Many of my blog posts about building out RadVan as our DIY Adventure Mobile could easily be retitled- “Stuff I had to figure out on my own that I wish someone had written about and saved me hours of research, experimenting, and frustration.” This post is along the same lines. Hope it helps.
L-Track is amazing stuff. Lots has been written about the use of L-Track in campervan conversions to maximize function and storage in vans. I ended up using a ton of L-Track in RadVan to maximize gear attachment points and conceal wall and ceiling joints.
L-Track for those who are not familiar with it is a standardized modular cargo track system used in trucks, wheelchair vans, etc.
Once your L-track is installed, there are a variety of rings, hooks and attachment points available. All the L-Track accessories can typically be moved in 1-inch increments and removed in seconds.
One of the things about DIY campervans is that we all “learn as we go along.” I learned about L-Track by seeing it in some boutique custom vans and was immediately struck by how functional it is.
Uses for L-Track
- Hanging soft storage
The L-Track is used to hang modular storage cabinets from Adventure Wagon.
- Securing bikes
I used a strip of recessed L-track to make easily adjustable fork mounts for our bikes. We can easily hold four bikes underneath the platform bed.
- Securing loads
Safely securing loads is the most important use of L-Track. In the event of collision, you don’t want anything flying around the cabin. Use L-Track to secure loose items not only to control clutter, but to keep anything from accelerating toward your head in the event of a crash or emergency stop.
Different types of L-Track
Over the course of building my van I ended up ordering several different styles of L-Track.
I ended up using the recessed style L-track on the lower walls and ceiling as a method of helping to hang the walls and to conceal the plywood joint. For the upper walls, bed rails, and door, I used surface mount L-track.
Drilled vs undrilled L-Track
L-Track is available in both pre-drilled and blank styles. Pre-drilled L-Track is typically drilled at 4-inch or 5-inch intervals. I ended up using both styles in different parts of the van.
Pre-drilled L-Track is great for flat surfaces with a continuous mounting surface. L-Track is mostly commonly available with holes drilled at 4 or 5-inches. L-Track drilled at 4″ intervals is likely overkill for a campervan in most cases. (In a commercial truck hauling heavy loads, 4″ attachment points are great).
I found that undrilled L-track is the most flexible for use in a campervan conversion, but adds extra steps in mounting. Cargo Equipment Corp is the only supplier that I found that has undrilled L-track available in 100″ lengths without a special order. If I had to build another van I would have special ordered undrilled low profile L-Track well in advance of my build (lighter with more rounded corners).
I ended up using pre-drilled L-Track in the lower walls and rear doors, and undrilled L-Track in the ceiling and upper walls. The structural beams that run across the ceiling and upper walls don’t correspond to regular holes.
There are two primary ways to mount L-Track into a van- Rivnuts (aka Rivet Nuts, blind insert nuts, or nutserts), and pop-rivets.
Use a drill bit stop!- Absolutely positively do not drill into your van without a drill stop.
The sheet metal siding in vehicles will easily dimple or chip the exterior paint if you drill too far. Trust me on this. I know from experience- when my DIY bit stop slipped. Even with a steady hand I’ve found that the last bit of metal lets go quickly and you’ll end punching all then way to the drill chuck without a good collar.
There are different inexpensive drill bit stops available on Amazon or at your local hardware store. I doubled up on bit stops for extra safety as shown in the pic on the right. I found that the simple metal collar type can slip. My bit stop setup is as follows- Century Drill and Tool Adjustable Drill Stop on the bottom and a simple collar type on the top.
There are a ton of inexpensive drill stops available. Cheap insurance against damage to your van!
I used Rivnuts for installing my L-Track in most locations. I bought an Astro 1442 Riveter Kit from Amazon. Definitely worth the money if you plan on installing a bunch of L-track in your van. There are a number of online videos on how to install Rivnuts without a tool as well. The ease of installing the Rivnut with a dedicated tool is worth the time you’ll save.
The Astro 1442 is a good tool that takes a few practice pieces to get the hang of. I’ve found that the Astro 1442 can easily tear the threads out of 10-24 and M4 Rivnuts. It can also destroy the threads of 1/4-20 and M5 Rivnuts as well. Do a few practice pieces to get the hang of it. Too much torque and you’ll damage the threads- Too little torque and your Rivnut will spin.
