tape. I just went out on a sunny day this week and did my best to seal the gap. When I was done I used a few small strips of gorilla tape to make it clean and flush. Alu-cab went on top and it for great, the major noticable gap is at the bottom of the tailgate on the inside. There is a 1/4 gap left. The next step is to seal it with a thick door rubber sealant and using a little gorilla tape, I remember seeing this method used for someone with their RSi cap. So the hole issues are on the 3rd gen as well. Overall it's a minor issue that can easily be mitigated no matter which brand you end up with alu-cab,rsi,rld

    IMG_20210308_162630_01.jpg
    IMG_20210308_163111_01.jpg
     
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  13. Mar 30, 2021 at 8:44 PM
    #13
    moderman

    moderman Well-Known Member

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    What’s the height from bed to ceiling in alu-cab?
     
  14. Mar 30, 2021 at 8:47 PM
    #14
    vorkuta775

    vorkuta775 Well-Known Member

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    https://youtu.be/3l0OlCWcyO4

    Idk it's flush with my roof rack .
    Here's a video for reference
     
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  15. Mar 30, 2021 at 8:51 PM
    #15
    moderman

    moderman Well-Known Member

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    I mean inside from floor to roof of shell.. is it like a cab night fiber glass shell or mid height?
     
  16. Mar 30, 2021 at 8:52 PM
    #16
    vorkuta775

    vorkuta775 Well-Known Member

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    Idk man. It's enough room to do anything and everything. Mounting options are endless . What are you curious about ?
     
  17. Mar 30, 2021 at 8:54 PM
    #17
    moderman

    moderman Well-Known Member

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    Inside height for bed/drawer build.. just wonder if it’s comparable to something like ARE MX night, which from what I gather is 42”
     

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