Hullavator Gas Spring Replacement.

The accompanying PDF describes in detail with photos the approach that I successfully used to replace the gas springs in 4 Thule Hullavators (model 897xt).
I would be pleased to answer any relevant questions.

Don’t have one but good job you did on explaining

Well done! There are a number of examples of clever do-it-yourself thinking that went into that job. Best of all, you weren’t duped into thinking you needed to spend hundreds of dollars on “genuine Thule” replacement struts (I bet there’s nothing remotely “genuine” about them anyway).

Oh, there are always more ways to skin a cat, and I just happened to remember that a few weeks ago I had to put a new wire-rope lifter on my garage door, and I used those aluminum sleeves for the first time. Not having any experience with how they worked (and obviously not wanting to buy a special tool), I just flattened them with a big hammer against an anvil, and then added some extra gripping insurance by hammering a flat-ended punch into a few locations along that line where you elected to indent the sleeve by pressing a nail against it. Hammering alone seemed to do the trick, though, with the sleeve being thoroughly molded to the wire rope after just a few whacks (using the “medium” setting on my accurately calibrated hammer).

I simplified the procedure and replaced the original description with an updated description.

Excellent work, thank you. I’ve downloaded your PDF for future reference.
Nick

How can I get your pdf for hullavator piston replacement?

Tim

Hi Tim.
I posted a pdf complete with pictures along with my post of January 2018.
Please check with the site administrator as to its whereabouts and if it is no longer available I’ll try to find a copy and repost.
Let me know.

Can’t find pdf either.

Hello YakStan,
When I attempted to re-upload I received the following message: “Sorry, the file you are trying to upload is not authorized (authorized extensions: jpg, jpeg, png, gif).”
The PDF is about 1MB - can you send me an email address?

Hello again YakStan,
Try following the link below to another page (archived?) on the Paddling.com Forums site where I posted the details of gas spring replacement in JPG format - scroll down to April 2020.

Here is my story on refurbishing Hullavators…

Hullavator Summary
Drove for 3 hours to purchase two sets of Thule Hullavators for $300. Each set sells retail at $899 and the crossbars (included) sell for around $150 each including the foot mounts for a total value of around $1900.00. I knew there would be issues ahead of time as the current owner indicated they had belonged to a relative and sat unused for a couple of years. Additionally, the key to the locks was missing. I paid for Hullavators and brought them home.
Initial examination revealed the following:
1 Key for locks missing
2 End caps for crossbar feet missing
3 Crossbars were too short by 8 inches
4 Pivot hinge pins were missing
5 All four struts were completely worn out and needed to be replaced
The following actions were taken:

