Friday, April 10, 2015

Door Panel and Handle Repair

My next project on the Blazer was making the driver's door panel stick to the door. I can't close the door with the armrest pull because it just pulls door panel, not the door. Trying to close the door by hooking fingertips where the panel ends at the window just shreds my fingernails. New pins attaching the panel to the door haven't help. So, I watched a video about removing the door panel and discovered -- the panel is all one piece. I thought the bottom was separate from the top. Turns out my panel was cracked.

So I removed it and fiberglassed the crack back together. It's not a perfect job by any means, and fiberglass guys are probably aghast or laughing hysterically.... But it's all one piece again.

The discolored areas of the upholstered section ... plain old dirt.

I cleaned it with castile soap (because it rinses off so easily and thoroughly) and it looks so much better now than it did in this picture. Still needs a few more swipes, though.

This seemed a logical time to repair the door handles, since the panel was off, so I tackled that next. The spring at the base of the interior pull, where it pivots, must've "sprung" in some way, because it wouldn't snap the door handle back into the housing (though it opened the door okay). Turned out there is no spring. Have no idea what happened to it.

The housing or frame, or whatever it's called, of the exterior door handle was loose, too, and would pull away from the door slightly when you opened the door.

When I took the interior door panel off, hubs found a little hex bolt down in the bottom of the door. Eventually, I figured out that it had fallen off the back of the exterior door handle, and that's why the handle was loose. I watched a video on how to remove and replace the exterior door handle, and saw that the outside bolt hole was reached through an access hole in the metal part of the door, about an inch or so in diameter. I put all that back for hubs because I knew I'd never be able to fix it.

Meanwhile, I concentrated on the interior door handle. I tried every way I could to fix it. Not only would it not be fixed -- it stopped opening the door!

I ordered a new one of these, and the very day it arrived, I was sitting sideways in the driver's seat, taking the old one off and getting ready to install the new one. Three plastic tabs fit into three slots and then the part was pushed forward and snapped into place.... Except the back tab was too wide for the slot and it wouldn't go in. So I sanded the edges a little and it fit. 

I realized some parts were missing from the new mechanism -- a sort of triangular plastic plate that operated the door lock, and a plastic clip and bushing-type of thing that the door opener rod dropped into near the pull pivot.
I took those parts off the old mechanism, put them on the new one, installed it, and STILL the door wouldn't open. I carefully inspected everything.  I remembered the fellow in the YouTube video cautioning DIY repairers to make certain the rods were in their clips about halfway between the black plastic part and the outside edge of the door.  So I checked and immediately saw the problem. The bottom half of the clip that held the opener rod was broken off. When the door handle was pulled, the rod moved down instead of forward or back...

Hmmm... I considered this a moment, looking at the little oval plastic piece that had both clips on it, one above the other. Removed the rods. Tugged on the plastic part, turned it upside down, and put it back in its place. Now the unbroken clip was on the bottom, and I popped the opener rod into it.  The door lock rod sort of rested on the broken top clip, but it didn't have a tendency to move up or down when engaged, but moved back and forth, as it should.

That fixed it!

Hubs got home from work and inspected my repair job, then found the tool necessary to reinstall the bolt that would tighten the outside door handle. Took him a few tries -- there was something in the way inside the access hole, and it was impossible to see inside there, anyway. Nevertheless, he found the bolt hole and tightened the bolt.

Now the door opens and closes -- from the inside or outside -- with a very solid sound, almost like it did when the vehicle was new!

Next step -- buy pins to hold the door panel on, put the automatic window and door lock controls back in place, install the bolts beneath the armrest, and, as my Pop used to say, "Bob's your uncle!"

Then it's back to working on the body -- finish removing the clear coat and oxidized paint, and repaint and re-clear coat the hood.  I don't think it's going to be fun ... several coats of each with sanding in between ... and I still don't know how well the rattle-can paint will match the existing color.

But it's bound to look better than it did when I started.

Invaluable door handle repair videos:

Exterior Door Handle Replacement

Interior  Door Handle Replacement

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