Hi Drama Lo Quality Roof - Sinking In The Surf

Discussion in 'Review A Business' started by seewhy, 2 Nov 2019.

  1. seewhy

    seewhy New Member

    I thought it might be helpful to others planning their winter projects for me to share our recent experiences with HILO Roofs and their Surf Roof product. For the record, this doesn’t directly relate to the product recall, although we did have to drive around with that bra strap on the roof for nearly 3 months waiting for them not to solve our problems because they were so busy dealing with retrofits.

    We ordered the Surf Roof in December 2018 after lots of research and it was fitted under supervision of HILO personnel at their factory in Preston. The fitter is more local to me (north east Scotland) and he agreed to undertake the training with HILO and my roof was his hands-on training session to allow him to become a qualified fitter. It is important to note that the work done by this fitter was, in my opinion, of a high standard, but following this debacle, he removed himself from the list of qualified fitters and will no longer touch my van – he fitted the roof, a wonderful Titan bed and an external gas tank, the rest of the conversion has been done by others. I’ve got a beauty of a van, with quality detail, but unfortunately the roof has failed, making it essentially not fit for purpose as a camper.

    We experienced significant leaks in the canvas at the beginning of June on the first outing for the van (through the fabric itself, the seams and the bathtub seal failing) – water pouring through the headlining, and our stuff getting wet. After an inordinate number of phone calls, emails and providing video evidence showing the scale of the problem, we got agreement from Mr Pendlebury that the fitter could make a temporary repair using a waterproofing solution and reworking the seal, on the condition that HILO would replace the canvas at a later date as it was demonstrably faulty. Although this dealt with the worst of the leaks it did not fix the problem entirely and subsequently we noticed that the condensation build up was excessive: to the point where we needed to use our window vac to wipe down the canvas before closing the roof to avoid all our stuff getting wet.

    It took until the last week of September for them to pick up the van for the agreed replacement of the canvas along with doing the modifications for the product recall. There were endless phone calls and chains of emails to get to this point, but HILO would not confirm whether the replacement canvas had been fabricated. Prior to the van being taken I had a number of conversations with the production engineer who assured me that they would be able to fix everything to my satisfaction. It was going to be a 700 mile round-trip for a van now with 5k on the clock, so I didn’t agree to this lightly.

    The details are tedious, but the end result was that, after they had taken my van from Aberdeen to Preston, they refused to replace the canvas and returned the van with ‘adjustments’ to the existing canvas and some very dodgy refinishing of my interior. This work left one of the previous holes in the canvas and it continues to leak through the seams at the windows. But apparently it’s our fault:

    “The hole in the canvas is likely to have been caused by your actions which are a direct cause of you ordering a roof without a roof bed which is part of the HiLo Surf roof system. You also seem to be having an issue with the windows in your canvas which were made to your specification. Because of these facts we will not be replacing your canvas at a cost to us.”

    (email correspondence from the production engineer, Mr Jake Dunn)

    We were also told that we should expect condensation build up because we live in Scotland. This is a roof that was advertised as being “breathable” and HILO now claims that with a Surf roof you must lower the roof bed before sleeping downstairs otherwise you should expect condensation. That is nonsensical (and not in any of their literature) – heaven knows what might happen is someone dared to sleep ‘upstairs’? I wonder what damage this roof would have caused if we had a roof bed – anything coming into contact with the canvas would be saturated. We have always operated the roof in accordance with the instructions and demonstrations we were given by our fitter at handover.

    In case anyone thinks we’ve got unreasonable expectations, this is our third VW and we’ve literally spent years camping in the previous two throughout Europe, from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean, so we know our stuff. We fitted a Reimo roof (also with no roof bed) to our T5 and we spent over 400 nights in it over an 11 year period, in all seasons – no leaks, no serious condensation issues, ‘even’ in Scotland - I did of course catch the canvas in the 'scissors', so for years I have been paranoid about dropping a roof carefully, and though the rear hinge of the Surf was an advantage!

