Logistic Track – the super-connector

Logistic track (also called l-track or airline track) is an extruded aluminum strip that has holes drilled through it at 1″ intervals, and an inverted “T” cross-section cut out through its length. Connectors slide in through the holes and then lock in place with a spring or a bolt. That makes it easy to configure to support any load you want to carry. 

Aluminum l-track makes a reconfigurable tie-down system

The airline industry uses the same design for the track that airplane seats clip in to. It’s more compact than the E-track that is used in big trucks, but still has plenty of strength for the sort of loads we’ll be using.

We’ve bought single-stud ring clips for clipping bungies to, three-stud ring clips for holding tie-down straps, and two-stud bolts for holding our cabinets in place and holding items on to the wall.

We decided to use flanged track made by Steadymate on the walls and floor of the van, both for securing loads (and cabinets) and to hold the wall and flooring materials down. The flanged track is normally recessed into the surface it’s mounted on, but we bolted it on without routing out behind it. That gives us a 1/2″ gap to insert panels on the walls and rubber mats on the floor.

We also used single-hole l-track anchor points in other locations where we wanted to bolt things to the wall without having bolt heads showing. The ceiling panels are held up this way.

compressed (left) and uncompressed rivnuts and the setting tool

Rivnuts are another amazing find – they are threaded nuts that work like rivets. You drill a hole in sheet metal, put the rivnut in to it, and then compress it with a special tool. The result is a threaded hole wherever you want to put a bolt. On the walls of the van, we’ve used the rivnuts to hold the l-track in place every 4″.

It's magic! Threaded holes wherever you want them in sheet metal

On the floor, we bolted straight through the floor metal and into some unistrut metal channel under the van to spread the load. That might seem like overkill, but the forces on these attachment points can be brutal during an accident, and we’d like things to stay where we bolted them down rather than flying loose.

Unistrut channel under the van, with stainless bolts and fender washers coming from the l-track inside

We got the bolts we used from Tacoma Screw. They will deliver, or you can pick the stuff up if you have a local store. Here are some item numbers to get you started:

  • #216-407-1 M6-1.0 x 30mm (1-3/16″) Metric Flat Head Socket Cap Screws — Type A2 Stainless, Coarse, 100/PKG
  • #218-106-1 M6 (1/4″)-1.0 Metric Full Nylon Insert Lock Nuts — Type A2 Stainless Steel, Coarse, 100/PKG
  • #130-306-6 1/4″ x 1-1/4″ 100% Melt/Mfg Domestic Fender Washers – 304 Stainless Steel, 100/PKG

I’ve listed the 30mm bolts (just over 1″) but we also used 50mm bolts to go through the floor.

The metric stainless bolts have a slightly different countersink angle to the imperial ones, but for the types of uses most people put L-track to, it’s probably not a big issue.

Handy hints and tips for installing l-track in a Sprinter

  • As always, check what’s behind/below BEFORE you drill. Mistakes can get expensive/painful/wet/explosive fast.
  • Line the l-track up, then sink a self-tapping screw in to the holes in each end. This holds the l-track in place and lets you use it as a drill template for where you need all the holes along the length. After you’ve drilled all the other pilot holes, you can remove the self-tappers and drill those holes out to size too.
  • A center punch seems like overkill, but it really helps to stop your drill bit from wandering on the metal surface of the van. Rivnuts need to be accurately placed in the l-track, or the bolts just won’t screw in properly. The l-track we installed using center-punched holes has less missing bolts due to badly placed rivnuts than the pieces we installed before we wised up.
  • Use a drill stop or a piece of pvc pipe over your drill bit so you don’t make dents in the outside walls of the van after the drill breaks through the inside wall.
  • Use a deburring tool to clean out the holes before you push the rivnuts in. If there is swarf attached to the back side of the hole, the rivnut won’t grip so well. Spinning rivnuts are not easy to fix.
  • Prime the holes you drilled. They WILL rust, even inside the van (don’t ask us how we know).
  • If you’re running more than a few lengths of l-track, do yourself a favor and buy a proper rivnut-setting tool rather than the fiddly bolt-and-wrench style one.
  • Always use stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers in the van – even on the inside. Zinc coated ones will rust within the year on the outside of the van. L-track typically uses 1/4″ (imperial) or M6 (metric) size bolts.
  • Use liberal amounts of grease or anti-seize paste on the stainless threads. Stainless steel has a tendency to gall and “bind” closed.

26 Replies to “Logistic Track – the super-connector”

  1. Question about the ceiling. Did you use 1/4″ plywood? Did you use the round single L track mounts? Are you noticing any sag or movement? Thanks you rock!

