As time passes the pressed steel under step or supporting chassis beneath the Sprinters rear step plastic skin rots. It is only relatively thin gauge steel, with most of its strength gained from its pressed shape and side wall returns – it gets fragile and flexible to tread onto, often pulling away the vertical face of the step skin from the clips in the rear valance. Once this happens it is time to repair.
On one of the courier fleet, the step had been requiring repair for a few months and just to help it on its way the driver reversed it into a bollard and creased the edge quite severely. So bad in fact that the plastic skin was removed in the impact, leaving the full horror of the rusted and now damaged rear step requiring urgent attention.
Taking a hacksaw and chisel to the existing step plate made light work of cleaning up the area, leaving the two steel supporting brackets projecting from the chassis. (Hammered straight again!) Once the covering had been removed a section of 50mm square box section was cut to fit between the support brackets. A further length of 50×50 was cut to fit snugly inside the rear edge of the plastic skin, ending at each side just before it takes on the radius into the corner and edges of the step moulding. A centre line was marked onto each section to use as a datum on assembly and welding.
The edges of the chassis support brackets were cut back by 50mm to allow the new fabrication to sit where the original edge would have supported the plastic skin and to allow as good a fit as the original. Cleaning up all areas to be welded with a grinder including the support brackets and mating edges of the two box sections, in addition to the areas where the two pieces are to be stitch welded top and bottom.
Aligning the two centre marks, tack the box sections in place ensuring that it is both, level central and flush between the chassis support brackets. You should be able to weld the shorter box section to the supports along the top, back and at the rear corner of its section. Then clamp on the longer section, ensuring it is central, then stick weld this to the shorter box previously welded.
Once fully welded, the construction is very strong and will support a great deal of weight, certainly it does not ‘flex’ like the original used to do when entering or exiting the van.
Cleaning off the rough edges and painting if required prepares the new step tread for re-fitting of the plastic skin. This can be slid over the new steel and secured back to the upright section of the rear valance. If, as in the case of our step, the moulded retaining clips had been broken, large head self tapping screws were used to secure the vertical section to the rear of the vehicle. Additionally three 8mm holes were drilled vertically through the foot-plate area of the plastic step to coincide with the new steel box section beneath. The step was secured with coach bolts and washers, tightening them securely to finish off the job.
The repaired step is in my opinion stronger than the original and hopefully will give many years good service – unless of course it is used to determine the rear extremity of the vehicle in a parking manoeuvre, where it will not be quite as ‘forgiving’ as the slightly flexing original!