L-Track For the Win

 
VM_L-track.jpg

L-track

for the Win

How US Cargo Control’s L-track Enables the Van Build of Our Dreams

by Nick Davila, Vantastic Media. July 11, 2018

Tags:  #DIY #Sprinter #vanlife

This post contains affiliate links

 

When Shelly and I decided to buy and convert a Mercedes Sprinter van into a tiny home, we hotly debated the best interior design.

It would have to accommodate a variety of uses, just like a regular house, with dedicated areas for cooking, working, sleeping – everything!

It was an exciting challenge but also nerve-wracking. Neither of us had designed or built a van, and we knew our first attempt wouldn’t be perfect. So we wanted a flexible, modular design that would let us make layout changes down the road.

The problem was, how do you build a van so that fixtures can be fastened securely and removed easily?

A key design challenge was how to fasten large fixtures like these, so they're secure yet removable.

Enter, US Cargo Control’s L-track System

Logistic Track, or "L-track" is a rail system most commonly used for tying down cargo like motorcycles, ATVs and other bulky items. It’s also known as “airline track” because a variant is used to fasten passenger seats on planes. The beauty of L-track is that it’s incredibly strong, low cost and it can be installed almost anywhere in a vehicle.

US Cargo Control is a leader in L-track systems with an impressive array of quality L-track products. We partnered with them because they'd like to see their products in more DIY vehicle conversions, and we like promoting companies that enable mobile lifestyles.

Installation

The flat area near the seam of a Sprinter's lower and upper walls is a perfect place for L-track.

The flat area near the seam of a Sprinter's lower and upper walls is a perfect place for L-track.

Phase One of our L-track system was to install 8 feet of rails on both sides of the van along the lower walls of the cargo area and make custom furniture brackets to attach to them. The rails would serve as the upper attachment points for several large pieces including our counter, galley, Shelly’s roll top desk and bed platform.

Here are the tools and materials we used and what we did!

ToolS

Materials

L-track install

  • 16 feet of US Cargo Control L-track  (We used eight, 24" pieces in black, but they're available in a variety of lengths and finishes. If we did it again, we'd probably use four, 48"pieces, like these, to reduce the time spent aligning shorter pieces)
  • About 40 US Cargo Control L-track fasteners (1/4"-20 x 1-1/2" stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers) Each of the 24" L-track pieces we used had 6 pre-drilled mounting holes. Longer track pieces have fewer holes.
  • Auto touch up paint
  • Threadlocker (medium strength)
  • 2" masking tape
  • Magnets
  • Sharpies / markers

DIY brackets

  • About 8 feet of thin, punched steel flat bar (like this)
  • About 20 1/4" bolts, washers and nuts (like this)

Steps

Here's Shelly screwing in a 24" piece of L-track, while holding a nut and washer in place with a box-end wrench on the opposite side.

Here's Shelly screwing in a 24" piece of L-track, while holding a nut and washer in place with a box-end wrench on the opposite side.

  1.     Position L-track where desired, and mark the L-track’s pre-drilled hole locations on the van wall
  2.     Clean and prep drill zone: cover perimeter with 2" masking tape (to prevent scratches) and magnets (to catch metal shavings and avoid rust)
  3.     Center punch marked locations, and drill holes using a 1/4" metal-cutting bit with a stop collar
  4.     Deburr holes and remove excess metal shavings with magnets and vacuum
  5.     Paint bare metal around holes to prevent rust; let paint dry
  6.     Apply thread locker to bolts and nuts (to prevent loosening over time); insert bolts through L-track into holes
  7.     Reach behind van interior wall and loosely thread a washer and nut on each bolt
  8.     Once all nuts are loosely threaded, hold nuts with a wrench and tighten bolts with a screwdriver

That’s it! Track installed! We were immediately impressed with how tightly it fit on the wall. It felt like part of the frame.

Click pics below for more install details and tips.


It’s All About the Fittings

Once the track is fastened, you can clip in L-track fittings anywhere on the track in one-inch intervals. US Cargo Control offers almost every L-track fitting imaginable, though the only one we needed for our lower tracks was their double stud fitting with bolt thread. Thanks to its 3/8" fine-threaded housing, we can bolt fixtures easily into the track! The fittings are super strong with a 1,333 lbs working load limit and 4,000 lbs break strength.

We allocated 3 to 5 fittings for each furniture piece and snapped them into the track at strategic intervals. Next we jammed Sharpies into the fittings' sockets and slowly scooted each furniture piece towards the wall, so the Sharpies would mark drilling locations. We drilled 3/8" holes at each marked location, for our DIY furniture brackets.

Making DIY Furniture Brackets

Shelly rocking the step drill, widening a few pre-punched holes on our DIY furniture bracket.

Most of our furniture is made of wood, including a couple of hard-to-find vintage pieces. We don’t expect them to hold up forever (i.e. we like driving off-road), but we don’t want them to disintegrate immediately either. So we reinforced the rear of each fixture with thin steel flat bars, which we modified into custom brackets.

We bought the bars in 4' lengths and cut them into piece-specific lengths using a jig saw with a metal cutting blade. We fastened a pair of bars to the rear of each fixture (using 1/4" bolts, nuts and washers), like a sandwich. The bars had pre-punched holes at regular intervals, which saved us some drilling, but those holes didn't always line up with the 3/8" holes that we drilled into the furniture. In those cases, we used a step drill bit to widen the holes until a 3/8" bolt would pass through at 90 degrees and go into the L-track fitting.

Tip:  If you're going to make a lot of custom brackets like we did, buy at least two of every length of 3/8” fine-threaded bolt you can find (also known as 3/8 - 24), and return what you don’t use when you're done. We were surprised by how many times we needed a slightly longer or shorter bolt.

Tip:  If you're going to make a lot of custom brackets like we did, buy at least two of every length of 3/8” fine-threaded bolt you can find (also known as 3/8 - 24), and return what you don’t use when you're done. We were surprised by how many times we needed a slightly longer or shorter bolt.

We found that 2” bolts were usually the best length. They’re just long enough to go through both reinforcement bars and the wood, with washers on both sides and a jam nut on the back side, and still tighten all the way into the L-track fittings.

Our hands down favorite part of this project was pushing each furniture piece back against the wall and watching the bolts of our DIY brackets perfectly mate into the L-track fittings (which never happened on the first try). Widening the bracket holes usually made things work.

Great moment in our van build history:  when all 5 bolts of our counter’s DIY furniture bracket perfectly docked into their L-track fittings, as if guided by NASA.

 

Results

So far, we’re very happy with our US Cargo Control L-track system, and we think it’s an excellent solution to mount our fixtures.

We love how tightly it secures fixtures to our van, while letting us remove and replace pieces easily. The L-track system holds fixtures much stronger than sheet metal screws, it's more versatile than welded brackets, and it's more practical than an array of plus nuts.

Check back later to see our L-track install, Phase Two!

 

Have you used L-track in a vehicle conversion or have questions on what we did?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

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