Hail Shield Build Help

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
OK, I've realized another issue: paint. I had originally planned to not go through the trouble and expense of painting this rig, but I now realize the thing is probably going to look quite ridiculous if it's not a flat black color. Not that I really care that much about appearances, as I'd rather be made fun of than pay thousands for multiple broken windows. I would like this to not look too garish, however. @Adam Lucio and others, what type of paint did you use? Did it hold up to the elements?
 
Mar 15, 2015
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Wichita Kansas
Dan I used a Rustoleum paint on mine, 1 yr in and paint still looks good and no rust.
One things I will add if you are thinking of using magnets at all, make sure to cover them with a thin felt to protect the paint on your vehicle.
 
On the subject of paint, I sprayed my truck tool box with spray on bedliner. I'll know more at the end of the spring how well it holds up but I don't see any rust or chipping issues. I was having issues with the glare from the sun reflecting off the box and into my mirrors. No glare now. It made a huge difference.
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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Continuing on my binge posting today on hail guards - here is the more or less "final" design of my rig. After getting the materials and laying everything out, I've found some modifications I could make to simplify things. First of all, I discovered that the shelving panels are strong enough to act as secondary structural members. For this reason, I was able to remove all of the lateral box beam bracing members from the original design, saving some of the material. When the shelving panels are bolted to the main box beam rails, they provide sufficient lateral bracing to the rig. The original box beam cross braces now serve as supports for the side window guards. Here, I've shown the Stage 2 fold-down panels in partially-deployed positions. Their stowed positions will be directly on top of the Stage 1 guards' positions.



The only item left to design is how to lower the four Stage 2 guards from inside the vehicle. Again, I will have the rear two Stage 2s deployed full-time unless someone is riding in the back. Really, the Stage 2 panels just need something to pull/push upward for the first 91 degrees, then gravity does the rest. I could just attach a long bar to each panel that I can reach out and push upward. The single-window Stage 2 guard is light enough that my hand can easily just catch the falling guard before it slams into the door. Crude, yes - but it just needs to work, not be elegant. If I wanted to get fancy, I could use some sort of actuator/motor drive to push the guards up and over, then have some foam or rubber stopper that allows them to just slam into the doors without denting/scratching them. I'll only do that if I can do it cheaply.

I figure I don't need to design a system to re-stow the deployed Stage 2 guards. After a hail threat is over, I can just stop, roll down the window, push the guard up to open the door, get out, and manually re-stow it. Again, function is all I'm concerned about at this point. I can add "cool" motor drives and actuators later if I want to geek out/spend money on it to that point.
 
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May 18, 2012
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Gaines, MI
This is the last season for the Jeep so I'm saving the Hail Guard expense for the next vehicle (either a Trailblaizer, Avalanche or Traverse). I love with Scott McPartland and his crew have done with his Exterra and what Adam Lucio has done with his Expedition, though if I go with a crossover or SUV I'll for sure build one for the back window (Adam's Wayne chase from a the October before last taught me that). Lowes and THD have Lexan, and I've already begin to purchase the magnets for the doors. I'll try to stay out of the big hail this spring and will concentrate on building these in the fall..
 
Jun 14, 2009
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Altoona, Iowa
toddrector.com
okay, cool - Just curious!
I also can't help but wonder how small a particle can be and still have a reasonable chance of breaking a window. I got sandblasted at Beaver Crossing NE last year, with pretty large dirt-clods and rocks flying horizontally. I got two windshield spiders on that trip that weren't from hail. Have you considered an underlying mesh/netting to augment protection?
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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I finished building the rig yesterday. I have done some beta-testing on the roads, including an MPG evaluation. With the rig mounted, the car gets ~30MPG highway (my car averages 38-40MPG highway). So, this will definitely be dismantled and transported inside the car during trips to and from the Plains. It can be mounted in about 15 minutes. Though it is not as obtrusive as I'd feared, I'm planning on painting it flat black to help it blend in as much as possible.

