Plusnut-heading-annotated
We don’t like drilling holes in our van. You shouldn’t either!

 

It could
  1. attract rust on bare edges
  2. spread metal chips all over (almost impossible to remove and will attract rust)
  3. interfere with your van electronics (!) (follow your manual’s no-drill zones, such as the Ford Transit BEMM)

 

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click and commit to buy one of the product linked, we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not. Buying through our affiliate links is a great way to say thanks if we were of any help in your van conversion! Alternatively, you can visit our Say Thanks! page.

 

There is a way to avoid drilling holes:
single-plusnut-title

Buy from Amazon.

 

What is a Plusnut?

It is an insert that you install permanently in an existing hole. Once installed, a bolt can be fastened (and removed) into it. Voilà!

 

 

How does it hold into the van panel? This way:

plusnut-simulation

 

How does it look when installed in a van:
plusnut-no-plusnut

Installed! A bolt can now be fastened.

Plusnut:
  1. will not create galvanic corrosion (if your van panels are also made of steel, most likely they are…)
  2. have impressive pullout strength: 1215lbs (for .030″ thick steel)
  3. covers a wide grip range (grip = van panel thickness) (for example, the 1/4-20 Plusnut grip range is .020″ to .280″)
  4. are quite easy to install with specific tool or DIY tools
  5. blind installation (no need to have access to both sides of the panel)
  6. can be installed in plastic or wood as well

 




 

 

How to install a Plusnut

Method A

Use a tool such as this one:

plusnut-tool

Buy from Amazon.

Method DIY

After installing 80+ Plusnuts using the DIY method, we wish we bought the tool above… we probably spent as mush in bolts & K-Nuts than the cost of the tool itself! Unless you’re almost done with your conversion, make yourself a favor and get the tool!

Tools required:

  1. Carriage bolt (same type as your Plusnut. 1/4-20 Plusnut = 1/4-20 bolt. Buy from Amazon)
  2. K-Nut (it’s a nut with an attached, free spinning washer. Buy from Amazon). We found this type of nut will last MUCH longer than a regular nut (a regular nut will last for 1-2 uses only as opposed to 10-15 uses for the K-Nut)
  3. Box Wrench (or any drilled plate would do. This is just to prevent the Plusnut from rotating when upsetting)
  4. Vise Grip (Buy from Amazon)
  5. Wrench (for turning the K-Nut)

 

Procedure:

plusnut-demo-step-1

1- Insert the Plusnut in the hole

plusnut-demo-step-2

 

3- Insert the box wrench, k-nut, carriage bolt and secure the vise-grip to the carriage bolt.

stackup

 

4- Upset

plusnut-upset

 

5- Remove the box wrench, k-nut and carriage bolt. That’s it!

plusnut-front-view

 

6- Fasten your bolt!

plusnut-example

These 4 bolts are fastened into Plusnut!

 

What type of Plusnut do I need? Where can I buy them?

Well, it depends on the “Grip Range” (panel thickness) and “Hole Size” (diameter). Use the table below to find the correct type and follow the “Amazon Link” to buy:

Thread Size Grip Range Hole Size  Amazon Link
Min. Max.
10-32 0.020-0.175 0.312 0.317 BUY
10-32 0.175-0.320 0.312 0.317 BUY
1/4-20* 0.020-0.280 0.386 0.391 BUY
1/4-20 0.280-0.500 0.386 0.391 BUY
5/16-18 0.020-0.280 0.484 0.489 BUY
5/16-18 0.280-0.500 0.484 0.489 BUY
3/8-16 0.020-0.280 0.562 0.569 BUY

*For the Ford Transit, you want the 1/4-20, 0.020″-0.280″ grip range. They fit perfectly in the existing holes!

 

 

Tip #1

How to locate accurately the holes to be drilled in the cabinet (or else) to get a perfect fit with the Plusnut pattern?

this-cabinet-must-be-fastened-to-the-van-wall

 

1- We used hanger bolts (same thread type as the Plusnut):
hanger-bolt

Buy it on Amazon.com

2- We installed a hanger bolt in each Plusnut, sharp end pointing out

hanger-bolts-installed

 

3- Then we pressed the cabinet’s panel against the hanger bolts sharp end; this transferred the Plusnut pattern into the cabinet.

 

4- The cabinet was drill using the transferred pattern from step 3 (it is O.K. to slightly oversize the holes).

 

5- The bolts were fastened into the Plusnut. Voilà!

cabinet-plusnut

 

Conclusion

Plusnut are easy to get, easy to install, are very strong and will help protect the van in the long run. We highly recommend them for a van conversion!

 

 

WANT MORE?