    Ten months after buying a brand new T6 base vehicle, we have spent almost £45k (so far) on a bespoke camper van that can’t be used in the rain! So, on the basis of our experiences anyone needs to consider very carefully whether this is a reputable company, and if they are selling products worth putting on a vehicle that will be used in the UK – we know others have had significant problems, many of which are documented on this forum. It is perhaps indicative of the situation that, according to the production engineer, Mr Pendlebury changed his mobile phone number due to the volume of complaints he was getting – it explains why I couldn’t get through to him after August.

    Our experience shows that they have sold us a product that is poorly designed for use in the UK (of insufficient quality and not fit for purpose) and we have been subjected to a shocking level of customer service – they also still owe us the agreed costs for putting 800 miles on our van (there are many facets to this!). Unfortunately in our case we are going to have to seek recompense through the courts as HILO has refused to adequately repair or replace the faulty product, and will not agree to mediation or arbitration – we have been left with no alternative. You can probably imagine the stress this has caused – we also had to cancel our planned camper van holiday this year thanks to this bunch of charlatans, the first time since 2004.

    I think the phrase “buyer beware” is an understatement. Pictures and videos are available, including the frankly shoddy refinishing by HILO (I use that word carefully).
  2. seewhy

    seewhy New Member

    Just to clarify the issue with the roof windows...

    The Surf roof usually comes with clear plastic windows and the canvas. We asked for midge nets instead of the plastic in the side windows, so that we could add ventilation when the roof was up (to keep the dog cool) - it was also the reason why we went for silver canvas rather than the standard black, as we didn't want to create a dog oven. We paid extra for these items, and we found a source of midge net material for HILO, which apparently they now use as standard instead of mosquito netting. Again, important to us being in Scotland.

    HILO have disowned the leak because we wanted more ventilation, which is somewhat ironic in the circumstances.

    So there was lots of thought went into this, not just a 'random punt'. We did two previous conversions ourselves, so we have a pretty good idea of what's involved.
  3. Farnorthsurfer

    Farnorthsurfer Senior Member VIP Member T6 Pro

    Appreciate the time taken to post your review and experience as it really helps to get a feel for the products, especially when it’s such a high cost. You must be gutted, I know I would be.
    I have only just put my deposit down on a rising roof and the information on the forum has been invaluable in making our minds up.
    Although I was keen on HiLo and Skyline at various times since we bought the van, after having a good look at the NEC show the other week we have opted for a well known independent roof from North Berwick.
    I shall note my experiences in January when the job is done.
  4. t0mb0

    t0mb0 Senior Member VIP Member T6 Guru

    Plenty of other HiLo horror stories on the forum, it sounds like an absolute nightmare.
  5. czmate1999

    czmate1999 Senior Member VIP Member T6 Guru

    @DaveyB has another such story. Class action anyone...?
  6. Dean and toni

    Dean and toni Member

    Below I’ve copied my post from August just in case you didn’t see.....thank god I never had one fitted...

    August post...

    Bad reputation is an understatement !!!

    The story so far....first week in feb they asked for a payment of £2500 upfront befor they would even entertain giving me a fitting date. I knew at the time good companies don’t do this but I did like the surf roof and was stupid enough to part with the money.

    Fitting date was early may.... along time away but again I was willing to wait. Fast forward to may 1st and I get an email saying they can’t do it next week and it will August maybe September due to manufacturing problems !

    This is now a problem because the roof was first then dates for everything else is booked lining, bed, floor, upholstery, electrics ,etc.

    To make it a complete disaster we had a ferry booked for a wedding in jersey on aug 2nd followed by two weeks touring in France and Belgium.

    As everybody will tell you trying to get hold of anybody at Hilo is impossible to say the least. The independent fitter eventually explained our predicament and they gave me a bit of hope and said they should be able to fit befor the wedding and holiday.

    Roll on mid June and the next email basically tells me that they are not manufacturing any more surf roofs and they will not be fitting any type of roof to my van. I was pissed of to say the least and decided to find Hilo which I did. Firstly I meet a lad who used to work there in another unit around the corner. All he could do was laugh and explain to me that its a regular occurrence unhappy people looking for the owners of the company.

    When he pointed me to the correct unit I marched in telling them exactly what I thought of them and demanded to see the owners. Lee was apparently the only senior person there so he managed to drag me into the container and give me 15 minutes of bull and tell me he would phone me the next day to sort out.

    Have a guess he didn’t phone me !!

