In this Fishin' Talk blog we will review the installation process of a track system on a Ranger 621. This same method can be used on any fiberglass boat. This review focuses on our methods we have used over the years. Install at your own risk and consult with your local boat dealer for professional help. There are no claims made that this is the "best way", just how we have done it over the years. This will work with any brand of track. In this installation we are adding a 12'' Berts Custom Track. We chose this brand as this boat already had this same track installed when we bought it and it's readily available. We will note that we added the two center screw holes pictured ourselves. This 12'' track comes standard with 4 mount holes, not 6. There are many great track manufacturers and this method can be used with them all.
- 12'' Berts Custom Tackle Track
- #14 x 1 3/16'' Stainless Flathead Screws - Qty 6
- 1 oz 3M 5200 Sealant - Qty 1
- 1/8'' Drill Bit
- 3/16'' Drill Bit
- 1/2'' 82 Degree Countersink Bit
- #3 Phillips Driver
- Shop Vac
- Paper Towels
- Cardboard catch box for spent paper towels
Look over the area you are planning on installing the track. If there is access to the underside of the proposed mount area, check for hoses, wires, etc. Most times you will not have access to these areas, so it's always a good idea to check with the boat manufacturer or your local dealer with questions about clearances and potential obstructions. The last thing you want to do is drill through a livewell hose, fuel line or electrical run. Once you have confirmed the location is suitable for a track system, center the track and use painters tape to hold the it in place. Use enough tape to keep the track from moving. This is an extremely important step. If the track is moving while drilling your pilot holes, you are in a bad spot right out of the gate. There is no forgiveness with fiberglass. If your drilled holes don't line up with the track holes, you're SOL. If this happens, you would have to offset the track and make new holes, which is bad for many reasons. You can mark the holes, remove the track and drill with it removed, but we drill our pilot holes with the track taped in place, so making sure we don't move it during the drilling process is critical.
With the track taped in place drill the pilot holes with a 1/8'' drill bit. We recommend using a quality, sharp bit. Do not cheap out and use old, worn out bits for this job. They are fairly inexpensive and the last thing you want to do is mess this job up because you used a spent drill bit to avoid spending $3. When the bit is near punching through, try and limit how deep you run the bit in. We try and go slow enough at the end where we can only punch the drill bit through, no more. If you are using a 3'' bit and press it all the way through, you increase your risk of hitting something. Use a shop vac while drilling to keep the fiberglass dust contained. We wear goggles during this process as well. Fiberglass dust is not good for the skin and eyes, so wear proper protection and wash your hands.
After you have drilled all of the pilot holes, you can remove the tape and the track. Run the shop vac over the holes and the surrounding area to continue keeping the fiberglass dust contained. Using the 1/2'' 82 Degree Countersink, add the countersink to the holes. We do this before drilling the larger 3/16'' holes to help reduce the chance of the 3/16'' bit catching the gel coat and cracking it. The goal here is to remove enough of the gel coat so that the screw threads cannot touch the gel coat. The countersink also creates a bed for the 3M adhesive to seat into. We use the shop vac during this process as well.
Now that you have the countersinks complete it's time to drill the 1/8'' pilot hole out to 3/16''. Since we already added the countersink, the concern of this larger drill bit cracking the gel coat is no longer a concern. Drill until you punch through the fiberglass. Do not run the drill bit until bottomed out as you increase the risk of hitting something the deeper you run the bit past the bottom side of the fiberglass. Run it slow and "feel" for it. If you do this correctly, you wont push the bit all the way down, only through the fiberglass. The picture below will show how the #14 size screw will look when being installed. You can see that the gel coat has been removed enough where the threads will not hit it.
Now that you have drilled all of the pilot holes to 3/16'' it is time for the 3M 5200 sealant to be applied. NOTE: This adhesive is extremely messy and aggressive. Take precautions to keep it from getting on any surface you don't want it on. Have a containment container for the spent towels, etc. If you are doing it outside and it's windy, we recommend a cardboard box with some weight inside it. This helps create a containment area safe from the wind. Squeeze a little sealant into the holes and fill up the cavity of the countersink. The fuller it is, the more it will squeeze out. We don't mind a little sealant coming up under the screw ourselves. This adhesive not only helps add some holding power but it also keeps water out of your hull. We know some people actually add some sealant to the back of the track itself to add even more holding power. We only add it to the holes, but you can add as much as you like. Just remember the 3M 5200 is a permanent bond, so if you ever plan to remove the track, less is more.
Now that the sealant is applied, it's time to line up the track and set it in place. The goal is to set it down in place, once! If you get adhesive on the back of the track, do not set it down or you will have a mess. Once lined up, drive in the #14 stainless flat head screws. We used 1 3/16'' long screws in this installation. Use a length that will be long enough for the total thickness but not overly long where the screw is hanging into open space as it can rub on hoses, etc. We start the screws with a #3 phillips driver. Once the screws are started and we are confident everything lines up, we will use the drill on the lowest speed setting to get them started. Once started we finish them all by hand with the driver. Tighten them all until they are hand torqued. DO NOT use an impact driver at all for this installation. Make sure you use the correct size bit for the screws you purchased. Again, we used a #3 phillips bit as this is the requirement for these #14 stainless flat head screws. Do not try and get away with a #2 bit as it will strip out as you get deeper into the fiberglass.
Now that you have hand torqued down all of the screws, the installation is complete, except for cleanup. If you get excessive squeeze out around the screw heads, you can clean it up with a paper towel. Again, be careful not to get the adhesive on anything as it's a mess to clean up. Cure time of the adhesive will depend on the temperature and humidity. Follow the cure time recommendations on the adhesives packaging. For this specific installation we used the fast cure version of the 3m 5200 because we had rain and low temperatures in the forecast. Give it the time it needs and then the track system is ready to use! As always, we recommend you do not use nets in your track system. If you do, do not run with them in the net holder. This will put a lot of strain on the track and can create issues over time. If you have access to the back side of the area the track is being installed, you can also opt to bolt on your track. If so, you can follow most of these same steps. If you bolt on, we recommend using large fender washers or backer plates.