Close-out panel fix

steel snake

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Hi boys and girls,
Before I start my next project I wanted to get some fdbk on altering the gas tank close-out panel on my 2002 RT10. I'm planning to replace all the rivets with u-nuts and m-5 bolts so as servicing anything behind panel won't be a major PITA. That's the one luxury RT10 owners have--not cutting up that area to service the tank as well as easy access to pump and plumbing. My concern is changing the integrity of the body in doing so. I can't see how it would, but maybe somebody knows better. Thx, SS
 

MoparMap

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Not sure how the gen 1/2 compare, but on my gen 3 I replaced the rivets they used on the fuel pump access panel with rivnuts for easier future removal. The access panel on mine is just plastic, so little to no structural impact that I could imagine.
 

steel snake

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Thx MoparMap. I considered a rivnut type system, but opted for the u-nuts and bolts being easier to install and not putting pressure on the composite. I was just concerned that the bolt system wouldn't be as rigid as the original rivets. I'm coming to the same conclusion, that it's just a panel and doesn't really affect integrity. Thx for your input, SS
 

MoparMap

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Yeah, I like the idea of the u-nuts, but not sure I could do it on mine. I think the composite is too thick for most of the u-nuts I've seen. They do have different style rivnuts I've found as well. I didn't use them at the time as I didn't know about them until I had to take a front fender off recently to deal with a snapped off stud. Instead of a collar that crushes down all the way around they have ones that are more like the expanding drywall anchors (they look like a big plus sign when installed). Probably called plus-nuts as well I think. They expand way more and help to spread the load a little better than just the small ridge that is created with the collar style rivnuts. I think they are basically designed to be used in plastic or softer materials.
 

steel snake

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I bot some of those off McMaster-carr. They're the same kind of unit the factory used to the secure the plastic thumb screws (which I replaced with 1/4-20 body bolts). The only problem with them is they require a rather expensive tool to install them. The U-bolts come in different depths and thickness capabilities and if your handy they can also be re-configured to some degree. Another option is the item enclosed (off eBay). Doesn't look like they expand out as far. Don't know anything about them, but an option? If I get the panel done this week I'll let you know how it went. SS

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Dan Cragin

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It really is a struggle to drill out those rivets and unglue the panel. That panel is not structural. We use plastic rivets when re-install the panel.
 

steel snake

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Thx Dan for the conformation. Drilling out the rivets IS a pain, but only painful once. I plan to use butyl windshield rubber or maybe blk RTV or.....just weather stripping from HD.
 

steel snake

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Any of you that have taken out this panel have any tricks to deal with the RTV/glue that is sealing panel to the body? I thot the rivets were tuff, but cutting threw that stuff is a b*tch. Actually the rivets were pretty easy except for the top 4. When I finally get the panel off I may just go with weather stripping to seal the gaps. Thx, SS
 

Mark Crosby

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You should be good using those but as far as using those will cause gaping which is very minimal. Now I’m saying very minimal for any kind of water leak or anything. Blind rivets pull tight but so do nutserts, get creative. Use a touch of urethane to maximize sealing. It’s all preference which you like. I don’t suggest your method because I’ve never seen it done and I didn’t do that doing my car so take my advice or not. It’s all about longevity not temporary. It’s a dice roll but it’s you brother.
 

steel snake

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Thx Mark, The essence of my project is to make the panel easily removable. RTV makes a good seal, but hard to break. Plain old weather stripping will provide enuf weather protection there and would let the panel come off easily. U-nuts and m-5 bolts will pull everything as tite as you dare. We are working with composite here. Tightness is not my concern. Check back later as I will show what I used and how. So far the panel lives up to it's reputation, but it's a one time thing. When I'm done, removal will be a piece of cake for any future work. SS
 
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steel snake

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Well, got the panel out. It was all it was advertised to be. Learned a lot and discovered some things I suspected would be there. Took pix as I went along and will do a show and tell asap. Stayed tuned. SS
 

