Windows in a conversion van


I’ve put a check deposit down on a 2004 Chevy Express 1500 conversion van. I want to start VERY minimally in terms of expenses and build, just to get a feel for what I really need/want.

There are a lot of things I like about it, and I’ve had it checked by a mechanic who said he would have no problem taking off across the country in it.

But one of the things I’m concerned about is the windows! The two big ones on the side toward the back don’t open at all, and the other side windows and the back windows only pop out to open, which really doesn’t seem like it would catch a lot of ventilation at all! (I’m thinking about night-time, when I would want doors closed/locked but might need airflow to help cool the van.

And just now, another interesting van has come available, a 1996 GMC Savana but quite a bit lower mileage than the Chevy. I haven’t heard back yet from the owners about maintenance and storage, etc., but its side and back windows ALL SLIDE open and have screens on them. It looks immaculate inside and out (though dated for sure), and possibly too good to be true, but if everything else checks out or is comparable to the Chevy, am I crazy to think that window ventilation might be a deal breaker in a van for vandwellling??

Thanks for any advice!

Ventilation is very important, so with everything equal and things check out with the GMC, I’d go for that. Otherwise you could install a roof vent in the top of the van towards the back to release hot air (hot air rises), and provide a way for cooler air to enter at the other end of the van. Sometimes just having a small 12 volt box fan will be enough as long as you can get some outside air flowing into and through the van.

None of the windows in the rear half of my van open, so I installed two small roof vents at the rear that I leave open any time it’s parked in warm weather. At the other end of the van just behind the driver’s seat I installed a floor register to allow cooler air from beneath the van to enter. Even without the fans running in the roof vents, convection keeps the air moving through the van, making it noticeably cooler than a typical car parked in the sun. Also helps to cover the windows with shades or reflectex.

Thanks, Axel, this is really helpful. Not sure about roof vents because it’s that super thin fiberglass turtle top type of hightop. Is it possible to put roof vents in those?

What do you mean by a floor register?

Not sure that older GMC is going to be available long enough for me to take it to mechanic first thing tomorrow! It’s an hour from me, and she already has people coming to see it today, and I would really have to have a mechanic look it over, because I sure don’t know enough. Personally I think it’s a really good deal, mostly highway miles, only 75,000 miles, current inspection, looks from pix to be super clean inside and out.

Thanks again.


Any opening window in the back is enough. Tilt out is fine. With rain visors, you can crack your front windows, or you can pull air through your vehicles air vents for the heater. Without the engine running, it takes very little time to remove the heat from the heater core. Just make sure it’s set for outside air, and not recirculate.

I went to Walmart and found a clear plastic box with a lid that was slightly larger than one of my rear door windows. I think it was an under the bed box… It’s about 4 inches deep. I cut a hole in the bottom of the box to fit a fan, and a large whole in the lid, leaving the outside ring that attaches to the box. I then took that ring off, placed screen over the box, and used the ring to secure it to the top of the box.

The box makes the fan very efficient, much better than just a fan in the front of a window, and the screen keeps the bugs out. You have the choice of running the fan, or not & just using passive ventilation. It’s a great system and just as effective as expensive roof vents, at a fraction of the price, and without any of the down sides. I actually prefer this system over roof vents.

If you can’t find a box of the right size, you can make your own out of plexiglass, coroplast, or even plain old cardboard.

You can easily create a hinge at the top using duct tape, to allow easy opening/closing of the window, or attach it using suction cups on the window itself. I have two suction cups, one on each side of my window, and twine running across the window side of my box, about 4 inches from the top. This makes it easy to hang or remove, or to change which window I wish to use it on. All of my opening windows are the same size, so the suction cups make changing windows very easy. You can also position the fan for either intake of exhaust. Much more flexibility than roof vents.


"Old school, cheap, simple, reliable, and easily replaceable for the win!" ~ Traveler@Heart

Thanks, Van Dweller! Hey would it be possible for you to share a picture of the fan arrangement you have? I just bought a conversion van with the turtle top, so installing any kind of Maxx Air or Fantastic Fan is going to be tricky.


Unfortunately, I’m such a lousy photographer, I don’t even have a camera… I might be able to dig up the directions, but hopefully a better description will be sufficient…

If you hold your fan up to the window, we are trying to accomplish 2 simple things.

A) We want all the air passing through the window to be forced to go through the fan.
B) We want a screen to keep bugs out.

Doing these two things will make the fan ultra efficient.

In essence you could take a piece of cardboard the size of your window frame, cut a hole in it to fit your fan, and attach it to your window frame, with or without a screen.

I just made mine a little fancier as in my earlier description, but the working principle is identical.

Picture the accordion slider on the house window fan below:


It forces the air through the fan to make it more efficient. That’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish, except in a vehicle.

Hope this helps,


"Old school, cheap, simple, reliable, and easily replaceable for the win!" ~ Traveler@Heart