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How to fix a Ford cupholder for almost free

by | Dec 15, 2021

The in-dash cup holder on certain late ’90s to early 2000s F-150s, Expeditions and Navigators – which also holds an ash tray in some vehicles – has a tendency to break in service, leading to a cupholder that has to be pried into the open position in order to use it.

F-150 interior

Ordinarily, when you press the cupholder (bottom right of the center stack), the cupholder either latches or unlatches, and a spring pushes it into the deployed position—until the spring falls off. Photo by Lemmy.

These are a spring-loaded affair that opens and closes with a latching-type switch: push to open, then push to close as well. These are not very hard to repair for a customer. It’s fast enough it’s a little value-add job you can perform basically for free.

Removing f-150 cupholder

Here’s where you release the retainers. If you get level with them and use a flashlight, it becomes evident where you need to press ’em down. Photo by Lemmy.

  1. First, you need to get the cup holder out. Open the cup holder. There are two little fingers that need to be depressed at the same time to remove the assembly. (You can do one at a time if you wiggle it a bit and are gentle.)
  2. Sneak it out, then disconnect the little pilot light harness (if equipped) Pull the cupholder free of the vehicle.
    Cupholder spring

    Here’s what that spring looks like. It’s probably floating around in the center stack. Photo by Lemmy.

  3. Most likely, you won’t find the spring on the back of the cup holder. It’s heat-staked to the rear of the cup holder, and the heat stakes usually give out; that’s why it stops popping open. Fish around in the dash until you find it. Pull it out, then using a burr tool, smooth out the area with the heat stakes.
  4. Using the spring as a template, drill two small pilot holes, and then use a thread-forming screw in each hole, and your repair is complete!
    Spring reattached

    After removing the remnants of the heat stakes, a couple of self-tappin’ screws got this cupholder ready for another twenty years of service. Photo by Lemmy.

  5. Pop the light back in and slide it back into place.

It’s a little thing, but restoring the function of something that affects driver happiness like the cup holder usually pays off in spades in terms of customer loyalty, and you won’t spend much time or money to perform this repair.

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