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The rear hatch of my 1994 124 wagon recently began falling on my head and, after reading several germane posts on this forum, I decided to replace the lifting cylinders myself.

Despite my previous readings, I found that there was a learning process involved - the first cylinder took more than 3 hours to replace, the second was done in 20 minutes - so I thought I would share the step-by-step process I found effective.

Note: these are high pressure gas cylinders and even in a faulty state, retain enough pressure to make removing and replacing the pivots difficult.

1. Remove four screws along the rear of the plastic molding at the rear of the headliner.

2. Remove 2 screws (1 each side) at the forward projections of the same part.

3. remove the screws at the top of the platic molding that covers the edge of the rear hatch and laps over the ends of the previous part.

4. remove the plastic molding by sliding it back and snaping it out from under the rubber molding around the rear side glass.

5.The headliner is attached with 2 plastic push pins on either side - remove these. The back edge of the headliner is held on 3 metal tabs that pass through the headliner and around a wire - disengage these by pulling slightly rearwards and down - the back section of the headliner will now fall free.

6.The clevis on the rear (rod end) of the cylinder is held with a pivot pin that is locked with a spring washer. I removed these spring washers by reaching in through the rear with a pair of long duck bill pliers. They can also be removed from the inside when the pin is removed (see below)

7.With the hatch propped up as far as possible (to relieve as much pressure as possible from the system) climb into the rear cargo area.

8. The forward (cylinder end)of the units is held with a square headed pin that passes through the interior sheet metal. The pin head is secured with a bent-over tab. Straighten the tab with a small pry bar and a hammer and remove the square headed pin. This will require some effort since the pin is under pressure even with the hatch at its highest point. I used the small pry bar to back it off until I could lock a pair of vise-grips on the head and pull it out.

9. Now, remaining inside, close the hatch. This will bring the rear clevis back to a point where it can be accessed through an opening in the sheet metal. Since there is no longer any pressure of the system, the pin is easily removed. (you will have to remove the locking spring at this point if you have not already done so frm the opening in the rear of the body. The clevis is surrounded by a rubber bellows that needs to be squeezed forward to access it.

10. The cylinder unit can now be removed by sliding it forward through an opening in the sheet metal. The dropped headliner allows enough clearance to pull the unit all the way out.

11. Insert the new unit through the same opening and jiggle it around until the clevis on the rod end engages the hatch arm.

12. Replace the clevis pin and spring clip.

13. Open the hatch and prop it at its highest position. This will pull the cylinder unit rearwards until the mounting hole nearly corresponds with the hole in the sheet metal. The squared headed pin has a slight chamfer on the end of the pin and can be inserted in the hole and driven home with a hammer.

14.Re-bend the locking tabs.

15.Re-fitting the headliner and the plastic trim is a reverse of the removal procedure.


I noticed a comment suggesting that it is only necessary to replace one of the two cylinders. If you find that this is the case, you have simply chosen the faulty cylinder to replace. I did both and it is clear that one cylinder is not sufficient to keep the hatch open. I replaced the first cylinder and found that the hatch would stay open. I decided to replace the second and, despite the fact that I had a new cylinder installed on one side, as soon as I released the pin on the second one, the hatch slammed shut. Fortunately, no part of me was extending out the back at the time!
 

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A useful article

Thanks for that well written and useful article. Having done the same job myself not so long ago, I know the proceedure is not obvious and a bit fiddly. I'm sure others will find your article useful as many of the wagons reach an age where new tailgate struts are required.
 

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Fellow Phrenologists

Hopefully your (most excellent) posting will eliminate or reduce the number of socially dysfunctional individuals still using a wooden stick (north of the 49th we are proud to use hockey sticks, good for de-icing windshields as well) to prop open the tailgate.

When at the parts counter, I was also told to "only replace struts in pairs..." so naturally they only had one in stock at the time....hmmmmm wonder how that happened...??
I replaced the one, and got lucky for a change, it works just fine, no more whacks on the back of the head.

Thanks
Ian P.
 