  1. Keys ordered and received ($28.00)
  2. End caps ordered and received ($60.00)
  3. Crossbars cut and extended ($150.00)
  4. Pivot hinge pins ordered and received ($68.00)
  5. Struts ordered, received and installed ($136.00)
    Total expenditures: $442.00
    Total investment: $742.00 (plus a few dollars for hose clamps, etc.)
    By far, the most difficult part of the restoration was the removal and reinstallation of the struts. An online search revealed that Thule did not provide replacement struts, but required you to order the entire new arm assembly for $488 each (needed four). No way! This was the second time Thule provided less than adequate support for their products. I sent them an email a month ago asking if their crossbar “foot” assembly would fit a 2 inch round bar. It took them over two weeks to reply and they said it would not fit and I needed to buy an entire new crossbar support assembly. Upon receiving these crossbars, I discovered the 450 foot assembly clamped onto the 2 inch roll cage just fine!
    The removal of the old struts (pressure fully discharged on all of them) was relatively easy. Unscrew the top piston rod (right had thread) with a pair of pliers, then unscrew the barrel end (also right hand thread) and remove. Note: If there is any pressure left in the piston or if you are not sure, drill a small hose in the barrel end to release any remaining pressure prior to removal
    I contacted Gemini Manufacturing in Canada (they manufacture custom gas cylinders) and spoke with Henk, their Chief Engineer. They have manufactured struts for Hullavators in the past. I ordered four new struts for a total of $136 including shipping. They come with new threaded connectors at both ends. Just tell Henk you need gas cylinders for Hullavators and he will know exactly what you need. They were manufactured and shipping within two weeks.
    Tools and materials required for strut replacement included:
    10 SAE #6 stainless hose clamps
    6 inches of 5/16 inch ID (inside diameter) fuel hose (lawn mower or small engine fuel hose)
    Fine grit sand paper
    One wire coat hanger (8 inches long with ends bent into a “V”) /___________
    Two needle nose vice grips
    Box cutter (for cutting fuel hose into 1 inch segments and splitting the entire length vertically)
    Alcohol (or other cleaning solution) to clean the piston rod to obtain a better grip)
    Once received, I utilized three SAE #6 stainless hose clamps, an 8 inch piece of wire coat hanger, 5/16 ID fuel hose (cut into 1 inch lengths) and some fine grit sandpaper to compress the cylinder and hold it in place while reinstalling. It was a fairly simple process….
  6. Remove the threaded connector from both ends of all struts and clean the pistons of all lubricant. (Note: re-lubricate after installation of new pistons). Put hose clamps around barrel and piston – One hose clamp on the barrel end (with sandpaper used to grip the barrel). Bend each end of the 8 inch coat hanger into a “V” (to capture the hose clamp and prevent slipping when the cylinder is compressed and clamped). Insert one end of the coat hanger under the barrel clamp and tighten. Take a 1 inch piece of fuel hose and cut in open full length. Insert sandpaper into the hose with the sandy side used to grip the piston. Place on the piston at the barrel end. Place the two hose clamps over the fuel hose and end of the coat hanger and hand tighten both hose clamps.
  7. Compress piston into barrel to proper length (just short of reaching the upper piston connector when lower barrel is totally screwed in place – about 6 ½ inches) and tighten hose clamps to hold. Others have used a floor jack and workbench to compress. I found that using the hitch on my boat trailer a convenient way to compress the gas cylinder. No protection was needed for the threads on either the barrel end or the piston end of the strut. Stand the piston upright under the boat trailer hitch and crank the hitch down until the strut is compressed to approximately 6 ½ inches from the barrel/piston connection to the threaded end of the piston. Tighten all hose clamps as tight as you can without stripping the hose clamp threads. Several tries were required to obtain the correct tightness. Crank the trailer hitch up and remove the strut. Monitor for a minute or two to insure it doesn’t slip open. I tried several times with a single hose clamp around the piston and could not get a good grip. Only when I went to the double hose clamp on the piston did it work.
  8. Turn the Hullavator assembly upside down and release the arm assembly. I rested the entire assembly on a wooden stool prior to clamping into the bench vice. Pull the arm assembly into a fully vertical position and clamp one side into a bench vice. This leaves the rest of the assembly resting on the stool and free to move up and down which will expand or retract the distance between the threaded connector and the threads on the piston. Screw lower barrel fully into connector at the release handle (right hand threads).
  9. Position piston threaded end at upper connector and screw ½ way in. Position the piston end of the strut near the threaded connector at the other end. By raising and lowering the main assembly, you can position the connector and piston properly. Screw the piston into the threaded connector about five turns (remember you are unscrewing the barrel end at the same time). Once both threaded ends are secure about half way in, release the bottom hose clamp on the piston (WHILE HOLDING THE MAIN ASSEMBLY FIRMLY IN PLACE – YOU ARE RELEASING 120 POUNDS OF PISTON PRESSURE IN THIS STEP).
  10. While holding the lower assembly down (I sat on it), remove all hose clamps, fuel hose, sand paper and the coat hanger.
  11. Screw bottom barrel and top piston fully in place (simultaneously) using two needle nose vice grips. Clamp one vice grip onto the piston end near the threaded end of the piston. Using the other vice grip, screw the barrel end of the strut fully into the threaded connector. Then clamp the barrel end with the vice grip and screw the piston into its threaded connector at the other end with the other vice grip.
  12. Once this process is completed, slowly release the entire assembly and let it close upward toward the bench vice where the arm assembly is clamped. Release the vice and you are ready to install on the crossbar using the pivot pin!
    Repeat the entire process three more times. (I had two sets of Hullavators)
    Patience and determination are necessary ingredients in the process. It took me over a day to figure out the correct combination of sandpaper, fuel hose and clamping to secure the compressed piston. However, once that was figured out, all four gas struts were installed within two hours.
    CAUTION: The most dangerous part of this entire process is the removal of the clamps, hose and coat hanger while holding down the entire assembly with your body weight. If either the piston or the barrel end somehow come loose from their threaded connectors, the piston will expand within the arm structure and you will have no way to compress it to remove it other than to drill a hole in the barrel and release the gas pressure which will, of course, destroy the strut and you will have to order a replacement. Additionally, your fingers are very much involved in this process. Be careful and be safe!

Welcome, and thanks so much for posting your thorough and detailed instructions!