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Old 05-19-2002, 04:15 PM
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newbie conquers tailgate struts and dash lights! details...(long but helpful?)

Open tailgate, prop SECURELY (a snow shovel was just right for me).
Locate the rear end of the strut, pry off C-clip which is on the "inside" side of the car (no screws or nuts, it's only secured with a C-clip). Carefully remove the rear trim panel, unhook lamp wires. I found two holes cut in the headliner which you can use to access the front 8mm hex retaining bolt- otherwise very carefully peel back the headliner. Unscrew hex bolt. Take my advice, invest in a hex set which you can use on a 3/8" ratchet driver or else it will take you FOREVER to unscrew. The bolt is combination threaded and plain. The threads do not make contact with the strut itself, they simply hold the bolt in place. Remove it completely. Now you are ready to withdraw the old strut.
Working again from the rear, push the pin out from the "inside" of the car to the outside using a screwdriver or similar. Remove completely. Free the rear of the strut from the hinge. Using your fingers or a needle-nose pliers, manipulate the rear of the strut past the hinge and to the "inside" of the car. You cannot remove it from the "outside" side of the hinge. It may be helpful to adjust the angle of the hinge with one hand while pushing the strut with the other.
Once the rear of the strut is free and on the "inside" of the hinge, you can withdraw by simply pulling straight out.

Get your new strut out, make sure that the front and back holes are facing the same way. You may need to adjust them by sticking a screwdriver through the hole at the front end of the strut and turning the rear end with a pliers.

Now insert the strut the same way you removed it. It may take some wiggling to get it to go in all the way- there's old grease and whatnot up in the channel that may impede you a little. Once the strut is maximally inserted, secure the rear end first by inserting the pin from the "outside" of the car towards the inside and then replacing the C-clip. Now you will need to look into the hole where the front retaining bolt goes: can you see the corresponding hole in the front strut? You should see it either above or may need to use a long screwdriver inserted from the rear to lift or push down the strut so you can insert the bolt and thread it. Thread carefully, make sure you are going straight in and not cross-threading.

Once fully inserted, turn your attention to the other one.

Carefully replace the trim, if you take just a few moments with your fingers and a non-sharp tool of some kind to tuck the fascia underneath the black weatherstrip where it should be, it will be as good as when you removed it.

For the dash lights:
Carefully remove the instrument cluster by removing the bottom fascia (by your knees) and, reaching up, carefully pushing forward from the back. You do not need to remove the steering wheel for this, nor did I find it necessary to disturb the oil pressure line. It was helpful to remove the round plug near the temperature and gas gauge.Once you get to the back side, find the potentiometer (a white "box" secured by two silver clips and with two brass bars on the back. With a small screwdriver CAREFULLY pry up the 2 brass bars- you only want a space underneath, you don't want to pull them out. Take a 3" piece of wire. Carefully strip the ends back to 1/2" or so. Split the wires and twist on each end. Taking 1/2 of the wires on one side, tuck underneath one brass bar, grasp them on the other side of the brass bar, loop and twist around the other 1/2 of the wires from that same end of the wire. Once secure, trip any stragglers and wrap with electrical tape.
Working from the other side, grasp the other end of the wire and repeat.
Gently press the brass bars back down to ensure good contact.
Replace or inspect bulbs or any other part of the instrument panel and then replace the instrument panel and lower fascia.
I now have full-strength dash lighting, the potentiometer is non-functional.

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