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I used your step by step instructions last night and replaced both struts in 1.5 hours. After I got the headliner I skipped over step 6 and went straight to step 8, which simplified the process quite a bit. The only reason it took me 1.5 hrs was one of the pins didn't want to come out, and needed a fair amount of coaxing with a small pry bar, and then a chisel.

Very satisfying project. I was able to pick up new struts on ebay for $24 each. For less than $50 and a couple of scraped knuckles, I can finally use my trunk again! Thanks again for the wonderful instructions.
 

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I was going to ask the original poster a question about the replacement procedure but I see now that the thread originated almost 6 years ago!
So my question for cyall8r is this:
In replacing the struts did it seem possible to incorrectly install or damage the rubber boots that act as a water seal back there. My 88 TE#1 periodically has a severe water leak in the cargo area that will dump an inch of water in the 3rd seat well. I have not been able to find the leak point using the tried-and-true garden hose method. It seems that the car must be oriented just right for the major leak to occur. Otherwise, nothing...
I know that the struts were replaced by the PO and I'm wondering if the boots should be investigated.
And thanks to the original poster for the excellent writeup.
 

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yes, it is quite conceivable that the boots would get damaged during this procedure. the boots make it extremely difficult to access the pins - so much so that the PO may have decided to slice them or remove them to make the job of removing the struts easier.
 

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Thanks for that info. I'll have to investigate because an in-car Koi pond is not my idea of a cool ride.
 

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Thanks for that info. I'll have to investigate because an in-car Koi pond is not my idea of a cool ride.

augapfel, there may be another culprit.

In areas that have snowy winters and use road salt, I have found that corrosion occurs on the inside seams of the rear window wells where the spare tire (left) and car jack accessories (right) are.

Lift the rubber lining and see if there is any rust. :(
 

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Oh I know that there is rust there on TE#2 (with 210k miles) but that only allows water to get into the spare tire well and the jack storage area. TE#1 (with 107k miles) does not have rusted pinchwelds at the side windows, yet it is the car that leaks. And the water seems to come from the top of the hatch area.
I don't see how leaking side window seals would allow the 3rd seat well to partially fill with water. The bugger is that I can't get a leak to show up when I want it to.
 

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Great notes

Just used these notes above to do the job of replacing my wagon 300TE struts, I spent 5 minutes sawing a calibrated stick to hold the wagon gate open fully and it made the job really quite easy - except for getting those forward pins in with my short fat fingers.. that was a little tricky. Thanks heaps guys - saved me hours of work..
 

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This what the clevis pin setup looks like on these struts (facing the rear)



This an actual picture of the bind I am in:


a picture of the other end of the strut, held in place by a square head pin (almost pulled all the way out :))





 

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Beautiful.

Forgot to report back that I finished mine as well and boy do the new ones really jump into action... I mean the hatch just flies open now without any effort.

Some tips...

One tip I would issue when inserting the clevis pin is to pull the strut boot out and over the strut so you can see what the heck you are doing and have the room to maneuver that pin back in.

The other thing I did to was move the hatch up and down with my foot while pushing in on the clevis pin until it dropped into slot.

When putting the headliner panel back on in the rear ceiling, use dish soap and and some plastic tire levers to negotiate those sills, allowing you to maneuver the panels sharp edges back into place.
http://www.bikepartsplace.com/articles/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/tire-tools-1.jpg

And lastly, use a head/task lamp when doing this as you need really good hands-free light.

I used an excellent pair of brand new Stabilus hatch struts from a vendor on Ebay for only $40 a pair. PM me if you want the sellers info.
 

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Just replaced my tailgate struts and this guide was great.

Only down side is that me temperamental boot lights no longer work at all whith the tailgate - anyone know how they are activated? Is there a switch?

Thanks Toby
 

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I was going to ask the original poster a question about the replacement procedure but I see now that the thread originated almost 6 years ago!
So my question for cyall8r is this:
In replacing the struts did it seem possible to incorrectly install or damage the rubber boots that act as a water seal back there. My 88 TE#1 periodically has a severe water leak in the cargo area that will dump an inch of water in the 3rd seat well. I have not been able to find the leak point using the tried-and-true garden hose method. It seems that the car must be oriented just right for the major leak to occur. Otherwise, nothing...
I know that the struts were replaced by the PO and I'm wondering if the boots should be investigated.
And thanks to the original poster for the excellent writeup.
I have the same problem. Did you ever find the source of this leak?
 

