E37 T-track toe-rail removal

mvk512

Member
62
11
So Cal
I'm attempting to remove a T-track toe-rail section to repair a small ding near the hull to deck joint of an Express 37, and so far the track is winning. 35 years of galvanic corrosion has bonded the stainless bolts to the aluminum track and the track appears very well bonded to the deck. I went through similar torture removing the jib tracks a few years ago and eventually succeeded, but the toe-rail track bonding appears substantially stronger. I've removed backing nuts & washers, but have been unable to break the bolt to track bond with penetrating oil, heat & impact wrench.

I'm currently attempting to get the track and bolts out as one. It has not budged as I've hammered the bolts (carefully) from the under-side. The next thought is to use a small jack on the bolts from inside, going slowly and working down the track from one end (once I figure out how to brace the jack given the hull curve in the area). I'm worried the track to deck bond may be stronger than the fiberglass lamination and proceeding down this path could cause much worse damage than the small ding I'm trying to fix. I know I can get the track off by other destructive/painful means (e.g. drilling the bolts and/or undercut the track to deck bond with a Fein MultiMaster...), but I expect these are likely to result in substantial more repair and track damage.

Any other thoughts on how to get the track off without creating more damage? Do any of you know what the T-tracks were originally bonded to the deck with back in the 80's? Whatever it is appears to be wicked strong.

FWIW, my rendition (not to scale) of the hull to deck joint and T-track toe-rail construction. The toe rail section in question is about 54" long, 1 1/4" T-track with bolts every 4" OC:

Hull to Deck Joint.jpg
 

deep c

Member
101
23
Any room to back off the nut a bit and put a second nut on to lock in place, then something with a cheater bar to crack the bolt free? Alternatively make a lock nut with two thinner nuts?
 

mvk512

Member
62
11
So Cal
Any room to back off the nut a bit and put a second nut on to lock in place, then something with a cheater bar to crack the bolt free? Alternatively make a lock nut with two thinner nuts?
I like the idea. There's only about 1 thread visible beyond the current nut when fully torqued. I'll see what I can find with thinner nuts... they would have to be pretty darn thin though.
 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
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Best luck I've had with S/S seized into Alu is high strength vinegar - "cleaning vinegar" or similar. I've seen it up to 20% - stronger is better.

It eventually soaks into the white oxide.

Also, a nut spun on enough to protect the end of the screw and then the big hammer.
 

longy

Overlord of Anarchy
6,729
1,110
San Diego
Do not 'push' on the bolts - they can bend and/or mushroom. Place track cars about every foot & use halyards to pull track up. Tension firm & leave overnight - there will be some lift. Be careful of kinking the track. If you get even a small amount of lift, use a razor knife to cut caulking. Slow & steady wins the race
ALL original track installs do not have ANY caulking under shoulder of bolt head (makes for much clean up) so all bolt heads will be bonded to the track.
 

mvk512

Member
62
11
So Cal
Do not 'push' on the bolts - they can bend and/or mushroom. Place track cars about every foot & use halyards to pull track up. Tension firm & leave overnight - there will be some lift. Be careful of kinking the track. If you get even a small amount of lift, use a razor knife to cut caulking. Slow & steady wins the race
ALL original track installs do not have ANY caulking under shoulder of bolt head (makes for much clean up) so all bolt heads will be bonded to the track.
I am liking this approach. The only good halyard lead to the track is the main halyard (it's the aft port-side track). I guess I could bridle 4 cars off that using blocks to balance the load. I will take definitely take it very slowly as I could easily overdo it with a winch.
 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
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I forgot to mention - a cordless impact driver. I'm currently rebuilding my rig and I was very pleasantly surprised how effective it was.

S/S fasteners that had been screwed into the spar for 40 years came out with little trouble - well, all except one.

Soaked them with the heavy vinegar, hit them with the impact - at the first sign of movement I soaked them again etc. Everything came out after a bit of that.
 

mvk512

Member
62
11
So Cal
I forgot to mention - a cordless impact driver. I'm currently rebuilding my rig and I was very pleasantly surprised how effective it was.

S/S fasteners that had been screwed into the spar for 40 years came out with little trouble - well, all except one.

Soaked them with the heavy vinegar, hit them with the impact - at the first sign of movement I soaked them again etc. Everything came out after a bit of that.
I may try the impact wrench again with heavy vinegar before using the halyard lift approach. I tried previously after penetrating oil without success.
 

