DIY PVC Rooftop Solar Shower for a Car, Van, SUV, or Truck

A month or so ago I went to the Utah Toyota Off-Road Expo. It was much smaller than the Salt Lake Off-Road Expo that I went to a week later (and both pale in comparison to Overland Expo West, which is going on right now). Still, there were some great rigs there, mostly 4Runners and Tacomas (no RAV4s, sadly). I noticed on one of the rigs (a Toyota Tacoma with camper shell, roof top tent, bike rack, and more) what looked like a DIY version of the Road Shower, so I went up to talk to the rig’s owner and ask about how he made the shower. Here are some pictures and info:

A look at the whole setup. Not an SUV, but undoubtedly a great rig.
A look at the whole setup. Not an SUV, but undoubtedly a great adventure rig.
The homemade PVC roof top shower. It's made out of 4-inch PVC that's been painted black. If I recall correctly, it holds 4 or 5 gallons of water.
The homemade PVC roof rack shower. It’s made out of 4-inch PVC that’s been painted black.  If I recall correctly, it holds 4 or 5 gallons of water. It’s pressurized by an air compressor (you can see the compressor’s yellow coil hose on the left side of the photo).
A garden hose is attached to a water faucet spigot thing that has been inserted into the PVC end cap.
A garden hose is attached to a water faucet spigot thing that has been inserted into the PVC end cap. You can also see the red air compressor here.
The yellow thing with the wingnut is the fill valve. A stack of a few rubber washers is between the yellow plastic part and the top of the PVC pipe. The rubber washers create an airtight seal.
The yellow thing with the wingnut is the fill valve (i.e., where you put the water in). A stack of a few rubber washers is between the yellow plastic part and the top of the PVC pipe. The rubber washers create an airtight seal. When I was there, the guy had the shower pressurized to only about 20 PSI, and he was able to spray water about 10–15 feet. A metal tire valve (similar to this and visible coming out of the white PVC end cap) is used in conjunction with the air compressor to pressurize the shower. The end of the hose connects with a quick-connect adapter to the brass hose valve also coming out of the end cap.
Another look
Another look at the setup. You can’t really see it, but a spray nozzle (something like this) is at the business end of the hose. The shower was simply lashed to the roof rack crossbar with paracord. I was a bit doubtful of how secure this was, but the guy assured me that it was rock solid. It is definitely not an attachment system that will stand up well to prolonged exposure to the elements.
The back end of the Tacoma camping setup.
The back end of the Tacoma camping setup. The owner travels and camps with his wife and 14-year-old son. The guy and his wife sleep in the roof top tent, and the son sleeps diagonally in the bed of the truck.
A closer look at the back of the Tacoma camping setup.
A closer look at the back of the Tacoma camping setup.

My Thoughts

Let’s face it, these DIY PVC showers are all kind of ugly. Definitely not as sleek as the Road Shower. But this setup only cost about $50 or $60 versus the Road Shower’s $300. There are lots of videos and other information out there about how to make a PVC shower like this (here are the results for “PVC car shower” on YouTube, and this is probably the best build video I’ve seen), but there are a few things I like about this particular shower. I like that the water fill valve is low-profile and not too much of an eyesore. I’m intrigued by—if still a bit skeptical of—the simple lashing attachment system. And I like the super long hose, though if I were to make a shower like this, it wouldn’t be quite this long.

What are your thoughts?

I don’t know if I’ll ever actually make something like this, but I was excited to see it and figure out the details of how it was made. It works great for him, and I wanted to share some details of the build with you guys.

Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.

2 thoughts on “DIY PVC Rooftop Solar Shower for a Car, Van, SUV, or Truck”

  1. I applaud the use of solar but the pipe is kind of ugly, requires a roof rack and compressor, and solar heat gain alone can lead to unsatisfactorily cold showers (even in summer) on cloudy days, at higher cooler altitudes, and when the source water starts at snow melt temperatures (I learned this from those cheap leaky solar shower bags). Thus propane or propane augmented solutions are so much more practical where e.g., one can buy a pair of small 16oz/453g bottles for like $6 at any Walmart/Target or outdoor stores that provide enough BTU/Joules energy to guarantee a couple of dozen hot showers. And as far as portable camping propane showers, the ones that heat instantly may not have enough thermal rise between source and output to make cold water warm enough without awkward recycling solutions and requiring batteries. This is why I ended up with the Zodi type solution since it takes the hand pumped pressurized garden sprayer idea and just makes it so one can heat the water in it from any temperature (including solar pre-warmed water for that matter) up to a reasonably comfortable shower temperature via its propane burner.

    1. I can’t argue with anything you said. The big problem I have is space. I don’t like how much space the Zodi showers take up, especially since it’s just sitting there unused for the vast majority of the time. Yes, the solar bag showers kind of suck, but I’d rather have a cold shower from one of those than a hot shower from a Zodi-style shower if it means I have to store the Zodi inside of my car. Everyone is different here, obviously. I’m actually moving back to the solar bag shower for my next long trip simply because it takes up such little space. Thanks for the great comment, Ted. It’s great that you found a shower that works well for you.

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