Help Identifying rail clamps & finding replacements

CoinMLSCoinMLS Registered Users Posts: 10 ✭✭
My system is over 10 years old, and I had to remove it to replace the roof and now I am personally reinstalling. My company is out of business. Some of the rail clamps are stripped out and will not work for reinstall. These must be an old design that are no longer sold. I cannot find any markings on them. Does anyone recognize this and can you recommend a replacement? I do not want to install a different rail.

Comments

  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,576 ✭✭✭✭✭
    That really looks like an odd duck.

    Have you looked through google images with a search for "solar rail clamp". You might find something that will work if not the same brand.

    You might also post a photo of the rails to see if someone might suggest something that works, all we see are the ones that you can't find.

    Another option, if the clamps are 'stripped out' is to use the same clamps (assuming you saved them) and tap out the stripped aluminum and retap for a larger bolt, perhaps the easiest solution.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,576 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2020 #3
    Actually looking at the clamp, it uses a nut and bolt, nothing to 'strip out' unless perhaps it's the retainer for the bottom/head of the bolt.
    If that's the problem, you could use those clamps where they are easiest to access and use an open end wrench to hold the bolt head. A bit awkward, but should be doable if the panels are raised 4-6 inches off the roof.
    Well that was kinda' stupid, I'm sure it's incased in some sort of 'T' track, that being said, you might look for some 'T' track bolts, which have longer heads and might catch farther away where the bolt didn't strip out!

    T-Bolt 304 Stainless Steel T Bolts T-Slot T Head Bolt Hammer Screw M8 8MM X 30MM

    https://www.ebay.com/i/163787566745


     Could you define your problem a bit better? Perhaps show a broken clamp?
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • CoinMLSCoinMLS Registered Users Posts: 10 ✭✭
    edited July 2020 #4
    I'm sorry I should have described it better. It was late and I'm super frustrated. I was hoping a solar "old timer" would recognize these and I could locate some new old stock.

    I forgot, I should just refer you guys to http://iwentsolar.com which documents the original installation of my system very well.

    If you see in the attached photo, when the bolt is "pulled up" the head is supposed to be held by those lines of aluminum. As you can see in the picture, the metal isn't that strong and is deformed (stripped basically) so it doesn't hold and it just spins when you tighten the bolt. 
    There's a second problem in that on many or most of these, the nuts are bound in their their threads for some reason. And SUPER tight. I tried holding the shaft with vice grips but they don't hold well enough. There's no way to fit a wrench in there to hold the head of the bolt to get the nut off. I could try a bench vice if I had one, I might head to a friend's place tomorrow. I can probably make this work with new hardware by holding the shaft with a vice grips for the install, but that will be tedious and assumes I can get everything freed up on a bench vise.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,684 admin
    That look like stainless steel bolt and nut... If so, it sounds like they galled:

    https://www.boltdepot.com/fastener-information/Materials-and-Grades/Thread-galling.aspx

    Using lubricants, brass nuts on SS bolts, etc. all help reduce galling.

    From my limited experience, once a nut+bolt has seized, that is the end of the road. You either have to cut the nut or bolt off, or try twisting until the bolt fails.

    I have even "galled" SS screws and wingnuts (no lubrication).

    Depending on how hard the nuts are--A nut splitter (and new hardware) is a common solution (if you can get the tool in there):

    https://www.amazon.com/nut-splitter/s?k=nut+splitter

    K Tool International KTI70715 Universal Nut Splitter
    CRAFTSMAN Universal Nut Splitter CMMT14117

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • CoinMLSCoinMLS Registered Users Posts: 10 ✭✭
    Thanks Bill, I think you're right that they are galled. Solves that mystery - I couldn't figure out why they were so difficult, but that explains it.

    I'm not so interested in saving these clamps if I can just buy new ones. I guess I could go with new rails too, they probably aren't that expensive but the rails are all installed and ready to go so that's my first preference if anyone knows any clamps that will work with my rail.
  • CoinMLSCoinMLS Registered Users Posts: 10 ✭✭
    After more consideration the real problem is the galled nuts and bolts. I think the best path forward is probably for me to just cut the bolts with a cutting wheel or saw and replace with new hardware. Now I just have to find a good tool or buddy to cut these... 
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,576 ✭✭✭✭✭
    CoinMLS said:
    After more consideration the real problem is the galled nuts and bolts. I think the best path forward is probably for me to just cut the bolts with a cutting wheel or saw and replace with new hardware. Now I just have to find a good tool or buddy to cut these... 
    Once removed, the longer head of the 'T' track bolt might work. I thought I had seen some at Home Depot.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
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