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. TheĀ  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.

What a Gas

I needed the ‘Bird warmed up this morning to check the settings on the carb, so I took her for a spin out on the open freeway. (Something I rarely do.) She’s been running so well, I took the opportunity to open her up. I was pleased to discover that there’s still some kick to her; we cruised along with traffic for 10 miles or so before (reluctantly) heading home.

Old sender coming out
The old sender coming out

The tuning wasn’t off by much, so I was quickly on to the main event of the day: replacing the fuel gauge sender. With the back of the car up on ramps, I crawled underneath, camera and tools in hand.

The sending unit sits about half-way up the tank. I figured the tank was less than half full, but had no way of knowing for sure. The old unit came out easily, and it was not followed by gallons of fuel, which was a good thing. The most difficult part was getting the old fuel line off–it was held on by the original crimp-on style clamp.

Old vs. New
The old sender with the new

The float on the old unit was full of gas, which was probably part (if not all) of the problem. I could have just changed the float, but I had a brand new unit (with an in-tank filter) that seemed more like a sure bet.

A while back, I replaced the sender for the oil pressure gauge with no success, so there was no telling if the fuel gauge was still good. But with the key on, the gas gauge went right up to 1/3 full! Nice.

Of course, I made a complete photojournal of the project.

Seeing Clearly

Got a new windshield installed this morning. The old one had numerous scars, stars and pits, but the killer was a cracked and leaking gasket that allowed water into the car by the bucket.

New Windshield
New windshield installed. Haven't yet got the wiper arms back on.

Surprisingly, a local glass shop had the correct windshield in stock, and it even had the cool tinted strip across the top. Even more surprising, they did not have (and could not get) a new windshield gasket. I had to order that on my own. (From the guys at Bird Nest, who were super fast and efficient again.)

Lots of complaints from the installers about the parts on the car being old, if you can imagine, and it took them a few hours to complete the job. In the end, it was professionally done and improves the looks of the car a great deal.

Spring planting is done, so this weekend looks to be a busy one with the car. Tops on my list are the fuel gauge sender, a tweak to the carb, and a peak inside the door panels.

Man About Town

Since the gas shortage and my “required” visit to the local bar, the ‘Bird has been running (and stopping) quite well. I’ve been driving it short distances almost daily, which has been a blast in the nice, warm weather. Pollen has stopped falling from the trees in our neighborhood, so I took the opportunity to host a bird-bath this afternoon.

Clean 'Bird
Still cleans up nice, she does.

The warm spring weather has also meant I need to focus on my other hobby, gardening, which doesn’t tolerate procrastination very well. Major work in the garden wrapped up this weekend though, and there was still some time to devote to the car. I installed a hose for the vacuum advance on the distributer (lacking, until now, but obviously not critical!) and tightened up the belts on both the alternator and the power steering pump.

Vacuum advance hose
New vacuum advance hose, distributor end

I would love to get the door panel off the passenger side door to free up and lubricate the window regulator and fix the power locks inside the door, but there are more pressing concerns.

More rain is forecast and the windshield leaks like crazy. I have been tarping the car in rainstorms, but the metal grommets and hooks have been taking their toll on the paint–a cure more expensive than the disease. A windshield replacement is on the top of my list, hopefully this week.

Also near the top is a re-tune of the carburetor (a little off after I fixed a vacuum leak last week) and putting a stop to the taunting of the ever-on-E fuel gauge.

For now, though, it’s drive and enjoy.

A Gallon of Gas

Went out to run a few errands in the ‘Bird yesterday. Fired it up, then walked back to the house for some packages I needed to mail. Before I got back up the driveway, I heard the idle slow down, then the engine just died.

What the heck? Cranked it over a few times, then took a look under the hood. No gas in the fuel line. In fact, no gas in the car at all.

  • Disadvantages of a broken fuel gauge: you never know when you’re about to run out of gas.
  • Advantages of a broken fuel gauge: none that spring to mind.
Gas Gauge
This gauge always reads "E". Yesterday, it was accurate.

Walked to the gas station, picked up 4 gallons of gas. Did the trick, and the car started right back up. But this was the beginning of the odyssey. I drove it around the block, turned it off, thinking I’d just make sure it’ll start back up ok. With the key off and out of the ignition, the engine kept running.

Decided, what the hell, I can run these errands even if the car has to sit running in the parking lot. Got more gas, the stopped at the post office. Dropped off packages and came back to a very hot engine. More idling at a long red light and now the engine is running rough.

Finally, a mile down the road, the engine stopped, backfired a few times, dieseled for a moment, then quit altogether. A kindly stranger helped me to push her into a parking lot, which happened to be our local watering hole.

Perhaps the car just wanted me to stop for a beer and watch a few innings of baseball. Anyhow, that’s what I did.

Half an hour later, the ‘Bird fired right back up and I drove it home. Turned off the key, and the motor stopped, just as it should. Go figure.

A New Start

Over the last week, my son and I got the distributer in, new wires put together and the rest of the odds and ends installed. Out came the old distributer, the high performance spark enhancer and the extra wiring that went with both.

Today, we finished wiring up the coil, hooked up the fuel line from the tank and–with some trepidation–turned the key.

Over the last month (since the last time the car ran), we’ve replaced all these parts:

  • carburetor
  • distributer
  • coil
  • plug wires
  • starter
  • alternator
  • fuel pump
  • oil filter
  • oil pressure sender
  • . . . and many ancillary hoses, wires, bits and pieces

The engine turned over smoothly and we suffered through two false starts and backfires through the carb. A little starter fluid, a nudge to the distributer and she came to life:

We ran it for about 20 minutes until it was warm, then set the timing and adjusted the carburetor. There was still a stumble in the motor that had us scratching our heads when the engine coughed . . . and died.

Finished and running
Finished and running.

Now we were really perplexed. Poking around, I noticed that a plug wire had come off–probably the stumble we were looking for, but not enough to kill the engine. The nifty in-line fuel pressure gauge I had installed was reading 0–definitely odd. I pulled the gauge out and replaced it with the old in-line filter.

That done, it fired right back up!

I took it out for a quick spin around the block where it ran stronger and much more smoothly than it had before this evolution began. I was, frankly, a little amazed that we had so little trouble. Of all the things we swapped out, only the oil pressure sender didn’t seem to work–a problem that is likely in the gauge, not the new unit.

But, that’s an issue for another day.