Check out our Build Journal, or learn everything about The Van.

 

 

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ABOUT US

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine, a couple dreaming of being on the move and we’re seeking for the ride of our life. We bought a Ford Transit van, converted it to a campervan and we are now selling our house to make our dream a reality. We are sharing this in hope of inspiring and helping others to follow their dreams too!

 

 

CHEERS!

 

 

33 comments

  1. Comment by K Fran

    K Fran Reply October 9, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Great idea! Thank you for documenting so well! Please keep your remarkable posts coming!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 10, 2016 at 9:54 am

      Thanks!
      There is more coming 🙂

  2. Comment by Lisa

    Lisa Reply October 9, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you so much for explaining this so well! I’ve been wondering how to mount anything to the existing holes in the van.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 10, 2016 at 9:55 am

      🙂

  3. Comment by Marc-Antoine Ricard

    Marc-Antoine Ricard Reply October 9, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    J’adore ton idée. As tu une idée où on peut trouver ça, à part sur internet?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 10, 2016 at 9:59 am

      “Vis-Plus”, à St-Jérome, peut en commander mais elles ont l’air un peu cheap. Y’a peut-être des magasins spécialisés dans les vis aussi dans ton coin?

      • Comment by Pierre-Luc Lebrun

        Pierre-Luc Lebrun Reply May 12, 2017 at 10:19 am

        Tu peux commander directement de Bollhoff Canada (situé à Markham, ON).
        J’attends des prix pour 1/4-20″ en SS. je vous tiendrais au courant des coûts vs Amazon.

        • Comment by Antoine

          Antoine Reply May 12, 2017 at 10:21 am

          C’est bon à savoir! Même si c’est plus cher, ça vaut probablement la peine. J’attend de tes nouvelles!

          • Comment by Pierre-Luc Lebrun

            Pierre-Luc Lebrun May 12, 2017 at 10:47 am

            Pour ton information :

            J’ai récemment fait faire des simulations FEA d’un impact frontal et latéral de véhicule, avec un poids simulé de 55kg sur le toit, pour déterminer les efforts des ancrages et les specs nécessaires de la quincaillerie 1/4″-20 à utiliser, dans un contexte assez similaire.

            Résultats :
            – Wellnuts : ne répondaient pas aux efforts de l’impact. (Ultimate tensile strength autour de 360 lbf)
            – Jacknuts : ne répondaient pas aux efforts de l’impact. Quoique j’aimerais vraiment le tester personnellement. (Ultimate tensile strength 820 @ 1050 lbf)
            – Rivetnuts / Nutserts : Seules les versions métriques M6+ en acier semblaient répondre aux efforts de l’impact, et même là, c’était limite.
            – Hexsert : La version “Heavy-duty en acier de Advel répondait aux efforts sans problème. Disponible en métrique M6 à M12 seulement.
            – Plusnuts SS : La version SS répondait au besoin et pouvait pleintement résister aux efforts. J’essayerai d’obtenir l’information à savoir si la version en acier répondrait également aux efforts de cet impact.

            Donc, bon flair de ta part!

            La visserie suggérée : 1/4″20 en SS 18-8 faisait l’affaire, ça passait la simulation.
            Je me rendrai chez PMG au cours des prochaines semaines pour des “crash-tests” physiques.

  4. Comment by Steven

    Steven Reply October 11, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Is there a reason you chose plusnuts over Heavy Duty Rivnuts? Is holding power different? Thanks for all the work you put in documenting your build, it is much appreciated.

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  6. Comment by Stan

    Stan Reply November 15, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    I ordered the plus nuts you recommended but I cannot get them to compress. First I tried the the DYI method then I ordered the rivnut tool. In neither case was I successful in getting the plus nut to spread out. I noticed in both methods that you explained and I tried, that the threads of the dyi or the rivnut tools bolt did not extend all the way into the plusnuts threads. Do you think getting a longer bolt would help or are the plus nuts just to sturdy for my puny ways?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 16, 2016 at 7:27 am

      Did you ordered the PRE-BULBED ones? The compression has been slightly started at factory, it is therefore easier for the customer to compress the plusnut. If you ordered from the link I provided, you have the pre-bulbed. Yes, the bolt should extend all the way into the Plusnut; this reduces the chance of damaging the threads since there is more surface in contact.
      I’m surprise you could not make it work using the tool 🙁 It requires some torque, but not THAT much… maybe you could ask someone else to try?? Or watch some videos on youtube to make sure you do it properly? Good luck!

