Classic Tailgate Frame Replacement/Repair

Installing a Replacement Aluminum Frame
Galvanizing the Existing Frame
Sources

The upper tailgate frame, one of the few body parts made of steel rather than aluminum, is the most notorious rust spot on Classic Range Rovers. The quick fix is simply to replace it with the new genuine part, but the problem may recur if you love in a "rust-prone" climate. This page gives details of two alternative permanent solutions to the problem.

 

Installing a Replacement Aluminum Frame 

Available Options
Responding to a market need for a permanent solution to the tailgate rust problem, there are now aftermarket manufacturers of corrosion-proof upper tailgate frames for the Range Rover.

One version is from 4X4 Management in the UK, available through any independent UK Land Rover parts supplier with an Allmakes 4X4 account. Some, such as John Craddock will ship it overseas including the US. It is also  distributed in the US through Euro Parts. Cost is about $220 plus shipping (this was pre-dollar-drop however!) compared to about $1,0000 for the genuine part.

Another version is made in Australia, by Maxi-Drive Engineering, 4 Ryecroft Street, Carrara, Queensland, Australia  4211. Phone 61 7 5530 3934   Fax 61 7 5530 3932 (Ask for Part No. MDE3871 Range Rover Upper Tailgate Frame). In the US it is available through Great Basin Rovers.

Recently (September 2004) I found another attractive option which is an upper tailgate repair kit from British Pacific that contains the frame and re-uses your glass to get the tailgate back to brand new condition. This item (part number  RTC4517CL) is only $399. This kit works on all 1987 through 1994 US spec models.

Brad Harris installed the Allmakes version from the UK. He reports that it came with all necessary ancillary parts, such as the lower rail that holds the rubber seal, pieces to replace the upper metal trim piece that pushes against the seal, and the piece at the top of the glass that is a stop for rain running in the truck (when the tailgate is open). It also had parts to replace both interior trim pieces that cover the adjustment rods and fit over the seam between the bottom rail and the side rails. All of these parts were alloy and black like the frame.

 

Bill at Great Basin Rovers provides the following information relating to the Australian version. It is powder coated black, so like the UK version it does not need painting. It is just the frame, so you need to switch over the glass and other hardware. This kit re-uses the existing interior trim pieces. If you have the central locking feature found on the 1989-and-up Range Rovers, you will need to notch the frame to accommodate this. You also usually need to replace the lower rail that holds the rubber seal moulding, because it is usually rusted also; he can supply that separately. He reports you don't usually have to replace the rubber moulding itself, but if you do the genuine part costs an extra $89. The whole process is a little time consuming, but when you are done you have a nice looking frame that will never rust again -- for a lot less money than a new factory piece.

 

Richard Kearsey reports that the Australian version is further described, in the Maxi-Drive catalogue, as a satin black powder coated all-aluminum frame to which the original glass can be fitted along with the original hinges and locks. Frames are pre- drilled and tapped where necessary for hinges and locks etc. Stainless steel socket head bolts for hinges and locks and stainless steel screws for trim, dust seal and glass retainer angles etc. are supplied. Unlike the original frame, which is two pieces to enable glass fitment, the Maxidrive version is all one piece for added rigidity, with the glass retained with an aluminum angle section and stainless steel screws (similar to older Land Rover windscreens). Frame and angle strips are predrilled and fitted. Each frame is bubble wrapped and packed in a custom made cardboard box with the fixings enclosed. The box dimensions are 1420mmx610mmx50mm (56x24x2 inches), shipping weight approx 5 kgs (11 lbs).

Installation Details (Australian Maxi-Drive Tailgate Frame)
Chris Haslam
provided the following detailed pointers to help with installation of the Maxi-Drive version based on his experience installing one on his 1988 Range Rover in the summer of 2003:

*Cutting through the rusty original tailgate is best done with a Dremel (or other brand) rotary tool with a cutting disk mounted in it. This method gives you more control than using a hacksaw.

*If the glass is heated, note that the covers for electrical leads are clamped to the frame and held by brackets and screws. While sufficient screws are provided, the holes for the screws are not pre-drilled. It is easier to drill the holes for these screws before installing the glass in the new frame.

*While Maxi-Drive's instructions say to use silicone sealant between the glass and the new frame, we have found that glazier's tape is much easier to use and works well. It vulcanizes in place. If you do use silicone, lay down a 4 mm film over the contact area of the frame to ensure that there are no gaps when the glass is inserted. You will need to cut off the excess (with a single-edged razor blade) when the silicone is dry.

*The old frame has a clip-on rain deflector near its top. It is sometimes rusted out, and is not available separately. Leaving it off does not affect the ability of the tailgate to keep rain and snow out.

*The seal at the bottom of the tailgate fits into a retaining channel. For the seal to fit into the retainer, the retainer must be free of rust. It is your choice as to whether you install a new retainer or renovate the old one. The seal can either be renovated (using rubber grease) or you can buy a new one .

*If you have difficulty installing the seal in the retainer, you can grease it with rubber grease and feed it in from one end of the retainer.

*The rubber blocks at the lower corners of the tailgate should be glued in place using silicone windshield sealant. Use tape to hold them in place until the sealant has dried.

Galvanizing the Existing Tailgate Frame

Brad Harris did extensive investigations into getting his upper tailgate frame galvanized, as a relatively inexpensive solution for the rusting problem. Although he eventually opted for an aluminum frame instead, he shares the following information for those who might wish to pursue the galvanizing option.

If your upper tailgate is in pretty good shape, then galvanizing it is possible. The lower rail comes off and the glass can be removed from the upper "U" shaped part of the frame. If you are already seeing significant rust, you may have trouble getting the screws out to take apart the frame. Also the "L" shaped brackets that hold the lower corners together may be rusted solid in the frame (Brad's were). If you can get it apart, however, there is a genuine replacement part number for the metal covers that fit over the seam between the bottom rail and the side rails. (This genuine part came with Brad's alloy tailgate from Shire 4x4 in the UK). Brad found that the cost to get the frame hot dipped galvanized would have been $150. That was the minimum amount for any job done by the local shop, so he could get several other things done at the same time with no change in cost. This is definitely cheaper than getting a new frame -- whether steel or alloy.

 

However Brad became concerned that, at least in his case, galvanizing would not be the best approach. Cutting his old frame apart to see how it rusted, he found it looked pretty good on the outside -- just a couple of rust bubbles -- but was totally gone on the inside. Because the frame seems to rust from the inside out, it appeared that getting an old, already rusted frame galvanized would not really address the problem. Secondly, he was concerned that there was a possibility of the frame warping in the hot dip process. He would really worry about the upper "U" shaped frame piece.

 

In the end, Brad was glad he spent the extra money and purchased the alloy upper tailgate frame. "I never have to worry about it rusting".

Sources
British Pacific (US vendor of low cost complete tailgates and tailgate repair kits)
Great Basin Rovers (US Dealer for Australian Maxi-Drive Tailgate)
Import Parts Bin/Speedycarparts.com (lowest cost source for gas strut replacements -- click on "Rover" parts)
4x4 Management (UK maker of upper tailgate replacement kits)


 

 

 

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Page revised February 2, 2012