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08 Outback XT Limited MT
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61 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My driver door arm rest has a crackly dent under the vinyl from 231k miles of elbow leaning. It's annoying but the rest of the door panel is a-ok and I'd rather not have to spend for a new one or hope I can find a match for my leather interior. Has anyone ever tried to disassemble the arm rest from the panel? Is there any alternative method of fixing this besides replacing the whole panel? I couldn't find anything useful here or google.
 

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2001 Subaru Outback Wagon 3.0 VDC
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60 Posts
Wish I could say I had. Although it may be possible to remove the armrest from the panel, the arm rest is integrated as part of the entire panel. That being the case, if you get a replacement door arm rest don't you think you're going to be replacing the panel anyway, as the armrest part is not sold/designed as a stand alone part? Where are you going to find "just an armrest"? It seems to me your best bet would be to try to find a used panel (from any 2000-2004 outback/legacy) in better shape and matching color of course. Depending on where you live this should be less than $50. For example, here in Oregon the door panel trim piece is $18.99. The difficulty will be finding the leathered trim. Sorry I couldn't be of much help. It's been a while since I had my panel off.

If there was a way to get underneath the armrest to put padding in, or even spray foam . . .

Door trim removal:
How To Remove Door Panels On A Subaru Outback - 2000 To 2004
 

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1999 30th Anniversary Legacy Outback DOHC 2.5L 4EAT, 2008 Impreza WRX 2.5L 5MT, 2008 Impreza Wagon 2.5L 4EAT
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1,224 Posts
car-part.com or local pull and pay yard to get a replacement panel
 

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08 Outback XT Limited MT
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61 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Getting underneath the arm rest to reinforce was more what I was thinking. Doesn't sound like anyone's tried it successfully though. As far as covering the problem, its not very visible anyway, the vinyl is still intact. But when I try to rest my arm my elbow falls in a hole! Oh well.. I guess when it bothers me enough to get high on the list of things to spend money on it sounds like I'll be looking for a matching door panel. Thanks for the replies. Maybe if I get a replacement panel I'll try disassembling the old one and see what happens.
 

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'03 outback limited, '01 Outback Limited, '01 Legacy L wagon, '96 Legacy Brighton wagon
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2,182 Posts
I haven't taken apart a Sub door panel as yet, but have done so on many other cars in the past. I would be very surprised if the arm rest attachment is by anything other than a few screws. However, even after getting it off, getting to the interior of it to replace foam will be problematic.
 

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1999 30th Anniversary Legacy Outback DOHC 2.5L 4EAT, 2008 Impreza WRX 2.5L 5MT, 2008 Impreza Wagon 2.5L 4EAT
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1,224 Posts
I have an 03 Forester door panel (driver's) and the arm rest is a separate piece but it's attached to the rest of the door panel by melting plastic pins on the arm rest to the door panel. You could probably cut them off and use screws or glue to attach but it doesn't look like that part is available separately from Subaru. Probably getting a used panel or having yours repaired at an auto upholstery shop are your best options.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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17,624 Posts
You would probably need to find a way to practice first - dunno how, but, what about 'injecting' some Great Stuff or similar spray foam into the 'hole' ? Use a hair dryer to soften the old vinyl so it can move with less chance of cracking?



 

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'03 outback limited, '01 Outback Limited, '01 Legacy L wagon, '96 Legacy Brighton wagon
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Injecting an expanding foam or 2-part urethane is a good thought. Look at the foams or urethanes (silicones as well) available from Smooth-On, and inject it using a syringe up from either the underside ( where the pin hole will not show or be a weak spot that will tear over time) or from the attachment face. You would want something in the Shore A 30-60 durometer range ( lower numbers are softer. Shore A 60 is the hardness of the typical Buna N o-ring). I'd probably go with a 2-part urethane or silicone simply because you wouldn't need to worry about over-filling and creating a big bump - just inject until the hollow is filled up, and you are done.

https://www.smooth-on.com/products/

https://www.allegromedical.com/syringes-c570/needle-syringe-combos-c4055.html

You could also possibly get a syringe from a local veterinarian - take the arm rest with you and explain what you are doing so that he/she will believe you! :)
 

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2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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Injecting an expanding foam or 2-part urethane is a good thought. Look at the foams or urethanes (silicones as well) available from Smooth-On
I use this stuff all the time. I rebuilt seat cushion with it.

I have used the urethanes and silicones for mold making. I have a brick-and-mortar store here in Denver that sells Smooth-On and has examples...like paint chips.
 

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08 Outback XT Limited MT
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61 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
I somehow missed an email telling me I had replies! Thanks for all the suggestions everyone. When it annoys me enough that I am ready to do something about it, I'll definitely look into something injectable and pull the panel to work out the logistics. Most of the foam is fine, there's just a hole in the middle, right where my elbow(and presumeably the prior owner's elbow) wants to sit. Of course!
 

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'03 outback limited, '01 Outback Limited, '01 Legacy L wagon, '96 Legacy Brighton wagon
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If you use an expandable foam, clamp/tape down a flat plate over the recess to keep the foam from over-expanding that area, which would create a bump. I think that if i were to do it, I'd stick with a 2-part silicone of maybe 30 durometer to (hopefully) closely match the original foam stiffness.
 

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08 Outback XT Limited MT
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Discussion Starter #13
Good idea. will try to remember to start looking for a material, seems like it's not too hard to take the panel off, I would expect it could easily be a saturday afternoon project. Especially if I don't have to drive sunday and can let it cure ;)
 

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'03 outback limited, '01 Outback Limited, '01 Legacy L wagon, '96 Legacy Brighton wagon
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Most of the 2-parters you can use will cure to handling in just a couple hours, so you should be able to fix it on a Saturday, let it set up a couple hours, then reassemble and reinstall the door panel, let it cure fully overnight, and easily be able to use the car on Sunday.
 

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08 Outback XT Limited MT
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Discussion Starter #15
Apologies if anyone comes along later and wonders how it turned out, I didn't bother over winter as it was quite cold and then sold the car in the spring without ever doing anything with it. Darn it :)
 
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