May 2003: Rebuilding your doors

More: Part 2 | Part 3

People often refer to the fine build quality of their cars by shutting the doors, in hopes of generating audible noises like a fine refrigerator door closing - an ear-pleasing "thud". Otherwise it's just crap... so why mess around?
Having a E34 5 series BMW gave me a great reference point - in fact shutting any of those doors gives a pleasing sound better than many other new cars I've heard and mine is 13 years old.  It was with that "world class" build quality in mind that I went to work on Stella's doors. It started last summer when I was gutting the entire car that I examined how the doors came apart. Over time many components  of the doors rusted in place, wore out from use or degraded from the elements of being outdoors. I spent many hours reviewing the parts microfiche and bought the parts I felt were required to make the doors as good as new. I sent everything I took out that I could to be recycled by bead blasting and cad plating. That planning has started to pay off now in the assembly, making everything much easier to put back together and wherever possible, eliminate or greatly delay the effects of weather on the car over the next 30 or so years.

Putting the doors back together can be a challenge if not done in the right order. Yes they do work like a Rubic's cube, so learn from my experience here!
So this is the end result of testing all the parts together for the first time on the driver side door. You will note that I have included the installation of a electronic door lock lifter mechanism in the lower left hand side of the door. That complete installation "how-to" will be covered in a future article.  I took these pictures prior to adding the rubberized undercoating to the bottom section of the inside of the door, as you will see as we make progress on these parts.
DOORS: The steps are as follows -
 1) carefully clean, replace or paint every component first
 2) assemble the parts into logical groups that work together
 3) test fit the items before tightening up the fasteners    
These door latch mechanisms are fairly straightforward and usually need a good cleaning.
I used Brakleen from CRC to douse the part and use a wire bristled toothbrush for cleaning. Any corrosion is removed with a tiny wire wheel using a Dremel.
On the face I used some silver Rust-O-Leom paint since this part will show through the door edge. In this photo I have shown the grey "corn kernel" that fits over the latch mechanism. These are cheap - buy new ones - they really make a big difference.
Ok, here is the finished assembly, including the rubber guide strip and plated covers. This is the part that meshes with the door strike plate when the door is closed. Those guide strip and covers are only a few dollars new and like the other new parts mentioned, make the car sound as good as new.
Here the long black rod is attached to the door opening assembly. These are marked L (driver) or R (passenger) and are two mirror image assemblies. Add on the door lock button also. Together these are connected and slid into the door through the large, lower opening in the bottom of the door and fastened by starting at the door latch assembly first with 2 phillips screws and two hex screws, then the 2 8mm bolts that hold the latch handle assembly to the door.
Heres the view looking the other way. Note that I've added little rubber o-rings to these locations of the rods to make sure they stay nice and snug with the assembly and have no chance to work loose when I'm done.
Ok, now it should look like this on the outside.
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