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Total Composites body with arctic tern windows

Read this Before Purchasing an Arctic Tern Double Pane Window


Arctic Tern windows are the way to go for any van conversion, or expedition build. Double pane acrylic windows weigh less, they are more thermally efficient than any other product on the market, they are impact resistant, and have a higher flexural strength. Yes the price tag is greater but it is worth it. We have tested multiple types of windows for our Total Composites expedition boxes and will always go back to Arctic Tern. With this being said, you do need to do your own research to see if ordering one makes sense for the vehicle you have.


Here are 6 tips to keep in mind before making the final decision of purchasing our Arctic Tern Windows 

1. Don’t cut into or modify major support structures 

All utility vans have panels where windows or cargo doors may be installed. These panels are surrounded by major support structures and they have thinner supports to keep the sheet metal rigid. Minor support structures may allow for these installations but not the major ones. For the installation of windows and cargo doors into vans, or any curved wall surface, we recommend 3” of free sheet metal at minimum on each side of the window. This requirement may be relaxed if the surface has a very slight curve of say 1/16” over the span.

For example is the 450x 500mm window in the passenger side rear door of Ford Transits. This is a tight fit, but it has been done many times successfully. In most cases this need for extra distance will be seen in the vertical edges of the window. If no curvatures are present along the top and bottom, 1 ½” of free sheet metal is sufficient. You must still have 2” of clearance to the supports for the blind and screen to clear. This allows enough free sheet metal to conform to the curve of the wall to the window. In some cases, the van panel has a corner that is angled, and this will reduce the available space for a window installation. An example is the slider door panel on most Sprinter vans.

2. Make sure that the clearance on the inside of the van allows for the installation of the window blind assembly

The blind is slightly larger than the window, which is nice, right? This allows the blind and screen to open completely. Care must be taken to allow enough room for

this assembly so that cabinets or countertops do not interfere. Also, be aware that at least ½” of free space is needed above and below the assembly. This is required to open the housing and install the mounting screws.

3. The blind and screen assembly is designed to hook onto the window and screw to the wall

Note that sufficient framing must be present beyond the corners of the windows to screw the blind to. The frame should extend beyond the cut hold at least 1”
and provide a corner to screw in the blind. Some installers have found it better to insert the window into the finished wall and mount the screen separately. This is perfectly fine. The blind and screen assembly does not need to be mounted directly onto the window.

4. Panel vibration
support for arctic tern window

The left and right rear angles in some vans, primarily Sprinters, are known to have vibration problems. These panels can literally vibrate like an unconstrained drum head. A few customers have reported rattling from our windows when mounted in these locations. This happens when the walls are not properly finished. A properly finished wall should include insulation and a hard inner panel that is tied to the outer skin so that the wall cannot vibrate uncontrollably. This is good practice for all mounted windows. 

5. Choose the right wall thickness

We need to know what your final wall thickness will be to ensure that you get the right components for your build. We have four window trim rings to choose from that accommodate walls from 24mm to 74mm. (24-34mm, 35-44mm, 45-54mm, 64-74mm). Our windows require a minimum wall thickness of 24mm or 15/16”. Walls thinner than 15/16” will require spacer frames to be fabricated. All sheet metal (van) installations require this minimum spacer frame- what we’ve found is that the best materials to use for these spacer frames are hardwood or metal tubing. The spaces should be mounted into place inside the van, prior to window installation. A high strength polyurethane adhesive may be used but from our experience the very high bond tape is a quick and effective solution to attaching these frames. The frame/spacer should be clamped to the sheet metal to pull it flat, so that the window clamps to a flat surface. These frames can be as simple as four pieces of aluminum or wood. 

6. Not a Roof Hatch!!

The Arctic Tern Windows are not designed to be used as a roof hatch

Lastly, take your time.

Measure everything out and plan your window installation before committing to the window. Returning Arctic Tern windows is not a fun process and so we encourage you to take your time and double check the details. When in doubt give us a call and we’d be happy to talk to you on the phone about any of your concerns. 

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KRis - February 28, 2024

I have 19’ travel trailer. Radius corners on the windows — would you have a window for these TTS as to replace the glass ones ?

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