Finally, a plan of attack for those darn seat rails: attack from all angles, using any means necessary.
I spent some time creeping around underneath the van today (which is much easier said than done, considering the slope of the hill I was on and the frictionless bearings on my creeper) and discovered that I really really won’t be able to reach most of the nuts holding the seat rails in place. A few people have suggested that there shouldn’t be anything underneath the van to block access to those nuts, but I beg to differ.
There’s always the option of removing the components that are blocking access, but I don’t think that’s smartest thing to do at this point in my automotive career. I’ve removed all of the nuts that I could easily access underneath the van (all three out of what, 30?), and will attack the rest from the another angle.
The problem with removing the bolts the traditional way is that the heads of the bolts are hidden inside the rails, which have been welded closed. Some of the bolts are somewhat accessible via 3/4″ hole in the top of the rail, and some of them are completely encased.
For the bolts that are somewhat accessible, I can grind them down by sticking a handy dandy 1/2″ belt sander through the hole.
For the bolts that are completely encased, I’m pretty sure that I’ll have to take drastic measures—I’ll have to shear the top of the rail off, much like taking the lid off a shoe box. However, since this shoe box is made of steel, I’m thinking of either renting a plasma cutter, or purchasing an angle grinder and some cutting wheels. An angle grinder seems like a good tool to have around anyway, and since the potential to electrocute myself is much lower than using a plasma cutter, I think I’ll try that route first.
Once all the bolts are exposed, I can use either the 1/2″ belt sander, or the angle grinder with a flap wheel to grind the bolt heads off. Finally, (fingers and toes crossed) the rails should pop off easily.
The headless bolts may then fall through the floor of the van, creating a polka-dotted holey floor that I’ll have to fix. Hm… another plethora of options. Sheet metal pogs + welding, sheet metal pogs + pop rivets, plastic plugs + silicone… As usual, my first inclination is to go with the most difficult, most bulletproof, most expensive solution. I’m doing my best to restrain myself and go with “good enough”.