I have a love/hate relationship with Rivnuts. On the “love side” you can easily install threads on any sheet metal surface. On the “hate side”, the soft metal that allows the Rivnut to flare easily into sheet metal also makes for soft threads. I’ve had about a 10-20% failure rate on my Rivnuts, and have had to drill out and replace some of them. In general, the larger the Rivnut, the stronger the threads will be. Go bigger where it makes sense.
I’ve ended up using 10-24, 1/4-20, 5/16-18, and M8 Rivnuts in various places in the van. I originally started with the idea of keeping everything metric in the van, but found that some SAE sizes fit more easily into factory holes (either direct press in or with a minimal amount of drilling into factory holes).
Click pics below for full size-
I found that clamping the L-track to the wall (wherever possible) and drilling small pilot holes was the easiest way to install it. Since many of the Rivnut mounting locations are in asymmetrical locations, clamping and drilling through the L-Track to make a pilot hole worked the best for me to get an exact match.
Once the holes were marked, I removed the L-Track and marked it’s location and orientation on the back with a Sharpie. Then I drilled out the appropriate sized hole and installed my Rivnut.
The last step is to prep and drill your L-track (if using the “blank” L-track). For this I used a drill bit larger than my actual screw (5/16″ for a 1/4″ screw, for example) to give a bit of extra error correction. (I had a few holes that weren’t lined up quite right with the Rivnut and “fixed” them by widening out the hole in the right direction with a round file- often 1/32 of filing made all the difference). Then I countersunk my L-track holes with a carbide deburring bit from Amazon. The carbide bit works nicely for countersinking and I got about 50 holes in aluminum before it dulled. Pretty inexpensive at about $20 for a set of 4.
Here’s my L-Track mounting system” in bullet point format-
- Triple check the location of your L-Track on the van.
- Clamp it to the wall in actual location wherever possible (use ledgers if you need).
- Mark your Rivnut locations with a sharpie “dot”.
- With a small drill bit, drill through the L-track and barely into the sheet metal to mark its location.
- Remove the clamps and L-Track
- Drill out your Rivnut holes, prime or paint raw metal surfaces, and install Rivnuts.
- Drill out and countersink your L-Track.
- Test fit.
For mounting L-Track on the ceiling, I found it easiest to install one Rivnut into the L-track and use it to hold the L-track in place as I marked and drilled the rest of my pilot holes.
L-Track cuts easily with a reciprocating saw, jig saw, or angle grinder. I went a step further and bought a “non-ferrous cutting blade” for my miter saw from Amazon. Makes perfectly square burr free cuts.
Mounting L-Track with Pop Rivets
Pop Rivets are a much easier way to mount L-Track than Rivnuts. You’ll save a few steps with pop rivets but lose the ability to unscrew your L-track if necessary. Pop Rivets are not as strong as bolts, so use rivets only as a mount where you don’t need to secure large loads.
I used pop rivets to install short sections of L-Track in the rear doors (to hang a showerhead for outdoor showers or wetsuits to drip dry). I also installed L-track along the lower edge of the platform bed rails. There was a lot of potential unused storage space there.
One of the great things about L-Track is the mounting accessories.
There are a ton additional L-track mounting accessories as well. (Click link to open a window of L-Track fittings).
Integrating L-Track into your Interior Design
I’ve always admired beautiful rustic van designs. L-Track is anything but rustic but provides Swiss Army knife function to your van.
You can see here that I’ve used recessed L-track to cover the joint for my plywood wall and ceiling panels.
In order to used recessed L-Track this way you may need to glue a furring strip to the edges of your wall panels. The recessed flange on the L-Track is 1/2″ deep. I used 1/4″ maple plywood for the walls and ceiling (to keep weight down) and glued 1/4″ strips to the edges of the plywood with leftover scrap. I also applied a strip of felt to the inside corner of the L-track and to the back of the furring strip to prevent any vibration or squeaking at the joint.
Integrating wall panels with L-Track
One of the benefits of L-Track is additional attachment points for your wall panels. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the L-Track pulled the wall panels nicely into the curved walls.
Sprintervanusa.com has an outstanding blog and page on L-Track for more information.