Bucolic whine of the cordless drills, could life ever be better? Dove in on this one, check it out.
Some boots have a hollowed out area in the heel where it’s easy to nut the end of a bolt inserted through the rear tech fittings. In my experiments an 8-32 x 1 inch machine screw nested perfectly into the tech fitting, but unless sourced from the best quality supplier seemed a bit thin for truly beefing things. Instead, I used a 10-24 x 1 inch, and after installation I filed the head down nearly flush with the fitting. This removes the zinc coating, so when you’re done spray or paint the filed areas with a bit of lacquer and watch for rust during service. When doing the final install, everything should be bedded in a strong epoxy such as JB to seal against moisture and prevent micro-movement.
To fit the 8-32 screw through the fitting, it was necessary to ream the hole a small amount. I did so to the point of still having a tight fit that required threading the screw through the hole, rather than easily pushing it. Idea is that all gaps and tolerances in this project need to be minimal. Be advised that the tech heel fitting is hardened steel, you can’t just pop a cheapo drill bit through the hole. I reamed by using a tight fitting drill bit and angling the bit while spinning.
As for drilling the hole in the boot, this was drilled tight. I then threaded in the bolt and over-tightened so it stripped and turned to accept the nut. That way the hole was the most minimal diameter possible. Driving or pressing the bolt through the hole for a press-fit could be an even better option. Whatever you do, again, the goal is zero possibility of movement.
Again, epoxy should be applied to all surfaces to lock threads, prevent micro-movement, and seal against hidden corrosion. Use common sense and experience to apply correct torque to the screw and nut.
Note that using an 8-32 screw results in a smaller hole bored in the boot, and sits nicely flush in the fitting counter-sink. For average skiers this could be a better size bolt for the mod. This especially true considering the main purpose of this project is to get rid of the stock screw which numerous reports indicate loosens or breaks. I used the larger 10/24 in this how-to to show the maximum way this mod could be configured. In the end, anything is better than what is essentially the thin un-locked wood screw that holds most boot heel tech fittings. My seat-of-pants engineering sense tells me to use regular hardware store (around grade 3) hardness fasteners for this mod, as they’ll be more resistant to fatigue cracking than hardened fasteners. That is just an assumption, perhaps using hardened fasteners would be better. Corrosion is probably a bigger issue, though hardware store fasteners may be unreliable in terms of steel quality. Seal everything well.
If you’re considering this mod after you’ve sheared off the stock screw, your first challenge will be getting the broken screw out of the boot. WildSnow readers report that using a left hand drill bit can extract the broken screw. It’s possible you could also drive the broken screw out in the forward direction with a pin punch, since you’ll be drilling a through-hole anyway. Perhaps heat the broken screw first with the butt of a backwards inserted drill bit.
Which brands and models of boots accept this mod? Unknown, but easy to evaluate by pulling heel pad out of shell and examining the area where the bolt would seat. Installing a custom shaped washer under the nut might be a good idea for maximum strength. To re-glue heel pad in boot, use a dab of silicon caulk.
WildSnow “wax iron” difficulty rating: 3 out of a max 5 wax irons — 5 being most difficult.
If you’re concerned about your tech boot heel fittings but don’t need or desire this complex a mod, consider at least removing the tech fittings and bedding in epoxy. Check this link for that.
(Disclaimer: This is an experimental modification and has not been extensively tested for durability.)
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.