Introduction: Pallet Wood for Car Repair - Tail Gate Gas Strut Fail

About: I am an escapee from modern life, now living by the sea in a forest garden in France. After over 20 years industrial experience, I quit my managerial position to study for a degree in Engineering. That done I …

This is our Peugeot 405 break aka station wagon and apart from being a great little workhorse, we've just returned from a visit to our folks in Scotland and seen much younger cars defeated by the the June heatwave going up the motorway through England.

Mechanically a very sound car, it was the 'little' annoying things that started to fail just a few years after we purchased it second-hand.

What I wish to share is a simple solution to a less serious component malfunction but one which occurs often in ageing motor vehicles, the failing of a tailgate gas strut. Often tailgates are supported by two of these struts but I have found the need to just make the change to one side only. I must just add that this is not just a fault that happens with old cars, I recently saw a brand new car with the same problem!

You might think why bother to do the repair - go to a breaker's yard or buy new. Well, one, I liked the challenge and we have loads of pallet wood to hand, two, breaker's yards here in France are quite expensive and not the 'take a spanner and remove it yourself' places I was used to. Breakers here remove the car parts themselves, clean and polish the items and thus charge a premium. And lastly this car is over twenty years old and I have not found anyone who still sells the correct gas strut. In fact a big car parts manufacturer, having seen my film, recently wanted to send me a gas strut and review it on film but even they haven't been able to find one that will fit.

Step 1: Pallet Wood Gas Strut Repair Mark 1 - Apart From the Obvious-and-not-so-safe of Course!

With the failure of the gas struts I had originally held the tailgate open with a pallet wood plank which was not perfect in that it was very easy to dislodge whilst loading, resulting in hurried grasps to prevent concussion.

I finally realised that by jamming a block between the top of the gas strut cylinder and the piston mounting, the weight of the tailgate would hold the block in place and could not fall.

To ensure a snug, secure fit, I made the block with a groove to fit around the piston.

Type 1

This (pictured above) is the simplest one to make as all you need is: a saw, drill and drill bit, screwdriver and screws, wood.

Firstly check for length.

The block is made of three pieces of wood cut to the same length. I used pallet wood (of course).

I selected one piece that was slightly thicker than the gas strut piston, this would act as the 'spacer' between the other two pieces.

The narrower spacer piece was placed on top of one of the broader pieces and two screw clearance holes were drilled through them both. The third piece was placed on top so as to form the 'U' channel and fixed with screws. You could use a waterproof wood glue prior to screwing the block together.

After checking the block for fit on the strut, I drilled another hole through the block and attached a cord so that I wouldn't lose it.

Step 2: Pallet Wood Gas Strut Repair Mark 2

Type 2

In one way this block is less complicated in that it only uses one piece of wood, but it requires the use of a router.

I selected a piece of timber about 28mm by 30mm (11/8" x 1¼” approx) and used the router to cut a lengthways slot along the central axis of the narrower side to a depth of about 15mm (5/8”). The block was then cut to the desired length.

I've used this system for five years now and it works really well. I've also furnished a farmer friend of ours with an extra long block to supplement his failed gas strut on the rear window of his tractor cab.

It is also possible to make the slot in the block using a circular saw, I merely set the cutting depth and made several lengthways passes moving the cutting guide by a blade's width at every pass. The result has been satisfactory but overall I have found that the one cut with the router to be the easiest to make.

Here's a film showing both Type 1 and the following Type 2 design:

Unusual Uses Challenge 2017

Runner Up in the
Unusual Uses Challenge 2017