How to Fix the Center Arm Rest

TWT


Contributed by T. Scanlan

The armrest on the center console of my '92 Explorer had been feeling soft lately. I thought nothing of it until my spouse grabbed it for support one day and it twisted sideways! She felt guilty breaking it, but when I took a close look underneath I saw a web of cracks that had formed over a long time. I quick glance at some Usenet messages told me many others had the same experience. Ford built the center console support out of metal but used thin plastic for the pivot support of the armrest. Go figure!

The armrest is easily removed after four retaining bolts are unscrewed. Lean the front seat forward, look on each side of the console and you will see a soft plastic oval shaped plug about 1"x2". Pry it out gently with a flat blade. Use a 10mm or 5/16" socket to remove the two bolts on each side found under the cover. Be careful not to lose the bolts by dropping them into the console interior. The armrest then lifts straight up.

The replacement pivot bracket is available from the dealer for about $27.00. The parts clerk took one look at what I had in my hand and came out with the hinge kit without looking up any part numbers. Guess it must be a common complaint. The new part has steel construction under plastic trim, so it should last. The repair seemed easy, but I found out there was a trick. What I thought would be a 10-minute job took an hour. Being prepared and forewarned would have saved 45 minutes of that.

 

To replace the pivot, you must first remove the old bracket and hinge pin, then pop the new pin and bracket into the padded armrest. Ford recommends using a high-speed cutoff wheel to cut the hinge pin in two places. I thought that was overkill until I found out that under that soft plastic Ford used a 6-mm hard steel pin. There is no easy way to get a grip on the pin or pry it out of its plastic socket without damaging the armrest. Since I had no cutoff wheel small enough for the job I improvised. I used a pair of tin snips to cut away most of the old plastic bracket until the plastic coated pin was accessible. I used a bolt cutter to reach in and nip the hinge pin in a couple spots. A quick twist with a pair of pliers and I had the pin out and the bracket and armrest separated. Later I realized I could have used a Dremel grinder to make the cuts, but the bolt cutter was quicker and you can usually find someone with a pair. Trying to remove the pin without cutting would take a special tool to spread the armrest gently until the pin could be removed, a very tricky job. Plan on cutting the pin, even if you have to take it to a local garage.

Attaching the new bracket was anti-climactic. You line the new bracket up with the armrest hinge sockets so it faces correctly, then press it down into the armrest until it snaps into the hinge pin sockets. Ford recommends using a vise or C-clamp to aid you, but on a hot day I was almost able to seat the pin using bare hands. I did put a dab of silicone spray on the parts to grease their mating. Using a clamp and a block of wood I quickly popped the pieces together and made sure the hinge was fully seated. That took less than five minutes. I put the armrest back in the console, installed the four bolts and the trim covers. In three minutes I was ready to guilt trip my wife about breaking the armrest, secure in the knowledge I would not be doing the same.


Comments from J. Singleton

I cut the pin with a Dremel tool. It goes through it fairly easily. I also dropped one of the bolts into the console interior but was able to retrieve it fairly easily with a pair of pliers.


 

BACK TO EXPLORER MAINTENANCE TIPS

EXPLORER4X4.COM | EXPLORERFORUM | EXPLORERSPORTRUCK




Updated September 10, 1997

All contents of this site Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999 Jeff Singleton. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.