  7. Comment by Steven

    Steven Reply November 16, 2016 at 7:34 am

    Stan, I ordered the pre bulbed plus nuts from the link above and found that I needed to add a fender washer to them inorder to keep them from spinning in the thin sheet metal of the walls of my van. Maybe they sent me the wrong size but the package says .280, not sure if that is the top out number or starting number. Once I added the washer they worked great. Good luck

  8. Comment by Stan

    Stan Reply November 16, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Thanks so much for the quick reply. Yea they are the ones you recommended. turns out after some research this morning I should have ordered a rivet nut tool with longer threads. I think I will try a couple of things now (1. Get a longer bolt for the dyi method and (2. Compress the bulb just a little more in a vice first and then see if that will make things easier. Thanks again. I really like your build. Keep up the good work.

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  10. Comment by JG

    JG Reply November 28, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Antoine,
    First off, your van looks great! I have been using your website and awesome instructions to work on my Transit.
    Second off, I ordered the pre bulbed plus nut from the link with the factory tool and noticed that they fit easily in some holes and in others they stick out some what. I’m guessing from the bulb. Did you drive them in with a hammer to get them seated flush with the van, or did you start fastening them with it slightly protruding out of the existing hole? Thanks in advance!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 28, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      Hi!
      I’m glad the site is helping 🙂

      Some people drive them with a hammer, I just use the palm of my hand to push them in. In some cases, the Plusnut will not sit perfectly flush, but it’s no big deal as long as it feel solid. It depends on what you are attaching afterward i guess.

      Happy conversion!

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  14. Comment by Brad

    Brad Reply February 27, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Has anyone purchased plusnuts for the pre-drilled holes in the Mercedes Sprinter? If so, would love to hear if there was also a perfect-fit option out there. Thank you!

  15. Comment by Ron

    Ron Reply February 28, 2017 at 12:16 am

    Wanted to thank you for the plus nut suggestion instead of drilling. Really appreciate your insight and “if we were to do it again” ideas, very helpful information.

    Wondering if you had any suggestions on how to remove a plus nut? Had a couple of Plus Nuts that stripped. The tool doesn’t thread all of the way into the nut. Have you used plus nuts for the smaller 5/16″ holes, and if so, what size plus nut would you suggest? And if I understand things correctly, this would also require another separate installation tool.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply February 28, 2017 at 7:39 am

      Do you have access to the back of the stripped Plusnut? Maybe you could oversize-drill from the front, while preventing the plusnut rotating from the back? i have not tried this, though. I only used 1/4-20 Plusnut, using a smaller plusnut requires a different tool that matches the threads of the plusnut…
      For a 5/16 hole diameter (0.3125″), a 10-32 (grip length 0.020-0.175) plusnut should fit according to the table in this post.

      Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

  16. Comment by Ron

    Ron Reply March 1, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    Thank you Antoine. The two stripped plusnuts happen to be located where there is no back access, a truly blind nut. One of them spins thereby eliminating the use of an oversized bit which should work on the first one. My solution for the second, spinning nut, is to use a Dremel with grinding bit that will fit inside the thread. Then carefully grind away the inside edge of the collar to separate it from the threaded portion. Hopefully, this will minimize any potential damage to the hole, i.e., paint and metal.

    As a note for future plusnut tool users, when setting the plusnut in place with the clockwise rotation of the wrench you’ll see the nut collar being drawn in against the sheet metal. Turn the nut until you have a snug tight fit. A snug tight fit does not require overwhelming force. The plusnut threads can easily be stripped or damaged with too much “brute” force. If you have trouble screwing into the plusnut, too much force was used to set it. The threads are probably distorted. This can be recovered by threading the matching screw initially with your fingers. Make sure the screw is correctly aligned and not cross threaded. Then slowly turn the screw all the way through the plusnut. There will be some initial resistance followed by a release as the screw moved through the nut. Consider using a stainless steel screw for this task. The treads are much stronger and more precise.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply March 2, 2017 at 7:22 am

      Thanks for the tips 🙂

  17. Comment by Ron

    Ron Reply March 2, 2017 at 12:07 am

    oops…Correction second paragraph first line “clockwise” rotation should be “counter clockwise” rotation.

  18. Comment by Robert Ryan

    Robert Ryan Reply March 8, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Great guide! Did you use the same plusnuts for your ceiling install?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply March 8, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Yes, same size. There is smaller holes all around the wall, I sometime wish we had smaller Plusnut as well, but we made it worked with only 1/4-20 size.

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  20. Comment by Jared

    Jared Reply August 3, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Does anyone know if I drill a new hole for a plushnut, do I need to prime the hole to prevent rust?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 3, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      Hi Jared,
      we primed + painted + clearcoated every hole and every trim on the van to prevent rust. It’s a new van and has many years in front of it! If you are converting an old van, it might not be necessary…

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