Fixing broken tailgate check cables, Dodge Dakota.
Body Mechanical Repairs:

Fixing A Broken Tail Gate Support Cable
On A 1996 Dodge Dakota

DIY Repair Saves $$$

 

In This Article:

The old tailgate cable is removed and cut shorter. The plastic coating is stripped off and a new piece of stainless steel cable is connected using aluminum ferrules.

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Skill Level: 3 (Intermediate) Time Taken: About 30 Minutes

By Bruce W. Maki, Editor

Start:

BOTH of the tailgate support cables recently broke on my 1996 Dodge Dakota. I have two Dakotas, and over the past decade I've bought at least five new tailgate cables.

(By the way... the official name is "tailgate check cable".)

Why Do These Break?

After a couple of years, the plastic coating begins to crack, especially if the tailgate is often left open (like when I was doing a lot of construction work) and exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, the metal wire behind the plastic coating is just ordinary steel, so when moisture gets into the cracks, the cable rusts and eventually breaks.

My local auto parts store charges $24 for one of these cables. I've gotten tired of throwing money away, so I decided to try a cheaper fix.

Broken tail gate check cable, Dodge Dakota.

 

Removing lower end of tailgate support cable, 1996 Dodge Dakota. To remove the strap from the tailgate, I used a Torx T45 socket and a ratchet to unscrew the shoulder bolt.

 

Note that the left-hand cable is different from the right-hand cable. The difference is the connector at the bottom that attaches to the tailgate.

 

To remove the strap where it connects to the body, I used a flat screwdriver to lift up the flexible metal tab, then I lifted the cable end off the mounting post. Disconnecting upper end of tailgate support cable, Dodge pickup.

 

Measuring length of original tailgate strap, Dodge dakota.

I removed one of the intact tailgate straps from my other Dakota and measured the length.

The support cable is 18-7/8" from end to end. I will need to make my "patched up" cable the same length.

 

I marked each end of the cable about 2-1/4" from the end of the crimped metal end piece.

Marking point to cut broken tailgate check cable.

 

Cutting tailgate support cable with bolt cutters. Then I cut the cable with a short pair of bolt cutters. A pair of Vise-Grips or lineman's pliers might also work for this.

 

I used a utility knife to cut away a little more than an inch of the plastic cable coating. Cutting off plastic coating on tailgate support cable.

 

Rusted wire inside plastic coating on tailgate support cable.

When I peeled off the plastic coating, the cable was kinda rusty.

I used a wire brush to remove as much rust as possible.

 

Using the bolt cutters, I cut a piece of new 3/16" diameter stainless steel cable that I bought at Home Depot. This cable cost a whopping 56 cents per foot.

This piece of cable is 8-1/2" long, which is long enough to span between the ends of the plastic coated parts of the original cable.

New piece of stainless steel cable for patch on tailgate cable.

 

Package of cable ferrules. I bought this cable ferrule set at Home Depot for $1.69.

 

The cables each go into a hole, and then the entire aluminum ferrule is crimped to hold the cables secure. Aluminum ferrule for joining cables together.

 

End of original tailgate cable with new cable attached by ferrule.

I placed the ferrule on the end of the original cable, and then I slipped the new cable into the other hole.

Note the arranglement here. I've placed the new cable below the original.

 

I set the ferrule on the anvil of my bench vise, and then I used a center punch and a ball pein hammer to make a series of heavy punch marks along the center crimp line.

Then I repeated the process on the other side.

Crimping cable ferrule with center punch and hammer.

 

Crimping cable ferrule by hammering.

With the ferrule resting on the anvil, I used a heavy ball pein hammer to beat the living $hit out of the ferrule.

I did this to both sides.

 

Notice the difference in thickness between the new ferrule and the one I just crimped. Crimped ferrule compared to new ferrule.

 

Upper end of tailgate cable with ferrule joining it to new cable.

I inserted the upper cable end into the ferrule, making sure the overall length was 18-7/16 inches.

Make sure the ends of the cable are oriented properly! I'll explain more later...

Next I wrapped a little strip of duct tape around the cable just outside of the ferrule, to keep the cable from slipping and changing the length.

Then I carefully placed the ferrule on the anvil of my bench vise and used the center punch and hammer to crimp the ferrule along the center line.

Then I hammered the ferrule until it was about 2/3 as thick as its original thickness.

 

Proper Orientation Of The Cable Ends:

Upper end of tailgate cable, showing flush side.   Lower end of tailgate cable showing flush side.

Upper End

  Lower End

Note the orientation of the ends.

The flush side (red arrow) of the lower end (right photo) is on the opposite side of the flush side of the upper end (left photo).

 

Repaired tailgate cable with new piece of stainless steel cable spliced in. The completed tail gate support cable after a piece of stainless steel cable has been spliced into the middle.

 

Note the orientation of the lower end... that "finger" (red arrow) needs to be on the top.

Orientation of "finger" on lower cable end.

 

Fixed tailgate cable installed on Dodge Dakota pickup truck. I installed the tailgate cable.

 

Before I started this project, I was concerned that the repaired cable might not fold up properly and tuck into the space between the tailgate and the body.

But there was no problem.

Tailgate straps folding properly when tailgate is closed.

 

Covering sharp ends of wire rope steel cable to prevent getting cut.

To avoid getting cut on the sharp ends of the wires, I covered the ends of the wire.

First I tried using liquid electrical tape, but that required 3 or 4 coats, and dried very slowly. Next I tried applying one coat of liquid electrical tape, followed by a short piece of heat-shrink tubing. Then I applied another coat of liquid electrical tape to help hold the tubing in place. It seemed to work well.

 

A Word Of Warning:

Don't waste your money on these "Flush Type" cable clamps... they won't work for fixing the tailgate straps.

I tried these cable fasteners first, and even though I tightened the screws with my impact driver, (to the point of beginning to strip the threads), these clamps couldn't even support the weight of the tailgate.

"Flush type" cable clamp.

 

Cost Of This Repair:

I bought the materials for this repair at Home Depot. The stainless steel 3/16" cable cost 56 cents per foot, and the ferrules cost $1.69 for a package of two. I repaired both of these cable for less than $5. The best price I found at local auto parts stores was $24 each.

 

More Info:

Tools Used:

  • Torx T45 Socket
  • Ratchet Wrench
  • Flat Screwdriver
  • Bolt Cutters
  • Tape Measure
  • Utility Knife
  • Center Punch
  • Ball Pein Hammer
  • Bench Vise With Anvil

Materials Used:

  • 3/16" Stainless Steel Cable (Wire Rope), 8-1/2" Long
  • 3/16" Cable Ferrule, Aluminum, (2)
  • Duct Tape
  • Liquid Electrical Tape
  • Heat-Shrink Tubing

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Written May 13, 2009