Some further changes to the design that were necessary:

  • To improve visibility, 1" spacers were added to the two front roof mounts to raise the height of the front windshield guard. The guard is not visible at all in my front dashcam's 120-degree view.
  • The front windshield guard cantilever was a little 'bouncy', so I added two 1/4" vertical support rods that attach at the base of the windshield.
  • The stage 1 side window guards provide better coverage than I'd anticipated. As a result, I'm evaluating the stage 2 guard idea. It may be feasible to protect only the passenger side windows with stage 2 guards, and just orient the car in a storm so that the passenger side faces the wind.
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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A couple of safety issues to mention regarding this project (if anyone is still reading this thread).

Structural redundancy: The rig is held together with bolts and fender washers. I have put 200 miles of real-world chasing on this thing during the past couple of days, and thankfully nothing has budged. All critical attachment spots are secured with at least two bolts, and most major sections are connected together with at least one bolt so they all help secure one another. I used 75lb tensile strength cable ties to add a redundant support to of the critical attachment points. So, if by some worst-case luck two of the bolts come loose at the same time, the affected piece will not fall off.

Head-bumping hazard: The stage 1 side window guards are very easy to forget about, especially in the dark and particularly when leaning in to grab items out of the back seat. I added some foam cushioning to the problem spots to make these inevitable incidents less painful.

Also, I have discovered that the RustOleum black spray paint I used did not hold up to the copious pea-sized hail I encountered today. Most of the paint on front-facing surfaces was chipped off.
 
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Sep 25, 2006
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Denver, CO
stormdig.com
The thing keeping me from building a hail guard is the MPG hit. At some point it'd be cheaper to replace your windows periodically than pay for the extra fuel over time. I've heard polycarb has less wind resistance than the metal grilles but I suspect where and how it's mounted would greatly impact that. I drive a sedan so my rear window is at greatest risk...I might start there and see what happens.
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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James, MPG's definitely a valid concern, especially since the reason I drive a small car is precisely for the MPG. I calculated the extra fuel cost per 400 miles with the guards on to be $8, or 2 cents extra per mile with gas at $2.50/gallon. I built the rig to be removable and stored inside the car. All of the guard panels will fit in the back seat area, and the long box beams will fit with one rear seat folded flat and having them pass through into the trunk. My plan is to transport the rig inside the car for the long trips to/from the Plains, as well as any long repositioning days while on a chase trip. I'll mount them in the morning of the first in a series of chase days, and remove them again at the end. Mounting/removal takes about 15-20 minutes by myself. At home, the guards can be removed and carried inside my apartment in two pieces.

Even if I chose to leave them on full-time on a trip, I figured the extra fuel cost for a round-trip to Elkhart, Kansas from here (1,400 miles total) would only run an additional $29. If I only mount them on tornado chase days, I'm looking at most an extra $8 per day on average. I expect to have them mounted maybe 10-15 days a year, for a total additional fuel cost of $150 or so annually. I look at it as a self-insurance premium against a catastrophic window loss, all while opening up more positioning and escape route possibilities around storms.
 
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Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
Dan - One thing to consider, if you're transporting this rig inside during the chase commute, please be sure to secure the components safely. As we all know, most storm chasing accidents occur during the ride to or from the storms, so making sure these components are stowed and secured safely will help prevent and collateral damage to occupants should you have an accident.

Personally, I keep all my gear in a big locked plastic bin in the rear of my car which is then secured to tie points in the hatch area. When I'm stopped, the straps come off and easy access to chase supplies.
 
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Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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Another update. I decided to start doing some MPG experiments with various parts of the rig installed. My first tests have been with the two main support beams, which are the longest of all the pieces and the hardest to carry inside of the car (they have to pass through from the trunk nearly all the way to the front dash, with one rear seat back laying flat). With these mounted by themselves, I was pleased to discover no detectable degradation in MPG, and therefore they can stay mounted on a chase trip full-time. Eventually I'll determine the maximum amount of parts that can be left mounted versus what needs to be transported inside. I'm hoping the bulk of the frame can be left mounted, with only the shelving panels carried inside during non-chase mode.

