Removal and Replacement of Side Bar and Rear Bumper Step Pads

Tools required: 10mm socket wrench, pliers, putty knife, heavy kitchen knife, nylon packing tape, black semi-gloss acrylic spray paint.

Background and Before:

The purpose of this project is to illustrate and describe the steps necessary to remove and replace the step pads on the side bars and rear bumper of a Sport Trac. The reason for the effort was to change from the gray step pads found an early model year Sport Trac's to the black pads now being shipped with 2002 1/2 model year Sport Trac's.

The project, as described, took 4 hours to complete as I choose to remove and deep clean the side bars and side bar mounting brackets, and also paint the plastic mounting bracket covers. It is estimated that should the intent be to only change the step pads, the project would take less than an hour.

This picture was taken at the start of the project. Notice the 3 step bar brackets. In this project, the bracket covers were painted black to give the step bars the appearance of floating by making the brackets less obtrusive; at least that was the aim.

Note to anyone living in areas where salt is used on the roads to melt snow. The step bar mounting brackets are a major " "corrosion collector!" See the 3rd picture below.

Side Bar Step Pad Removal:

Cover the blades of a putty knife and a thick kitchen knife, i.e., carving knife (not shown here), with nylon packing tape. This is necessary so as not to scrape/mar the paint of the side bars or the plastic of the rear bumper cover when lifting the step pads.

Starting at one end, slide the putty knife under the end of the pad to lift it enough to insert the kitchen knife. Work the kitchen knife until it stops at a "hold down" tab. Insert the putty knife on the opposite side of the tap and twisting both the putty and kitchen knives, gently "pop" the tap from the hole on the step bar. The first and last tabs of the step pads are the most difficult to get to release. Using the putty knife, work your way along the step pad and pry up each tab. The tabs are on alternating side of the pad as you work along the pad. Shown here is a wood shim used to hold the pad up.

In dirty/dusty areas, be prepared to discover a lot of dirt collected under and in the troth of the side bar beneath the step pad. (The dirt was removed prior to this picture being taken - unfortunately.)

Step Bar & Bracket Cover Removal:

Using a 10mm socket wrench, remove each of the 2 bolts securing the step bar to the 3 step bar brackets. In the left hand portion of the picture to the left, note the dirt and potential corrosion that was found when the bar was removed.

Using a pair of pliers, under the brackets, pinch each of the 4 plastic bracket cover hold down tabs and lift the cover to remove it from the bracket. Be prepared to find more collected dirt as shown in the right hand side of the picture. I found this very distressful - especially having once lived in NY & PA States. Personally, I would recommend, for those areas where salt is used on the roads in the winter, that those owners remove and clean the step bar brackets on a yearly basis. (What is shown is 11 months of dirt collected on the sometimes red mud covered paved roads of Kauai, HI.)

Bracket Cover Painting and Step Bar Replacement:

Following a power washing and a Simple Green scrubbing of the brackets, plastic covers and the step bars, the brackets were given a additional coat of black paint and the gray plastic bracket covers were repainted a semi-gloss black.

Comment: At one time I had considered not replacing the plastic covers (because of their corrosion collection potential), but because of the round and 4 sq. holes in the bracket showing, if the cover was not replaced, they were kept. To the Ford CO: Why not redesign the steel bracket and eliminate the cover?

The covers are all interchangeable and snap back on to the brackets with downward pressure.

Following an application of cleaner wax and a coat of Meguiar's Carnauba wax to the side bars were reattached to the mounting brackets. The side bars are interchangeable as the both are identical. Only 2 of the 4 holes in the mounting brackets are used.


Replacement of Step Bar Pads:

The replacement of the step pads on the step bars is a straight forward process of aligning the tabs on the under side of the pad with the rectangular punched holes in the side bar. There is a forward end of the pad which will be obvious when aligning the tabs (high lighted in yellow) to the holes. Otherwise the pads are identical and interchangeable left and right. What you are looking here is the underside of the step pad.

Downward pressure on each one of the tab locations is all that is required to seat the pads in place.

Side Bar Black Step Pad Installation Completed:

All that can be said about this picture is that the black pads are a handsome improvement.

Notice that the black step bar brackets are less noticeable than the gray ones were. Objective accomplished.

Removal of Rear Bumper Step Pads:

The removal of the rear bumper pads turned out to be more demanding than originally envisioned. But using the same tools, the putty knife and the sturdy kitchen knife - notice the nylon tape covering the edges of both - even upward twisting of both unsnapped the hold down tabs. Again the tabs and either end of both pads proved to be the most difficult to release.

What is different about the rear bumper pads when compared to the side bar pad is the addition of 2 round pins about an inch long on the underside of each bumper pad. What this means is that the bumper pads need to be lifted straight up rather then twisting them up from one end to the other. The pin on the inside of the pad is located approximately where the cutting edge of the knife is located in the picture. Refer to the new pads for the position of the pins before attempting to remove the old pads.

Rear Bumper Black Step Pad Installation Complete:

Following a thorough scrubbing of the bumpers and especially the area under the old pads, and a generous application of Mothers Back-to-Black, the black step pads were snapped in place on the rear bumper.


Project Completed:

An afternoon well spent. Very satisfied with the fresh appearance of the Sport Trac and the distinctive touches furnished with the addition of the black step pads.

Notice too the gray splash guards. The original black ones were replaced two weeks ago. The gray splash guards provide a more integrated appearance verses the add-on connotation that the black ones gave to the lower portion of the vehicle.

Rube' (Hawaiian for Ruby) is ready for the road again and will continue to turn heads on the island of Kauai - the Garden Island. I get more questions from residents like, "What kinda truck is that? It's just what I need!" And that is coming from a place where "Mass Transportation" is defined as 4 people in the back of a pickup and 75% of the vehicles are trucks (pickups and SUVs).

Perfect vehicle for the two lane and often muddy roads of paradise. Keep Trac'n....