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Some people call them “exit” handles, some people call them “oh s@#%” handles, but whatever you call them they’re darn useful.  Besides grabbing them when the driver pulls some kind of stupid stunt, you can also use the rear ones to hang clothing or to tie down large items.

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Many cars have them for both front and rear passengers, but many new four-door trucks only have them in the front.  Ours was missing the rear ones, so we took matters into our own hands and added some.

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We’d ordered an extra set of the front handles from the dealer, and we knew that they installed via a push-in method.  But we really wanted to see for ourselves what was on the other side of the headliner, so we started there.

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After removing the rear door sills, door side panels, the rear interior panel, the rear interior quarter panels, and the passenger’s sun visor, we were finally able to pull the headliner loose and get a look at how it works.

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Essentially, the white plastic piece on the back of the handles pushes through a square hole in the truck’s unit body.  It’s then locked in place by an interior-colored plug that inserts through the center of each end of the handle and expands the white piece.

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In the equivalent rear section of the truck’s upper unit body, there are only large round holes (presumably to strengthen and lighten the section) present.  Our handles would need to attach here.

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We chose to create a couple of steel brackets to bridge the gap and provide a square hole for our handles to lock into.  We started by measuring and cutting two 3-1/4″ lengths of 1/8″ x 1″ steel bar stock in the band saw.

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We then held the pieces up to the door and market the location for the square hole and the two mounting holes that would be used to bolt the brackets in place in the truck.

Now the fun part: Creating the square hole.  There are a number of ways to create a square hole in reasonably thick material, but as we mentioned in an earlier post this week, we feel the easiest way is to drill a round hole then file it out square.  That’s exactly what we did, using an Irwin step-bit to drill a 3/8″ hole, then using a medium-sized taper file to square it off.  We used a smallish flat file to enlarge the hole until the handle fit smoothly into it.

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We didn’t want to use a nut on the back side of the screw when mounting it in the truck because a) there’s very little room to get your finger in to apply the nut, and b) we didn’t want it to fall off later.  So instead we simply tapped the holes in the unit body to match up with some small 32-threadcount screws.  We chose the high threadcount to help us get as many threads as possible into the truck’s relatively thin unit body material.

We selected a slightly larger bit to drill the bolt holes in the bracket to allow the screws to easily pass through them.

Here you can see the first bracket mounted into the truck.  We used the same bracket to trace the other three patterns so we didn’t have to measure again.

Read on to page 2 for the rest of the install

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