To Restore a Door

There’s a whole bunch of stuff inside the doors of this car: locks, latches, windows and window regulators. A vacuum system controls the locks from a central switch on the dash, and there’s a switch in the latch mechanism to illuminate a “door ajar” light on the dash as well.

Door panel
The door panel, before removal

The locks are gummed up and jammed; the central locking was also inoperative. The window regulators on both sides are hard to turn; rolling the windows up and down is a chore. The  door ajar warning light doesn’t work (didn’t even know it was there!) and the door trim panel, at least on the passenger side, was loose and broken.

I pulled off the door panel today to see what I could do. What I found is a multi-day job.

The trim panel comes off easily one you figure out the secret of the E-clips holding the window cranks on (tip: pull the clips off with a bit of wire bent into a hook). Getting the window regulator mechanism out is a puzzle that took me at least half an hour to work through. After that, getting the window glass out was relatively simple following the instructions in the shop manual.

The door, opened up
The door with the panel off.

With everything out, I was able to get a close look at the locks. The mechanism appears fine–not even rusty. The old grease has hardened and I was able to work the lock free with some silicon spray. After I got it working, though, the central locking system was still dead, and more perplexing, the key wouldn’t turn the lock.

The ignition key is supposed to work for the doors and the glove box (there is a separate key for the trunk). It would appear that someone changed out the ignition cylinder in the past without changing the door locks, too. In that case, there’s been no way to lock this car in a long time.

Inside the door panel
Rot on the inside of the door panel

I was able to work some oil into the window regulator with good success. Provided I can snake it back in, the window should go up and down pretty easily now. As for the rest, some prioritizing is in order. Left to be done: re-key the door lock cylinders, troubleshoot the central locking system and figure out why the door ajar light is not working.

After that, I’ll need to make a decision about the door panel itself. It’s made from a molded cardboard with vinyl and carpet overlays. The cardboard has been wet in the past, enough to rot a portion away. It may be possible to restore it, but a replacement–very pricey–may be in order.

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