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I have the same problem. Did you ever find the source of this leak?
It appears I am having the same problem with my wagon as well -- and I could have planted gold fish in the koi pond that formed after a torrential downpour in Seattle last week that lasted for days. I cannot for the life of me figure out how the water is getting in there but have definitively ruled out leaking side windows on my car as I sealed them up last Winter and they have not leaked a drop of water since then. It's got to somehow be coming in through the hatch strut boot seals (which on my car have shrunken and deformed so they don't create a seal any longer). And idea would be to place some UV dye up in the strut boot area and then shine your UV light down in the foot well area in the 3rd row during or after a good rain. Any other ideas for verifying and fixing?
 

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It appears I am having the same problem with my wagon as well -- and I could have planted gold fish in the koi pond that formed after a torrential downpour in Seattle last week that lasted for days. I cannot for the life of me figure out how the water is getting in there but have definitively ruled out leaking side windows on my car as I sealed them up last Winter and they have not leaked a drop of water since then. It's got to somehow be coming in through the hatch strut boot seals (which on my car have shrunken and deformed so they don't create a seal any longer). And idea would be to place some UV dye up in the strut boot area and then shine your UV light down in the foot well area in the 3rd row during or after a good rain. Any other ideas for verifying and fixing?
My Car doesn't get the water unless it is being driven. Raining directly on it doesn't do it.

It is truly amazing how much water these things will "hold". The third row seat had me perplexed as well.
 

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when I bought my 300te earlier this year the back inside of the car was very, very wet - soaking wet in fact. I traced my problem to be a broken rear windshield washer line in the top passenger side behind the headliner. There is some sort of connection there.

those of you that are getting water intrusion - are you using your rear windshield washers?
 

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I'm embarrassed to say that I have not yet located the cource of TE#1's water leak. It does still persist to this day, annoying me very much. I have this unhappy feeling that the roof rack attaching points are the sourceof the leak but I have not yet dropped the headliner to verify that.
I plan on doing a complete interior swap between TE#1 and TE#2 (white/burgundy and smoke silver/mushroom to white/mushroom and smoke silver/burgundy) and I intend to solve a bunch of issues during that swap. There will be carpet shampooing to get rid of the wet dog smell, replacing a botched e-brake cable repair job, and installation of ortho seating parts in both cars at that time. And a thorough soak job of TE#1 to see where that damnable water is coming from. Still no joy though.
To make matters worse I see that TE#3 has a Koi pond in the aft cargo hold! Drat and double drat. It looks like 66.666% of my TE fleet has water intrusion problems.
Stay tuned...
 

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I'm embarrassed to say that I have not yet located the cource of TE#1's water leak. It does still persist to this day, annoying me very much. I have this unhappy feeling that the roof rack attaching points are the sourceof the leak but I have not yet dropped the headliner to verify that.
I plan on doing a complete interior swap between TE#1 and TE#2 (white/burgundy and smoke silver/mushroom to white/mushroom and smoke silver/burgundy) and I intend to solve a bunch of issues during that swap. There will be carpet shampooing to get rid of the wet dog smell, replacing a botched e-brake cable repair job, and installation of ortho seating parts in both cars at that time. And a thorough soak job of TE#1 to see where that damnable water is coming from. Still no joy though.
To make matters worse I see that TE#3 has a Koi pond in the aft cargo hold! Drat and double drat. It looks like 66.666% of my TE fleet has water intrusion problems.
Stay tuned...
Heh!

Well I don't know if I feel better or not.

I was feeling pretty inept at not being able to locate a leak that could cause a LAKE!

You make me feel better in that I can see that the issue is difficult for someone besides me.

I feel worse because I feel that my hope of solving this issue just slid further down the drain!
 
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