How to Fix that Broken Ford Explorer Arm Rest

As I'm sure anyone out there who has a Ford Explorer with an arm rest that is not part of the center console has experienced...mine broke the first time someone put their hand on the end of the arm rest to fidget in their seat. Now, we're not talkin about the models that are prior to 1998, the bottom of those arms were made of steel and can withstand the weight pressure, but are narrow (the width of one person's arm). So, in 1998, Ford had the idea to make a double wide, but the pure genius of making the bottom support out of plastic. How this ever made it through product testing is beyond me. I guess they didn't have anyone actually sit in the truck.

At any rate, let's move beyond my bitterness and learn how I made lemonade. I chose to "re-upholster" my arm rest with something that didn't make me sweat all the time (I live in Texas, YMMV). Since I'm out of work at present, I decided going to the fabric store and finding something nice and girly-like would be too expensive...and I've been saving those busted down jeans for some purpose...I guess I can finally tell Mom I figured out why I was saving them. A match made in heaven. Levis button-down fly jeans...the new wave in upholstery. I actually saw another example online where a guy had re-upholstered his console lid (he got one of the cool models that doesn't have the same problem) with a pair of old jeans and a staple gun...that gave me the idea. If you like your sweat-creating current surface, just ignore all the jeans upholstering below. The rest will still work for you just fine, with a little tweaking here and there.

The tools you will need are a star bit which fits the screws (and a screw driver that can take that bit), a pair of scissors, some old jeans that have at least some portion without holes, a ball point pen (or an ice pick...whatever is handy and pointed), a mini-bungee cord, and about an hour.

All the images below can be seen at higher res by clicking on them.


Damaged Goods

And here we see the damage. I would imagine most of these arm rests break in right about the same area. If yours did not, you'll have to make adjustments to what I did for the fix.


Damaged Goods from Another Angle

A better view of the damage. The way this "fix" works is the part of the bottom tray that used to attach to the hinge needs to be removed so the whole hinge on the center console can sit up inside the arm rest itself. You can see mine broke quite nicely so I did not have to remove anything else. Try to leave the screw portions of the bottom tray as intact as possible. The more you have, the better off you will be.


What We Hope to Accomplish

As one can see, it's not the absolute perfect solution, but it puts an arm rest under your elbow that doesn't go skipping around the truck when you hit some bumps, turn a corner, or slam on your brakes when that idiot doesn't gas it on a yellow. And more importantly? IT WON'T BREAK OFF...of course, that's because it already has, but we'll ignore that. Personally, I think this is more comfortable than the original.


Disassembled and Ready to Start

So now I've taken all the screws out, thus detaching the bottom tray from the arm rest.


Is that an Arm Rest in Your Pant Leg...

First let's see how well the pants fit. Drop the arm rest down the least holey leg. Mine went down to the ankle (these pants fit me a year and a half ago when I was considerably larger) and popped out a little bit. I liked the look so left it that way. One could do some cutting and folding to do a tuck on the front portion so the whole arm rest was covered. I just kind of liked the idea of shouting to the world... or well anyone who got in my truck... Yes, that's a PANT LEG.


Pilot Holes by Pilot

Next step is to get a nice snug fit on the exposed part of the arm rest, pushing the rest of the pant leg into the underside of the arm rest. Then slap the bottom tray onto it. Be sure to keep pressure on it so you don't get any unsightly wrinkles for your newly upholstered arm rest. Now I needed to poke some holes where the screws go...looked around...hey there's a pen, poke poke. Done deal.


All Screwed

Poke those little holes, then screw in the screws. Be sure not to overtighten those screws as they're easy to strip and you are working with a plastic tray that can also be broken if you try. Once you have them all back in, it should look like this.


Snip Snip!

Next you'll want to take the remaining pant leg and fold it under the arm rest so you can see where to make the cut. You want to cut the pants leg off so you have enough remaining that you can reach the first two screws. You'll be taking those two screws out below so you can tighten everything up on the back end.


Batton Down the Hatches

You will want to play around a little bit with folding things and pulling them snug until you get what you need. You'll be screwing through this "fold under" part of the pants leg so that the back end of our upholstering job has closure. Once you have things the way you want, take your scissors and with the pointy blade make a nice little pilot hole for the screw in each side. Be sure to put the hole so that the "fold under" is snug, but not under huge force or it will rip through the screw head. Also be sure when you are poking the pilot hole with the scissors that you do not make the hole to large. Just big enough to get the screw to literally screw through the pants. Now we need to take out those last two screws (it was the last two for me, your bottom tray may have broken differently, adjust as necessary) and screw them back in, but through the "fold under" pants leg. You can start this by first "screwing" into the pants leg and once the screw is through, then lining it up with the hole in the bottom tray.


We've Got Coverage

A look at the re-upholstered arm rest.


Doubles as a Great Sling Shot

Now we need something to hold the arm rest in place. I wanted something easily removable in case I wanted to get access to the console storage, so I chose one of those cheap little mini-bungee cords. You can choose to connect the bungee at any point along the arm rest. I wouldn't suggest making it too far forward, but that's just me. I lined mine up with the same screws I attached the "fold under" part of the pants with. Take your ball point pen and poke a hole, then push the bungee connector into it. Do the same for the other side.


Installation!

Now for the incredibly complicated installation. Slide the bungee cord under the back of the old hinge, then push the arm rest down on top of it. Damn that was tough. Depending on how your pants folded under, you may need to do some adjusting. I didn't have any issues here.


The Finished Product

And finally a crappy picture of what it looks like all done.


I hope you've enjoyed my adventure into the depths of really cheap fix-er-up of the Ford Explorer arm rest. If you have any suggestions or things you did differently, take some pictures and send them to me.

Scott Powers
spowers@spowers.net