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Old 07-03-2019, 02:18 PM   #1
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Riveted Seat Belt Rail from Hell -- Help!

I'm working on a 2004 Ford E-450 Collins Bus and am having trouble with 4 seatbelt rails (were the seatbelts were bolted to) that are riveted onto the side of the bus.


The rails have tons of rivets, and metal protrudes out above and below the rivets. This is making it impossible for me to get an air chisel (or regular chisel) underneath the rivets. I've tried poking out the center pins and taking an angle grinder to the top of the bolt, but it's not enough to knock them loose. I've tried and thought about grinding all the way through the length of the rails to split it in half and have access to the rivets, but I tried and realized that would take dozens of angle grinder blades, not to mention time and energy. I can't get a pry bar or chisel behind the rail -- it's too tight against the bus.



What should I do?! I don't want to leave them on there...


My other question is that behind the seatbelt rail is solid metal which is a part of the framework of the bus. It seems to me that below that rail is the chair rail and I've heard not to remove it. Is that indeed the chair rail? If so, how do I get to the interior wall cavity behind it so I can remove / replace insulation?
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Old 07-03-2019, 02:58 PM   #2
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That is actually one of my next projects. I was hoping, like the L track rail above the windows, that punching out the center of the rivet will allow drilling the rivet out. If that works I'll let you know. I got both upper rails off in about an hour, maybe less (it's been awhile).

Chris
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Old 07-03-2019, 02:59 PM   #3
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STOP, do not remove them they are not seat belt rails, but chair rails and are part of the structural integrity of the body. The insulation is just batt insulation and can easily be pulled from the cavities. Fill the cavities with rigid foam or spray foam insulation.
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Old 07-03-2019, 03:10 PM   #4
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Ah... they did have the seats bolted to them... so I guess that makes it a chair rail? Okay so can I angle grind off the white sheet metal below that rail to expose the open cavity and just leave the rail there riveted to the metal framework?
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Old 07-03-2019, 03:15 PM   #5
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If the rails aren't easily or safely removed, I would repurpose them as mounting rails for your finishing out. Mounting cabinets, etc. Just my $0.02.
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Old 07-03-2019, 03:25 PM   #6
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I'm not sure about @ForestGarden, but I was hoping to remove mine to get the upper panel out. If I can do that without removing the rails, I'm happy to do so. Maybe that exploration is what I'll work on next, as it seems that this works. @ForestGarden could you let me know how you pulled back the upper panel? Did you have to cut it just above the chair rail? If so did you use snips or a grinding wheel?

Thanks,
Chris
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Old 07-03-2019, 03:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ForestGarden View Post
Ah... they did have the seats bolted to them... so I guess that makes it a chair rail? Okay so can I angle grind off the white sheet metal below that rail to expose the open cavity and just leave the rail there riveted to the metal framework?
No, its not the lip that provides the support. It's the mass of metal riveted to 1000 points to tie everything together.
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Old 07-03-2019, 03:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
STOP, do not remove them they are not seat belt rails, but chair rails and are part of the structural integrity of the body. The insulation is just batt insulation and can easily be pulled from the cavities. Fill the cavities with rigid foam or spray foam insulation.
I'm not sure this is as structural on a Collins body as it is on most busses. There's a horizontal rib just behind the rail that it's riveted to, so while it helps stabilize the bus, it's not a major part, I don't think. This is something that's never really been shown on the Collins bodies to see if it really matters or not...

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Old 07-03-2019, 03:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
No, its not the lip that provides the support. It's the mass of metal riveted to 1000 points to tie everything together.

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Cany anyone else weigh in on if they think its structural?

o1Marc - Im not sure I understand what you are saying... What Im thinking youre saying is I should not remove the rivets / bar but I also shouldnt remove the sheet metal below it? Then how am I supposed to access the cavity behind it to remove and replace insulation?
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Old 07-03-2019, 03:54 PM   #10
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Hey Chris, I just used an angle grinder -its thin metal and was easy. I just did a quick and dirty job because it was a test. If you just want access to that cavity and dont mind the rail I wouldnt bother taking the rail off.