El Borracho

Verified User
6,657
2,630
Pacific Rim
The adhesive that bonds the deck flange to the shear flange will be holding the bolt as well. Especially from pushing out. Also, it seems boatbuilders often drill fastener holes for an interference (partially threaded) fit.
Regardless, the best way to proceed is to stop fooling around with all the clever tricks and potions: Drill the heads off. You’d be done by now.
 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
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You guys make drilling a couple of hundred S/S fasteners sound so quick & easy.

Plus you will still have the shank to remove - with pounding it out with a drift your only remaining option.
 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
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Oh, well - only a 10 minute job in that case. :rolleyes:

In my long experience, drilling S/S fasteners is a last resort and almost always ends up damaging the piece they are holding.
 

mvk512

Member
62
11
So Cal
Oh, well - only a 10 minute job in that case. :rolleyes:

In my long experience, drilling S/S fasteners is a last resort and almost always ends up damaging the piece they are holding.
Yes, I've drilled out S/S fasteners before. Most have gone fine... but after getting a quote for replacement track, a failure here would be quite costly. I'd have 14 opportunities to screw it up.
 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
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Even with replacement track you still have to get the old stuff off & out.

And then the fastener holes might not align so fill & fair and...

I would exhaust every other possibility before I resorted to drilling.

I have always been able to get track and the like off without drilling fasteners - nuts off with a cordless impact, try to unscrew the fastener with the impact, failing that, nut on enough to protect the end of the screw then hit with a heavy hammer or dead blow - you don't want to wail on them but you want a solid energy transfer, not a "tap, tap, tap" situation.

Another counterintuitive thing to try is to tighten the fastener first - a bit like rocking your way out of snow you are stuck in.
 

deep c

Member
101
23
“nut on enough to protect the end of the screw then hit with a heavy hammer or dead blow”

Not a fan but if this is it I’d consider a heavy dolly (maybe some dive weights taped together?) of some sort topside to give some mass to dead blow against. Would rather crack the fastener free some other way first.
 

El Borracho

Verified User
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Pacific Rim
Oh, well - only a 10 minute job in that case. :rolleyes:

In my long experience, drilling S/S fasteners is a last resort and almost always ends up damaging the piece they are holding.
14 bolts, 14 minutes top. Less damage to the track than the corrosion has done the years. One needs to take some care — which is obviously in short supply among all the brutes here with sledge and power hammer ideas. This is a plastic boat, ya know?

This may be the only time one will appreciate the Phillips head fastener. Far easier to center the drill. The worst would be slotted. Add another 14 minutes to deal with that in some craftsmanship way.

I would drill a 1/4-20 bolt head with a 3/16” bit — the minor diameter. Easily misses the track hole. Move to a 7/32” or 1/4” if the head does not pop free. The part remaining in the hole will come out easily (on the yacht restoration scale of difficulty) with the track and tension removed.

Yeah, done in minutes. Cleaning the sealant will take longer.
 

Chris in Santa Cruz CA

Super Anarchist
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earths surface
14 bolts, 14 minutes top. Less damage to the track than the corrosion has done the years. One needs to take some care — which is obviously in short supply among all the brutes here with sledge and power hammer ideas. This is a plastic boat, ya know?

This may be the only time one will appreciate the Phillips head fastener. Far easier to center the drill. The worst would be slotted. Add another 14 minutes to deal with that in some craftsmanship way.

I would drill a 1/4-20 bolt head with a 3/16” bit — the minor diameter. Easily misses the track hole. Move to a 7/32” or 1/4” if the head does not pop free. The part remaining in the hole will come out easily (on the yacht restoration scale of difficulty) with the track and tension removed.

Yeah, done in minutes. Cleaning the sealant will take longer.

Perhaps if you spray WD40 on the screw head generously before drilling the heat of drilling might help that stuff creep down the shaft?
 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
68,592
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Great Wet North
This may be the only time one will appreciate the Phillips head fastener. Far easier to center the drill. The worst would be slotted. Add another 14 minutes to deal with that in some craftsmanship way.
They are always slotted. :)

I've worked in machine shops and I've been in boatyards for 50 years and I've never seen anyone drill out a 1/4" S/S fastener in one minute - or two minutes or anything remotely close to that.

Not even on a drill press.
 

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