How to Fix the Center Console Armrest Cover in a Ford Explorer

When the center console armrest cover in your second generation (1995-2001) Ford Explorer has become cracked and ugly from years of sun damage, don't spend a lot of money replacing it. With a little effort, you can restore it and make it look brand new for under ten dollars.

Cut or tear off a piece of the damaged armrest cover. Visit a piece goods store and find the upholstery section. Show them the old material and ask them if they have anything similar in texture and color. For my repair, I purchased a yard of marine grade vinyl, which is used to recover boat seats, for under $8.00. In retrospect, a third of a yard should be plenty of material unless you are prone to accidents.

Lift the armrest cover to expose the inside of the console storage compartment. On the hinge in the back, you will see three Phillips head screws. Remove all three and place them in a cup holder. You won't need these screws again until you re-install the armrest cover.

Place the armrest cover with the bottom side facing up on a hard, flat surface. Around the perimeter of the cover, you will see nine Phillips head screws. Carefully remove each of these and place them in a safe location. Remove the plastic panel to expose the interior of the armrest cover. You should see a series of small staples that hold the vinyl material firmly in each of the corners.

Very carefully pry these staples out of the plastic armrest base. If the plastic base is old, it may have become brittle and you don't want to crack it. When all staples are removed, throw them away and remove the outer vinyl cover. Inspect the underlying foam material. If it looks OK, don't worry about replacing it.
Spread out the new vinyl material faced down on the flat surface and place the old vinyl material on top of it. Stretch it out as much as you can and trace the outline onto the new material using a pencil or pen. As long as you can recreate the basic shape of the original material, it should work. Don't worry if your new design is not as perfect as the original. It would actually benefit you to add up to an inch along the longer sides. Try to make the front and back of the new material match the original as closely as possible, though. Don't worry about cutting holes for the screws. They will punch through the material when you screw them back in. Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut out the shape that you traced.

Cut two inch-long pieces of double stick tape and apply them to the plastic base, just inside the rear section. Lay the plastic base upside down on the new material and stretch the piece that corresponds to the back of the armrest so that it sticks to the tape. Now, place two small pieces of tape inside the front of the base. Lift the entire base and stretch the material towards the front. When the material is as tight as you can get it, fold it firmly onto the tape.

Flip the armrest right-side up and inspect your work so far. Does it feel tight? Are there any wrinkles? If there is anything that doesn't pass your inspection, remove the material and adjust it. After the next step, it will be harder and more aggravating to fix earlier mistakes.

Place the armrest upside-down again and apply pieces of tape just inside each corner. Stretch and fold the corners of the material so that they overlap and contour the corner very tightly. Fold each one so that they stick firmly to the tape. When the corners are done, apply tape to the sides and repeat the procedure.

Inspect the armrest cover once last time from above. The material should be stretched tightly around the entire perimeter of the armrest. The front corners should look round. Make sure there isn't any material sticking out that could interfere with the cover's opening and closing. If everything looks good, place the plastic panel back onto the underside of the cover and replace each Phillips screw.

Take the newly-covered armrest back to the Explorer and replace the three Phillips screws that you left in the cup holder back into the hinge. Open and close the armrest cover to make sure it has clearance on both sides.

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How to Install an Electric Iron and Ironing Board Holder

A hot iron sitting on an ironing board is an accident waiting to happen when there are small children running around your home. Install a device that may be used to store the iron and board safely away and also free up needed space.

Choose the best place for the iron and board to be stored. This may be in a closet or bathroom area, but it should be a room with a door that can be closed in order to prevent access to it by small children. It is also a good idea to store the iron and board in a low-traffic area that is not frequently accessed by guests.
Using an electronic stud finder, locate the left and right edges of a wooden stud inside your wall. Mark the edges lightly with a pencil so that you will know where the middle of the stud is. These marks should be made in close proximity to the position on the wall where you will mount the holder.

