Introduction: Window Grates (Automotive)
A little backstory here.....I run a search and rescue dog(s) out of my personal vehicle (in this case its a 2007 Chevy Silverado Extend cab). DISCLAIMER NOTE: Before anyone calls PETA or ASPCA on me I do not leave the dog unattended for longer than 1 hour or so when in the cab, regardless of weather conditions. I normally transport them in plastic kennels strapped down in the bed of my truck, they are easily removable if I need to haul an ATV or other equipment. Sometimes when out on trainings, calls, etc. I needed a more secure (lockable) spot than the kennels.
I started looking for a solution to secure the dog(s) inside the vehicle cab and be able to leave the windows down when I wasn't with the vehicle (I can lock the doors to prevent theft). Looking online for expanded metal mesh grates (same ones used by law enforcement) specific to my vehicle meant spending 200-600 dollars. That price did not include installation, plus they are pretty much permanent and cannot be easily removed without tools.
The following cost me about 50 dollars (that's a bit high actually) to fab up. The materials used:
1- 20inch by 48inch Rubbermaid Tightmesh closet shelf (Menards/Lowes)
8- 10-32 thread T-nuts (Menards/Lowes)
8- 10-32 threaded knurled knobs (Menards/Lowes/farm supply store)
8- 1/4 x 1 1/4 fender washers
2- cans of Plasti dip (Lowes)
Overall I estimate this project took 8-10 hours (not including any paint drying time). I consider myself to be a "shade tree professional" when it comes to automotive and metal working stuff.
Step 1: Prep/measurements
First thing to do is measure the opening, in my case the window hole was 18.5inches by 16inches. This got me to thinking I could "press" a grate into the window track and roll the window part way up to hold it in place, but realized it could damage the window glass and would require removal every time I wanted to roll up the window..
I decided to go with a grate that sat inside but could be easily removed if needed. In the end the mounting surface was 20inches by 24inches.
Step 2: Cutting and Bending
I took the 20 x 48 shelf and cut it in half making 2 20 x 24 shelves by using a Sawzall. Make no mistake this stuff is pretty sturdy and takes a lot of elbow grease to cut using a manual hacksaw. Marks were then made on the shelf for areas to be removed to clear said handles and plastics.
After cutting, tweak the fit by bending the lip to close the gap between window sill and grate. This step takes some time but will ensure the best fit. I used a vice with some 2x4s and bent it to an angle using my body in a military press stance until I got the desired angle.
I then test fit to the door to check clearances. For my application the shelf was installed with the lip pointing down to accomodate a gap between the windosill and grate. Once that is complete then refit the grate to the door. Then use a marker to determine where to drill the holes for the T-nuts to be installed.
Check with the door closed to make sure it will not affect seatbelt/airbag operations and that it clears any latches, hardware, door handles, etc.
Step 3: Installing T-nuts
This step requires taking off the door panel of the vehicle so the pronged T-nuts can be installed from behind to prevent any slippage. After removing the necessary plastics drill out the holes you marked in the previous step. Take care to not drill through any brackets/clips that hold the plastics to the door.
The T-nuts should fit pretty flush against the "door side" of the plastic. Some minor trimming/grinding of the prongs may be needed to keep them from poking all the way through.
Step 4: Refit/check Clearances
After installing the T-nuts and checking that all the threaded knobs install correctly test fit the grate to the door using said knobs and 1 1/4inch fender washers. You may need to tweak the final bends or reposition the grate up or down slightly.
If all is well and everything functions normally (door opens/closes as before, window works, handles are not blocked from inside, etc), grind/sand any sharp edges off to prevent scratching of the car plastic or injury to the animal.
NOTE: To save money you can use regular bolts in place of the threaded knobs. 1 knob cost about 2-3 dollars, you can buy all the needed bolts (8) for about a dollar. You do lose the easy removal feature though.
Step 5: Paint and Final Install
This step is not necessary but I desired a more professional look. I used cardboard to protect the table from paint overspray and used Plasti-dip for its durability. Follow the directions on the Plasti-dip (or whatever spray paint you use). I did several coats. After drying, reinstall to the door panel