    I have eventually got my money back thank god and consider myself lucky I didn’t have the surf fitted. I think there will be more to the surf story to follow...

    As for vandoc I did get a quote from dean but they would not tell me that the scenic roof was free but I knew it was still free as I was at the Telford show the day before....it’s called being economical with the truth...

    I did eventually get my new roof last week but from skyline the new aurora roof. No daft deposits and everybody told the truth and I must say the roof looks great.

    I bored of typing now....sorry.
    DaveyB likes this.
  7. Vanman

    Vanman Member T6 Pro

    When doing our build spec ,we started with Hilo but changed to vamoos , given our chosen build partner was their agent . More than happy with the vamoos roof especially now it’s been upgraded to electric . We didn’t get the van until end September so will not get much chance to use in anger until next year. But at least the first and only trip went well.reading some of the threads I’m happy I didn’t go with Hilo
  8. Littleblackflash

    Littleblackflash Senior Member VIP Member T6 Guru

    I wish I could buy the company. Clearly they have a product in demand but are missing any engineering qualifications which is causing so many customer complaints.
    andys likes this.
  9. Farnorthsurfer

    Farnorthsurfer Senior Member VIP Member T6 Pro

    Agreed but I am not sure the innovation is backed up by good economics on the construction.
    It’s really difficult to invest in the sort of production facilities needed to do this properly.
    Maybe it could be done more efficiently but the techniques look much more suited to low volume production and developing a second product line when you still have customers queuing for the original might not have been the best decision. Credit where it’s due just getting it to market in the first place deserves some serious kudos. Shame it’s seems to have gone wrong.
  10. seewhy

    seewhy New Member

    Thanks folks for these responses so far. I have seen a few posts with similar experience of customer service that seem to all revolve around the same time period - I think that's called an 'emerging pattern'! It will certainly help my court case to be able to demonstrate that they have treated a number of customers appallingly.

    I'm particularly annoyed to get to this point as I did a hell of a lot of research before agreeing to purchase the roof, and at the time of ordering I didn't find a single negative story about HILO. I talked at length to the folk in Preston and they seemed to be on the ball. They were very happy to accommodate my specific needs (which they've now used against me) and made it feel like getting the right spec was important to them - answering technical questions and finding the right person to speak to.

    I did have the same experience as Dean and toni regarding payment process and fitting date, but unfortunately (!) had enough slack time to be able to reschedule (the van just sat at the dealer for an extra 6 weeks winding down its warranty). At that point I thought it was just about acceptable to ask for payment in advance as they had such a good reputation...

    Not sure about the idea of credit where its due - bringing something to market that is not fully developed doesn't deserve kudos in my mind unless they are prepared to 'own' the development when things go wrong. They are clearly walking away from folk and that's just not good enough (and it's a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015). Their response has been: blame the fitter, blame suppliers, blame ex-members of staff, blame the customer, and to take no responsibility for their product. So no, no kudos from me.

    If a class action is an option for anyone else in a similar position, happy to discuss through private messaging. I think there are about 100 Surf roofs out there from what their 'engineer' told me. All we actually want is a functional roof, so we're going to invest in court fees to settle this as everything else has failed - I deliberately didn't post anything until we'd run out of options as I didn't want them to claim that we were trying to ruin their reputation in advance of finding a solution. That's also why I have remained factual (with difficulty!) not wishing to prejudice the claim - people can make up their own minds as to whether to use this company on the basis of others' experiences.
    czmate1999 and DaveyB like this.
  11. Dieseldonkey

    Dieseldonkey 150 DSG Shuttle Conversion VIP Member T6 Legend

    Did you pay anything at all to Hilo for the roof or was it your fitter that you paid the total cost to? Did you pay Hilo all or part of the cost on a credit card?
  12. Dieseldonkey

    Dieseldonkey 150 DSG Shuttle Conversion VIP Member T6 Legend

    Secondly, have you been made aware of the safety recall?

