Wrenchin’ Wednesday: Don’t let a blown hatch strut damp your day

Phillip Thomas

Wrenchin’ Wednesday is about low-buck fixes for weird situations with your project, but sometimes we’ve got to look outside of the garage for a quick fix to a common “problem.”

Most everyone has a hatchback of one sort or another in their automotive black book. Compact three- and five-doors, wagons, SUVs, minivans—there are myriad of body styles that all decided that a trunk wasn’t enough and that one whole side of the car should be able to split open like the cargo bays of a Boeing 747 on their gas-assisted struts.

suburban tailgate camping setup
Phillip Thomas

Of course, there comes a time when one of two fates befall said hatch: either the struts age out and begin to leak and lose their lifting capacity, or you simply ask too much and need to lock them out to bear more weight, like hanging lights while camping. Whether you’re an avid overlander, a frequent Costco patron, or even an automotive photographer who just needs a few rolling shots without a literal fourth-wall between the lens and subject, ailing struts can put a real damper on things. Let’s take a look at a simple fix that can be made with a few dollars of material from your local hardware store.

Phillip Thomas
Phillip Thomas

Even with brand-new struts, I tend to make lock-out sleeves for my hatchback machines just for the sake of utility, and by some extension, safety. Hatchbacks are surprisingly heavy, and having one unexpectedly crashing down would be a really lame excuse for arriving at the ER. The idea is to turn the lift-strut into a solid beam with a PVC sleeve that slips over the sliding shaft and prevents the strut from being able to fully collapse.

You’ll need a piece of PVC that has an inner-diameter that’ll slip over the shaft easily while still being narrow enough on the outside-diameter to essentially match the size of the strut’s piston body, and maybe a little orange spray paint too.

Phillip Thomas

The idea is to cut the slit in the PVC just wide enough so that the sleeve has to “click” when it is attached, clipping around the shaft so it can’t simply slide off. I rounded the edges of the cut to make this a single-motion affair. Of course, orange paint is there to hopefully make it obvious why the glass won’t close when I inadvertently forget about it and try to slam the hatch shut in confusion.

With these simple add-ons, your hatch area will become that much more utilitarian. You can drive with the hatch open, hang junk from it, or even utilize it to support the glass on one corner while removing and replacing the blown struts you had been ignoring up until now.

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