    1. Gabriel, we used 1/8″ plywood for the ceiling. We used the round single L-track mounts. We did also add some bolts at the edge of the panels, into the ceiling ribs. There does not appear to be any sag or movement.

    1. Paul, thanks for asking about the bolt hardware. It’s prompted me to updated this post with some details. Even if you don’t order from Tacoma Screw you’ll at least know what we used.

  2. Is there any concern about the stainless nuts and bolts not being hardened?
    I started bolting my L track to the floor and I keep breaking the SS bolts. I got mine from Fastenal in CO.

    1. Jason, that’s unusual. Have you tried using anti-seize compound on the threads? Are you tightening them by hand rather than mechanically? Stainless steel galls easily so you have to tighten things up carefully. It might be worth contacting Fastenal to ask for their perspective.

    2. Were you bolts breaking along the threads, or at the head? I bought a bunch of bolts from AAA Metric outside of Denver and am having a terrible time. The countersunk heads are spinning off the shaft under what I would consider very light pressure. It almost seems like the heads and threads are 2 separate pieces but i’ve never seen that or heard of that before. Luckily when the head ‘spins’ off there is still a very shallow hex relief on the end of the threads and the bolts come right back out with the 4mm allen key.

      When this happened i just replaced them with standard socket head cap screws and had no issues (but it obviously looks terrible and you can’t use the l-track where the bolt head is). I’ll be looking to replace all of them as they don’t seem to have strength that is confidence inspiring.

  3. Just be sure you don’t use a Copper based anti-seize with stainless steel fasteners. You will have galvanic corrosion. Use a Nickel based anti-seize instead.

    1. Is aluminum-based anti-seize suitable for SS-to-SS application? (That’s all I’m able to find and local hardware stores)

    1. Gary, we used zinc plated rivnuts and stainless fasteners. It’s possible that we’ll get some galvanic corrosion issues down the line, but so far things seem to be holding up well.

    1. Eric, the Unistrut is just off-the-shelf stuff from a local hardware store. It’s galvanized steel. If I remember it’s the 1.5″ deep stuff, but that really doesn’t matter too much. We painted it with POR15 before installing it because we didn’t know how well the galvanizing would hold up to road salt, and we had cut some holes in it for clearance under the van floor.

  4. Hey Diesel,
    When installing our ceiling panel today (attached via a few single point l-track) everything went great until we got to the last bolt. It seized up a bit, although we used paste, and then worst case scenario… the rivnut came loose and started spinning in place. The ceiling is up just fine, but now we have an unusable mounting point on top of the fact that I have no idea how we’ll get this wall down if we ever want to change anything. Any thoughts on what I should do? I’m using zinc plated rivnuts from master with 1/4-20 stainless bolts.

    Thanks!

    Oren

    1. Oren, it’s so frustrating when that happens. You could leave everything like it is, and just not use the l-track mount, but I can guarantee there’ll be a time when you want to take the ceiling down in a hurry (a leak, or something like that) and you’ll curse that spinning rivnut even more.

      To get the bolt out, you’re going to have to do some surgery and it won’t be pretty. You might damage the l-track mount in the process.

      Your best bet is to drill the bolt out. Once you’ve drilled through the head of the bolt, the head will fall off, leaving a stud in the ceiling. Now you can remove the l-track mount and ceiling panel. Of course, the bolt is likely to want to spin when you start drilling it. I had some luck drilling a small hole off-center on the bolt head and putting a metal pin through that and into the l-track mount metal behind. That provided an anchor point to stop the bolt head from turning. Then I could drill the head out. You only need a drill bit that is the same diameter as the shaft of the bolt, not the head of the bolt. If you’re using the flanged bolts with a hex depression in them, it’s really easy to center the drill bit.

      Once you have the head out, you can take the ceiling panel down. Now you can grab the flange of the rivnut with some vice grips. Really scrunch it up so it’s held well. The vice grips will stop it from spinning.

      If there’s enough bolt thread left to thread two nuts on, you could always tighten the two nuts up against each other and then use them to spin the bolt loose (one nut obviously will just turn on the threads, but two nuts will snug against each other and lock in place).

      If there isn’t enough bolt thread exposed, you’ll just have to grind the bolt off flush with the rivnut and then drill through the bolt with a drill bit that’s the same diameter as the hole you drilled for the rivnut. As soon as that drill bit cuts through the rivnut flange, the rivnut will fall out of the inside of the hole.

