Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ladder Repair Part 1: What the Heck is a "Star Fangled Nut"?

In recent years the ladder on the back of my RV has become a little rickety. 
Some of the horizontal tubes, called "standoffs" have begun to loosen and come away from the brackets where they attach to the sidewall.

In the picture below, you can see how the standoff tube is pulling away from the bracket.

I pulled the standoff tube away so you can see what is inside.  Lots of rust, and not much to hold that tube in place.

The star-shaped gizmo inside the tube took a lot of research to figure out.  I went to the local RV Parts supplier.  After much discussion and poring over a parts catalog, they identified it as "Standoff Nut". Below is a photo of what a new one should look like.
Image credit:

The RV parts store had to special order this.  MSRP in the catalog is about $9 each, they said they would cut a deal and charge me just $6.50 each.  A week passed, and the nuts got back-ordered, and then two more weeks passed.

In my frustration, I did some research.

It turns out that this is a very common part in bicycle repair.  Bike mechanics call it a "Star-Fangled Nut".  Every bicycle has one of these in the headset, where the fork and handlebars join the frame.  If you search for "Star Fangled Nut" you will easily find them on the internet.  

These nuts also go by a couple of other names too.  Sometimes they are called "Star Nuts".  One company calls them "Tube Connecting Nuts" and uses them to construct shelving.  They are also used in the marine industry to build and repair the ladders that attach to the sides of boats.

My local bike repair shop had drawers full of them in a couple of sizes. They charged me only $2.50 each!  At that price I bought ten and they threw in four connecting bolts which I could not find in the right size at the local hardware store.

If you want you can buy a replacement for the entire standoff, complete with star fangled nuts and retaining bracket, here is an example on for $14.95. 

That's probably what an RV technician would do to save time. However I chose  to replace just the nuts and connecting bolts because:

  1. I want to use the original mounting brackets and
  2. I'm not sure if all the star fangled nuts need to be replaced only four of the ten seem to be loose, and
  3. the bottom of the ladder attaches to the mounting bracket without a standoff tube.
I'll start work today and the repair will be my next post. 

Click here for part 2.

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