Marc, thankfully the pieces are a pretty tight fit when they're all inside, and don't have anywhere to move. They take up the bulk of the back seat area. I'll try to get some pictures of everything stowed.
 
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Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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A few notes to share after two Plains expeditions using the hail shields (roughly 5000 miles so far). One, the MPG hit is worse on the Great Plains than in my initial tests, thanks to the strong crosswinds and headwinds of surface flow commonly seen during chase setups. I averaged 26mpg on days with a strong crosswind, and a low of 20mpg on a day where I was heading south into a 15-20mph headwind. For this reason, I have made modifications to the setup to make it easier to stow the guards inside the car and faster to install/take down. Essentially, the guards will be stowed by default and not be mounted until the last gas stop before a storm intercept. It turns out that the numerous bolt connections I initially used was a gross overbuilding. Not one bolt or nut budged during the entire trips. Therefore, I have reduced the number of bolt connections on the front guards from eight to four, with the safety redundancy now accomplished using steel links to secure the grids together as one unit (previously, the three front grids were all mounted to the rails independently). The four connections make for a fast attachment/takedown process, and the steel links allow the grids to be folded up for stowing.

I have yet to subject the setup to an actual large hail encounter. The only time I deployed the fold-down side guards was to backtrack through the core of the supercell on May 8 near Throckmorton, TX, but I did not see any hail larger than quarters that day.

The guards also produce a loud whistling sound at highway speeds. Not as annoying as I expected from inside, but very loud when the windows are rolled down. It is probably fairly conspicuous to someone outside hearing the vehicle pass by.
 
Oct 14, 2008
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Tulsa, OK
Like Dan, I have also decided to build a hail shield for my car. I have a 2007 Toyota Camry. I have decided to post my design and progress on the project on ST to help others in their designs and builds. I have a friend that will be helping me, and I imagine the entire project will take a couple months. We will be designing and building a roof rack for the vehicle in addition to designing and building a tri-fold hail guard that protects the front and rear windows. Also, we will be building lexan side window protection. We are still in the design and plan phase, and we are going to nail down all the materials for the project before we get to work on anything. Therefore, I will be posting materials and plans for the next two months until my friend comes to visit in the middle of October and we assemble everything during his 2 week visit. I created two juvenile schematics in Word to give you a general idea of the layout. Not sure if they will translate well into this page.

So... I'm finding that I can't attach Word documents. Anyone have any ideas of how I might put my generic schematics from Word onto ST?
 

Attachments

Oct 14, 2008
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Tulsa, OK
So far we have the frame for the hail cage welded together and bent at the corners. In the image you will see a large rectangular frame with two bars running along the inside. Those will be the mounting bars which we will attach to a customized roof rack. The smaller rectangles off to the left will be the front and rear window fold down shields. They will be hinged to the main hail frame later. While I Drive, they will be folded on to the top. When I need them, I will deploy them by folding them down. At this point I think we will use a strong magnet to hold them to the hood and trunk respectively. We have ordered the sheets of Lexan which will be hinged on the sides of the main frame and will fold down on the side winds when needed. We used 1 1/2 inch aluminized steel, bent and welded by a professional but purchased and cut by us. That helped cut down some costs. I will post more as we get additional materials. And I might do some videos when we start to build it.


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Mar 14, 2010
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Siloam Springs, Arkansas
wp_ss_20150909_0003.png Bumping your head can be a real concern, or at least I never seem to learn. I just have the guard for the windshield but have Diamon-Fusion coatings on all the glass. Everything is tinted. I also built a wall that is even with the back seat made out of 1/4 lexan. I face my back into the inflow and as you know it sometimes picks up rocks and what not. Have never lost a window, but wanted that extra safety net. I took a hit on mpg but I love hail probably more than tornadoes, so it's worth it to me. I've taken a slingshot with those steel balls and it bounces right off the vehicle. Of course I've thrown baseballs but ît doesn't compare to the real thing. I've ran this setup for two years. I added the bracing to the windshield guard just because I want to be 100% sure it didn't fly off and hurt someone.