  13. Farnorthsurfer

    Farnorthsurfer Senior Member VIP Member T6 Pro

    Totally understand how you feel about this and don’t disagree in anyway that it is an unacceptable situation.
    I was, perhaps badly, trying to acknowledge that bringing anything to market especially in manufacturing especially in the UK is a very difficult thing to do. Clearly too difficult to sustain for HiLo at the moment.
    I hope you get it sorted out to your satisfaction and importantly that it doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the T6 in the longer term.:thumbsup:
    I have had the benefit of your and others experiences mainly on the forum and very much appreciate that advantage.
  14. seewhy

    seewhy New Member

    Thanks for your posts.

    We paid our fitter, by bank transfer. This was for him to undertake a training install at HILO's workshop, under their supervision.

    The Warranty certificate names me and HILO but not my fitter. HILO assumed responsibility for the warranty issue and authorised my fitter to undertake a temporary repair. They also assumed responsibility for the recall work (and I have a copy of the email from them to my fitter confirming that) - that was their choice not my request. The recall was done at the end of September and was pat of the reason for the delay in 'dealing' with the warranty issues - Mr Dunn took my vehicle from Aberdeen to Preston having assured me, before it left my property, that the canvas would be replaced. Had they done that, I would have just felt a bit messed about. As it is, I don't have a functional camper van and have no way of rectifying it without spending thousands of pounds on a different roof - they have suggested that I could have the canvas replaced at my own cost, because they consider all the problems to have been caused by me. Hence my my reluctant decision to take court action - I don't have the cash available to put 2 roofs on my van.
  15. seewhy

    seewhy New Member

    No worries - you're right, it is tough, so I get your point. However, they are affecting others with their actions and that's not acceptable. That's partly why I've gone public now - they need to learn some manners and how to clear up after themselves. They might change their attitude is if business tails off - I don't have any malicious intent, but they have to be held accountable. I have tried really hard to negotiate a solution but hit the brick wall.
    Sadly it will affect my enjoyment of my T6 if I can't use it as a camper unless it's dry weather :sick: I didn't buy it just as a large vehicle to drive (no disrespect to anyone who has).
  16. DaveyB

    DaveyB Funds just don’t support the desires!!! Moderator VIP Member T6 Legend

    I have not posted or visited the forum in quite sometime because of the issues I had with my vehicle and it’s elevating roof. Just have no interest in my van anymore. Quite frankly it made me ill, so I am so very sorry to hear of your problem @seewhy when I have decided to venture back on here. I genuinely understand how you feel, the stress I endured meant I didn’t sleep well for weeks.
    I wish you the very best.
  17. seewhy

    seewhy New Member

    Thanks for your thoughts - I found your HILO posts recently and a lot of similar issues chimed with our experiences. I think you've been treated appallingly and I'm not surprised to hear about your stress levels. It has affected my mental health, sleep is a much missed luxury and stretched finances in real trouble trying to work out how to fix things. At least in my case the vehicle can be driven and it doesn't leak except when the roof is up. There's so much that I want to write, but I'm determined to rectify things in court now so I'm being careful, having tried every possible angle to get them to do the right thing.

    It saddens me to read that you have lost interest in your van - I kept seeing amazing posts about your ingenuity with your van and wished I had the same levels of competence. I hope that time works its magic. All the best.
    DaveyB and czmate1999 like this.
  18. Farnorthsurfer

    Farnorthsurfer Senior Member VIP Member T6 Pro

    Since joining I must have read a lot of your posts @DaveyB and have learnt a lot from them, thank you.
    It is really tough to deal with issues like these along with the rest of the things life slings at us. I speak from some personal experience with stress and depression and wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Hope you are on the up soon.
    DaveyB, czmate1999 and Andyf like this.
  19. Andyf

    Andyf Senior Member VIP Member T6 Guru

    Good luck Dave
    I hope you sort things

    DaveyB and czmate1999 like this.
  20. DaveyB

    DaveyB Funds just don’t support the desires!!! Moderator VIP Member T6 Legend

    Cheers all, @seewhy @Farnorthsurfer @Andyf.
    Keep telling myself things will improve. And to top things off just when I was starting to manage to deal with the mental health issues that the roof caused, my sister had a near fatal accident, smashing 19 bones including two vertebrae and 3 breaks in her pelvis, and two brain bleeds. So a rubbish time and just waiting for that light at the end of the tunnel to come into view. Only problem being I think that light might be VW H4 units!!!!!

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