Position the plastic holder on the wall in the area where you would like it to be permanently mounted. Firmly hold the plastic holder with one hand and with your other hand, hang the ironing board on the holder to be sure the holder is positioned high enough for the board to clear the floor. If there is a door nearby, check it for clearance too. Remove the board from the holder and align the holder so that that center mounting holes are between the pencil lines that you made to mark the wooden stud. Mark these holes using your pencil. It is a good idea to also check the sides of the holder using a level. If the holder is level, the board will hang level when the installation is complete.

Remove the holder from the wall and drill small pilot holes for each mounting hole. The pilot holes should be just smaller than the screw that will occupy the hole. If any of the screws do not match up with the wooden stud, insert a wall anchor to provide extra support. Place the plastic holder back onto the wall and apply screws to each one using your Phillips screwdriver. Do not over tighten the screws!

Insert the iron and wrap the cord so that it fits underneath. Insert the board and inspect the installation from all sides. Pull on the board and make sure the holder doesn't budge.

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How to Confirm that Your Daughter is Dating a Good Guy

There are a number of things that a concerned parent can do to evaluate the character and intentions of their daughter's new boyfriend.

Plan an evening to meet your daughter's new boyfriend soon after you discover his existence. Make the event very casual and insist that the entire family is present. A nice dinner followed by an exciting board game or two will serve your purpose nicely. Whatever activity you choose, be sure it is one with lots of interaction between your family and the new guy. Note the appearance of the boyfriend when he shows up for dinner. Evaluate how he dresses and whether he shows signs of proper hygiene. Make him wait awhile before seeing your daughter to see if he grows impatient. Remember when you are talking to him, that you are dealing with someone from a different generation, so his interests may not be the same as your own. There are certain things that should transcend the generation gap, though, like good manners, good common sense, and respect for elders. Watch carefully for these things. This is his first test.

Ask plenty of questions throughout the evening and watch his body language closely. Does he seem comfortable with your daughter? Are they overly affectionate in front of the family? Watch how he interacts with everyone and whether he makes eye contact when you speak to him. These things are all important because if he does become a part of the family for an extended period of time, it will be nice to know that he is someone you can trust and who you will want to have around your family.
Keep a notebook and pen hidden in a separate room. Excuse yourself from time to time and write down your observations about the boyfriend's appearance and behavior. Also try to collect information like his name, where he lives, where he works, and how long he's lived in your area, but don't let it seem like you're interrogating him. At some point in the evening, discretely take a few "group" photos that include the new boyfriend so that you will have a permanent record of what he looks like, just in case. Tell him that you want photos to remember the evening and to post in your blog.

Use the resources available to you after he leaves to do a thorough background check. There are many websites available that you can use to search for criminal records and to find registered sex offenders. Don't assume that you can tell whether someone is decent or not by their outward appearance. Find out for sure. Have a serious discussion with your daughter about sex and about your dating rules if you have not already done so. Express to her the seriousness of the rules and be very clear of the consequences for breaking those rules.

Plan another evening with the new boyfriend out in public at a nice restaurant. Watch for signs of chivalry from the young man. Does he hold the door for your daughter and for other people? Is he polite to waiters and waitresses? Whether he ends up paying for his meal or not, does he offer? Try to spend some time alone with him, away from your daughter, and see if he tries to make conversation with you. Always be nice, but throw a few curve balls at him and see how he responds.

Keep very open communication with your daughter about her social life and be familiar with her friends, their interests, and where they like to hang out. Encourage her to always talk to you when she has a problem or when she needs advice. If you decide that her new boyfriend is not right for her, tell her your reasons, but let her make her own decisions. She may not take your advice, but if you demand that she no longer sees him, you can rest assured that you will quickly push her towards him. On the other hand, if you discover good things about the new boyfriend, tell your daughter and commend her on choosing a good guy. Whether she acknowledges it or not, she does value your opinions and by communicating both good and bad information with her without interjecting strong emotions, you encourage her to confide in you no matter what. Above all, enforce the rules established about dating with her whether you like the new boyfriend or not so that your daughter does not lose respect for your authority.

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