Mark Crosby

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Forgot to mention I just put a bead of urethane and popped rivets back into mine. Would like to see the u nuts in action if you go that route. Post some pics, good work SS
 

steel snake

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Ok, here goes. This is a show and tell of the panel removal. The last installment will be the finished project with pix.
When you start the removal begin at the bottom of the panel. Take everything out including the tool kit. Protect the bumper with a furney pad as shown and one for your knees. They'll thank you. Choose the easiest access point to start. The "tools" are shown that I used. Went to a thrift shop and bot a few narrow spatulas and I already had an (art supply) artist's palette knife. I'm a wood-worker so had plenty of small wedges. I also had a mini-Vaughn pry-bar. You can find something similar on eBay or maybe a good hardware store. Admittedly, this is not a project everyone would pursue, but I was determined.
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Rivets can be a challenge depending where they're located. The top 4 are the hardest. I had 2 long electrician drills that are about a foot long. They helped in those spots because they kept the drill body away from the trunk edges. The rivets have a little nub in the center left when the tool breaks the stem during installation. Use a small punch to push just those nubs back into the rivet body. That will give you a clean center to place the drill to start the drill-out process. I used a 1/4 and 3/8 drill depending on whether I could get a clean angle on the drill-out. If you can't get a clean break you may have to finish with some sort of cutter as pictured with the drills. Save the rivets as you get them out the back. They won't all just fall on the floor. Some may get trapped behind the 2 close out panels (batt/Evap) behind rear tires. One was just setting on the frame. You'll find most of them when you get the panel off.
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So all you're doing is trying to release the RTV seal around the perimeter of the panel. You want to push the knife or spatula up a couple of inches to do that. It will fight you all the way; when you get a large enuf area (6-7") you can start to use the wedge-prybar combo. You obviously have to slide the spatula in at an angle. Room restrictions will dictate what you use where. The pry will let you insert a wedge which gives you a little wiggle room. little bits of RTV will start coming out with the spatula or the knife. A hair drier seemed to help in some really stubborn spots. When you get one part clear move the wedge and repeat the process. Remember you're working with composite so easy-does-it all the way. The panel is barely 1/8" thick most places; same for the body. The corners are the tuffest. You just have to work those areas with you array of "tools" as needed. The palette knife can get into those hard to work areas. My car had the least amount of RTV at the top and I was able to pull the panel away at the bottom and sides working stubborn spots as I did. You may encounter different applications on your car and areas that were easy for me may be harder for you. It took me a full day to get this done and a lot of patience. Work the top seal break as far as you can from both sides towards center and the bottom pull should work it loose. It's almost impossible to get tools to the top center because of room restrictions. Things won't get easy until you're about 2/3 done.
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Once you get the panel off you get to see what's behind door #1. I used u-nuts (eBay) and bolts (lilparts.com) almost all the way around which you can do, but some holes (6) need special jack nuts I got thru McMaster-Carr (search pop rivets) as shown. All over eBay too. Some holes are too far from the edge making u-nuts unusable, but I was determined to use hardware all the way. Xmas trees would probably work in these holes. You should use blk paint in all the areas that need it before you install the hardware. Krylon semi blk would seem the best choice. The hardware sources are noted. I think my choices worked the best (for me) and I was determined to stay with M5 hardware. Same bolt as used for the radiator shroud just under the air intake. A few of the body perimeter holes are almost 1/16 inch from the edge. You have to be creative to make the u-nuts work. I elected to go with commonly available weather-stripping to make it easy for the next removal. That will keep the weather out and will seal better than what the factory did (hit and miss RTV application). Now you can put your trunk back together with the satisfaction that you'll never have to deal with this nightmare again. Sleep tight.
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MoparMap

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I'm not sure if I think this is easier or harder than the gen 3/4 approach. The actual factory service manual procedure for removing the fuel tank to service emissions stuff on the tank is literally to cut a huge access hole in the rear truck area and rivet it back in. Basically what was already in the earlier gens from the look of it.
 

steel snake

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That may be so. I've decided not to pursue this post any further. There are too many little details necessary to make it all come together. I enjoy a challenge, but I think it's not a project most people want to bother with. Ultimately it will come together and my panel with come out easily. In the process I designed a few simple tools to install the hardware so it wasn't a waste of time for me. Happy trails, SS
 

steel snake

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Was going to post finished pix, but not much to see besides a black trunk interior. A lot of little adjustments and some failed jack nuts to replace (a pain), but it's done and I don't regret my decision. Later, SS
 

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