In my case, I want the rail gone of its not structural for a flat wall. I dont need to bolt furnature to it because my bus will be stationary.
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Old 07-03-2019, 04:17 PM   #11
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What your fotos ID' as, "chair rail?," IS structural. It provides longitudinal strength to the frame. With them gone, the body will be subject to torsional stresses, particulary on uneven terrain, twisting it much like just before you crush an empty soda can.
I have to wonder: your stated intent is to park it and leave it. Why get a bus, then? An empty Con-X would work equally well, or better, and cost piles less...
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Old 07-03-2019, 05:15 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
STOP, do not remove them they are not seat belt rails, but chair rails and are part of the structural integrity of the body. The insulation is just batt insulation and can easily be pulled from the cavities. Fill the cavities with rigid foam or spray foam insulation.

FALSE, on this particular bus. True if it's on a BlueBird and some others. The rails on this particular bus can be safely removed without affecting the overall structure of the bus.
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Old 03-16-2021, 06:39 PM   #13
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If the seat rail is left in, how does one access behind the part of the wall below the rail to install insulation? Im worried I have to leave that section with the original insulation and that insulation sucks.

Does anyone know? This is driving me nuts!
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Old 03-16-2021, 08:44 PM   #14
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If the seat rail is left in, how does one access behind the part of the wall below the rail to install insulation? Im worried I have to leave that section with the original insulation and that insulation sucks.

Does anyone know? This is driving me nuts!
The effectiveness of any insulation behind the chair rail is going to be limited because the steel rail will easily conduct heat from the base of your wall anyway. On a "normal" school bus like an International, Blue Bird etc. the chair rail is a major structural element (to say the least - it's actually the thing that attaches the walls to the floor) and shouldn't be removed, but I think that on a Collins (like the original post of this thread) the construction is different and the part of the chair rail above the floor can be removed (do not hold me to that).

Either way, I wouldn't get into chopping the chair rail. I dealt with the chair rail by insulating inside of it and inside the ribs, below the windows (leaving the gaps behind the chair rail and between the ribs empty). You lose an extra inch or two of your interior width this way (which is irrelevant in my center-aisle layout), but it makes wall construction simpler and easier and the insulation is much more effective if it's not broken every 27" by the steel ribs.
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Old 03-17-2021, 11:18 AM   #15
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Thanks for taking the time to reply. So to make sure I understand correctly, you are suggesting instead of removing the interior wall (under the chair rail) and insulating inside of it, to instead just leave the interior wall and insulate the outside of it?

Like you said, this would lose an extra couple of inches, but I guess that doesn't matter too much. And then you are using spray foam inside the chair rail?

My bus is a 2006 ford e-450 short bus (5 window). I have no idea of the frame rail is part of the structural support on a ford e450 bus. I do know there are horizontal supports behind the chair rail that the chair rail attaches to.
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Old 03-17-2021, 11:54 AM   #16
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Thanks for taking the time to reply. So to make sure I understand correctly, you are suggesting instead of removing the interior wall (under the chair rail) and insulating inside of it, to instead just leave the interior wall and insulate the outside of it?

Like you said, this would lose an extra couple of inches, but I guess that doesn't matter too much. And then you are using spray foam inside the chair rail?

My bus is a 2006 ford e-450 short bus (5 window). I have no idea of the frame rail is part of the structural support on a ford e450 bus. I do know there are horizontal supports behind the chair rail that the chair rail attaches to.
Yeah, I'm suggesting just leaving the original bus wall as it is, and building a 2" thick insulated wall inside of it. You can see some of this in my partially-completed wall in my build thread here: https://www.skoolie.net/forums/f11/r...tml#post418580 (mainly pics 6 and 7). In my case, the wall is almost entirely XPS foam board with just enough wood structure to hold the bottom window trim and the bottoms of the wall panels. As I said, I left the space between my insulated wall and the outer bus skin (which is about 1.5" thick) empty except for some spacing blocks of 1.5" XPS foam glued to the outer skin, to prevent the 2" XPS foam from flexing inwards. So the space behind the chair rail is also empty. I wouldn't spray foam in there because it won't really help with insulation, and all it will do in case of a leak from your windows is make the water go somewhere else out on your floor.

I don't know the structure of shorties like yours very well, so don't trust me on what to cut and what not to cut. I know the structure of an International CE body all too well, and I would happily slice up any part of one except the chair rail.
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Old 03-17-2021, 03:49 PM   #17
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Okay, so OP has a different bus. On the normal buses,1-1/2" rigid foam fits snuggly in the cavities. Use expanding foam to seal any gaps.
I see 2" mentioned a lot here, but the cavity is barely 1-1/2". 2" would be past the ribs.

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