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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.