      It’s messy. There will be metal shavings everywhere. You’ll need to retrieve the rivnut remains from inside the roof support arch. But if you’re careful, you’ll be able to install a new rivnut in the same location and start over. You may want to use an oversize rivnut or smear some JB-Weld epoxy around the hole before you crush the new rivnut in place.

      Good luck – and wear eye protection while you’re drilling out the bolt!

      1. I’ve also been using POR-15 to treat all drill hole and cut ends. Inadvertently, I’ve found that POR-15 is also a great adhesive … also read: if you get it on the sealing lip of a paint can, the can is forever sealed!

        The up side is that by inserting the Rivnut when the POR-15 is still wet, it adheres and reduces spin.

        1. POR-15, what I do. Open the can and pour off what you need. Don’t dip your brush in the can and keep a fresh sheet of waxed paper between the lid and can. POR moisture cures, so keep it open only as long as you need to and always used fresh waxed paper.

  5. Diesel,
    Did you do anything to mitigate the cold “flowing” from the van walls into the Logistic Track via conduction, i.e., a plastic or wood separator between the sheet metal and the Logistic Track? How cold does the track get and how much condensation have you seen during the winter on the track?
    Jack

    1. Jack, we did nothing specific to thermally isolate the L-track. The L-track is noticeably colder than the surrounding fabric walls, but we’ve never noticed condensation on it. There are several other areas of metal from the van window surrounds and D pillars that are also “inside” the vehicle. They are equally as cold and also do not get condensation on them. Only the windows suffer from condensation.

      On the floor, the L-track is bolted through the factory plywood. It’s still cold despite the theoretical thermal isolation that the wood should provide. What we’ve found is that even if you thermally isolate the track from the van metal, you’ve still got metal fasteners every 4″, so the cold will continue to find its way into the logistic track. Thermal isolation is a lovely idea, but the amount of engineering it would require to make it work well enough was more effort than it is worth for us.

      To prevent a nasty shock of cold metal on bare feet in the mornings, we’ve got some small dirt-trapping mats that we use on the floor of the van.

      The trick to reducing condensation is to get cold, dry air into the van, heat it, and then push the hot, moist air out of the van (warm air holds more moisture). Our Espar diesel heater means that we really aren’t too concerned about the colder metal, and running the Maxxair fan on low overnight helps reduce condensation issues.

      1. I think what you have done is pretty good and it may be the direction I take. We plan on skiing out of the van, so eliminating cold paths are really important to me. The aluminum transfers heat/cold really well as does Stainless steel, so the bolts, especially every four inches, provides a great path into the aluminum. Perhaps an insulating (fiber, rubber?) washer under every bolt head would help with the isolation, i.e., restrict it to the bolt head and keep it out of the Aluminum.

        I was considering adding a plywood backer behind the walls so I can avoid through bolting the L-track, i.e., the plywood is bolted to the van and the ply bolted to the L-track, but not with the same bolts to eliminate this cold path. This could be repeated on the floor. I am not totally on board with the structural strength of this arrangement yet, but am considering it because the 8020 cabinetry will be floor to ceiling over 7 &10 feet long on either side, so there will be a lot of connections on both the floor and the walls, and therefore a lot of strength. Maybe several metal to metal connections, but mostly metal to ply. Lots of decisions to make.

        FYI – I am planning on one (maybe two) Maxxair’s and an Espar (D2) also, for exactly the same reasons.

        Thanks!

        Jack

    2. I’m in process of installing panels with L-track now … so, consider this my planned approach vs a tested and proven solution.

      Insulation includes Thinsulate plus a Low-E layer. The Thinsulate is only in the cavities; the Low-E layer is continuous including behind the L-track. Essentially the Low-E is sandwiched between the K-track and the van body … and hopefully providing some vibration dampening and reduced thermal bridging.

      1. Scott, we experimented with this idea too. The Low-E smooshed flat behind the L-track to the point where we didn’t think it was actually doing much good.

        The insulating properties (as opposed to reflective properties) of Low-E are mainly in the air that’s trapped in the closed cell foam. Once that’s compressed to the point where the air squeezes out, there’s no real thermal barrier or vibration damping any more. If you leave the L-track loose enough that it doesn’t compress the foam, it won’t be strong enough to support loads.

        1. Plus, the reflective properties are only effective when there is an air space. If the reflective surface is in contact with another material, there is no radiation benefit.

          “Supporting loads” Interesting question. Is the load pressing down, or pulling up. I suspect most are pulling up, so a thin spongy layer (1/16 or so) of isolation might work as the top of the L-Track would be pulled flush against the attached devices?

          Thoughts?

          Jack

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