Safari Facts, Tech Tips

Lift Gate - Problems and Solutions

by Bob Johnson, editing and picture by Larry Gorden, April 2004

The Safari (and Nomad) has torsion bars to assist in lifting the upper tail gate (we'll call it "lift gate"). These torsion bars are up under the inner trim at the rear of the car, above the lift gate.  This picture of a 56 Safari shows the two torsion bars.

If you don't find the two torsion bars on your Safari, don't despair, it means the previous owner wisely removed the darn things.  Due to the softness of the pot metal in the lift gate itself, these torsion bars cause the lift gate frame to warp, which in turn leads to leaks in the lift gate and gate window. 

To see if you have the problem with a warped lift gate frame, look at the rubber gasket at the top of the glass.  You have a warped frame if you see a gap of about 1/8" at the upper edge, where the rubber molding and glass appear to have pulled away from the metal frame. Actually, the opposite is the case; the frame has pulled away from the glass as a result of too much torque on these torsion bars!  This is the tell tale sign that your gate frame has indeed been warped by the original torsion bars! Heavy leakage is also a symptom of a warped lift gate frame.

The solution to the problem is:

1)      remove the two upper torsion bars and throw them away!....

2)      remove the lift gate and have it straightened,

3)      install all new weather stripping around the lift gate, and

4)      possibly shim you're upper hinges at the top where they attach to the body to get the gate to fit a bit more snugly at the top.

 Note: some Safari/Nomad owners don't take as drastic an approach as throwing away the torsion bars.  Instead they've attempted to heat the torsion bars to take some of the torque out of them.  But this process is difficult to control adequately to match the resultant torque from side to side, thus potentially adding to the twisting and warping problems, and torsion bars still puts pressure on the upper gate and consequently will likely eventually re-warp a straightened gate frame.

Completely removing the torsion bars does leave a very heavy upper gate to lift.  But at least you'll never have to worry about the gate frame warping and can as a minimum slow down, if not stop, the leaking.  To compensate for the heaviness of the lift gate, spend about 30 minutes each day doing arm curls with heavy weights.  After a time, the lift gate won't seem nearly as heavy and you'll look buff to boot.

I have used shims under the upper hinges on a warped gate to get the upper end of the gate to snug down a bit tighter to the body. It did significantly help reduce leaks, though shims alone did not totally stop the leakage.  The shims were approximately a 1/16th to an 1/8th inch in thickness, and were dimensioned to match the hinge mounting plate. It was a trial and error process in terms of fitting them to the hinges.