Tailgate Handle Relocation – Step by Step

Being able to open your tailgate is a must for truck owners. Whether it’s to load a dirt bike or a stroller, if you can’t get into the back of the bed, it’s going to be a bad day.

But what do you do if you prefer a smooth-looking rear on your truck and hate the way a plain, square-looking tailgate handle looks? You order yourself a tailgate handle relocation kit, like the one from Jegs that was used in this install (Part #555-78835). With this kit, or one like it made for your specific year, make, and model truck, you can move the stock handle from the outside of the tailgate to the inside of the tailgate and still utilize all the factory internal parts to open it.

It also comes with the sheetmetal filler piece to weld on the outside of the tailgate to make the original cutout disappear from the body panel. Even though the bracket to flip the handle to the inside of the tailgate is straightforward, the art of welding the filler panel on the exterior does take quite a bit of skill. For some of our readers, this is a task well beyond their ability, but for others, it’s a simple welding job.

Of course, once the filler panel is welded in and ground smooth, there is still quite a bit of work by a body specialist to completely make it disappear once its painted. This article isn’t meant to be a “how-to” article on this modification; instead, it’s more showing our readers what goes into the process of relocating the handle the correct way.

We at Street Trucks love seeing simple body mods like this starting to come back like we saw back in the day when we were first getting into the whole custom vehicle world. As far as show vehicles go, clean, simple mods like this are what set your truck apart from the one sitting beside you at a show.

To show you guys this process, we teamed up with our friends over at Phat Phabz who are known for doing not only crazy full-frame setups on trucks, but also plenty of this type of shaving work on customers’ vehicles as well. Follow along and see what goes into relocating a tailgate handle.

01. This is the tailgate relocation kit.
02. Remove the original tailgate handle trim.
03. Remove the latch rods from the handle.
04. Unbolt the tailgate handle.
05. This is the internal handle that was removed from the tailgate.
06. Mock the relocation bracket to the inside of the tailgate.
07. Measure and square the bracket’s depth from the top with the height from original side.
08. Measure where the relocated bracket will now reside. It doesn’t hurt to draw this out and double check measurements.
09. The relocation bracket was flipped around to mark bolt holes and visually see where the outside will lie. Make sure the lines drawn underneath do not protrude out from the bracket.
10. Mounting holes should be marked to show where to drill later in the process.
11. Here you can see how all the marks look on the tailgate from the bracket.
12. Use a straight edge to mark inside for cut lines.
13. A cut-off wheel works great for cutting out the sheetmetal not needed where the bracket goes.
14. With the material removed from the inside of the tailgate, you can see exactly where the bracket will go.
15. Test fit the relocation bracket to the tailgate. Double check that the holes still line up.
16. Center punch the hole marks in preparation of drilling.
17. Drill the holes to bolt in the relocation bracket.
18. We use a nutsert tool to install threaded bungs into the tailgate to make easy removeal if needed down the road.
19. Nutserts are installed, and now we’re ready to bolt in the relocation bracket.
20. Bolt in the original handle to the relocation bracket.
21. Bolt in the relocation bracket.
22. Test fit again into the tailgate.
23. Remove the plastic “keeper” clips on the opposite sides of where they were originally installed. Now is a good time to replace these if they appear brittle.
24. Here’s a visual of the handle installed through the old existing handle hole. It’s a good time to make sure that it’s working properly, pulling both latch rods.
25. Begin removing the paint, primer, and sealer down to bare metal.
26. Make sure all existing material is removed. A clean, bare metal surface will yield the best weld/results.
27. Test fit the supplied filler.
28. We noticed that the filler came flat and needed a roll to match the tailgate contour. We used a 36-inch slip roller to match the roll.
29. A lot better fit after the roll.
30. We cleaned the edges of the filler to also make sure of a clean welding surface.
31. Weld-though primer is used on the back side of the panel.
32. A long magnet is used to hold the filler in place before tacking in securely.
33. We place a few tacks around the perimeter to hold the panel in place. Note: They are spaced apart far enough to prevent too much heat and warping.
34. A few more tacks between the previous tacks. Once again, take it slowly to prevent too much heat.
35. After a half to whole day, the filler is fully welded into place. The fabricator finds other tasks throughout this day to keep busy while the panel cools after so many tack welds.
36. The grinding process begins. This will also create heat that can warp. Not a lot of pressure is needed in conjunction with keeping the grinding wheel as flat as possible to prevent digging into the material. A flap disc is being used here.
37. Compressed air can be applied between the tacks and grinding to help cool the overall panel to prevent warpage.
38. A 3-inch sanding disc is used to further knock down any high spots and to feather the material.
39. A DA sander is then used to further feather the existing material and remove grinding marks.
40. With the filler panel welded and ground smooth, it is time for some filler and paint.
41. The tailgate was reinstalled and tested before it was taken back apart and sent off to the paint and body shop.


Phat Phabz LLC
16092 NE 23rd
Choctaw, OK 73020


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