Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Door Weatherstripping Replacement

We really don't think much about car doors, weatherstripping or the locking/unlocking mechanisms; that is until something goes wrong and you are unable to open the door.

Been there, done that.

In order to prevent that from happening, and at the same time ensure that road debris and water stay outside of your Corvette, you have to remove the door panel and replace the weatherstripping. Not a difficult task and certainly one that can be done by the average do-it-yourselfer with a few basic tools and the right supplies.

Removing the door panel is pretty easy as the following video shows (not mine). You can also search online for more details on how to do this but there's nothing difficult about getting the panel off the door. I would suggest though to be careful when removing the door lock clip as you can scratch the trim piece if you use a screwdriver (as shown in the video), and it gets away from you.



Once the panel is off, you can (and should) inspect the door mechanism including the actuating rods and all associated hardware. 

Door mechanisms get their fair share of dirt over the years resulting in poor operation and noises when used. The actuating rods also start acting up after years of use and the hardware used to keep them in place starts to wear out and even come loose. This results on doors that cannot be unlocked or even opened, in some cases.

Taking the time to (at minimum) inspect the door mechanisms is a good idea if your car has had several previous owners, as it never fails that some folks will use whatever they have handy in order to "repair" something on their vehicle.

The photo below is a clear example of how someone "fixed" the lock/unlock rods on a '75 Corvette I owned for a while. The rod that went all the way up to the lock/unlock mechanism was also "secured" in the same manner, and it simply popped out of the bell crank. The result? The door could not be unlocked and opened.

Luckily, the door panel was barely attached, so that allowed me to gain access to the mechanism.


Overall, my '76 is in far better condition, but I ran into a similar problem when I locked the passenger side door. The rod was getting snagged against the door panel and, in order to unlock it, I had to use a pair of pliers to be able to twist the lock/unlock knob. I did cover it with a shop rag in order to protect the chrome finish. Luckily, my approach worked and no damage was done, but it goes to show you what can happen when these systems fail.

Once the door was unlocked, I removed the panel in order to address the binding issue and to be able to remove the weatherstripping.



I also used this opportunity to replace the window cushions since the previous owner had given me a set of new ones. New cushions help keep the window from rattling.


The weatherstripping had seen better days and it was ready to be peeled off the door. Needless to say, it is crucial to remove all traces of old weatherstripping adhesive before installing the new one. There are a few screws that hold the end pieces in place, and those have to be removed first. Most likely, they will be pretty rusty. Sometimes they are hard to see, so if you're having trouble getting the end pieces lose, keep searching until you find and remove them.



There's no trick to peeling the old weatherstripping off the door. Some of the old rubber and adhesive will remain attached to the door and there's nothing you can do about that. In some cases, you may want to use a putty knife to help loosen it, but I would try to avoid using any tools or knives as you also risk scratching the finish.


It is obvious that when the previous owner had the car repainted, the shop reused the old weatherstripping, and they did not skimp on the adhesive. Also, notice the improvised block they fashioned out of old pieces of Velcro to contact the Door Ajar plunger switch.



They also managed to lose a few screws in the process.


The end block by the door handle is also secured in place by a sheet metal screw.


Once the old weatherstripping is off, remove the old glue and any rubber remnants. I used Goof Off to clean the area.


You can also see I used a Dynamat-like material to help quiet down door noises and rattles. However, at some point in the future, my plan is to install electric lock/unlock actuators that will be controlled with a key fob. This will eliminate all the rods.


And this is the old door weatherstripping, and a couple side-by-side pictures with the new piece to be installed, which are available from many online vendors.




In order to properly attach the new weatherstripping to the doors, you'll need the right adhesive. Options are many, but I prefer to "stick" (pun intended) with a brand I know and trust.


I like the 3M Super Weatherstrip Adhesive because it cures fast. This allows you to work in small steps. I always use pieces of masking tape in order to hold the rubber strip in the desired location but remove them as soon as I am done since I like to close the door in order to allow the weatherstripping to cure in place. That process does not take more than 15 minutes.



Before installing the new weatherstripping, I painted the front part of the door since I did not care for the faded red finish. I cleaned the area and lightly sanded the old finish, then sprayed Dupli-Color Truck Bed Coating which gave it a nice textured black finish. I also sprayed the access panel cover and made a new gasket for it out of neoprene, which I glued to the panel.











I also took the opportunity to clean the door mechanisms and actuating rods. And I also lubricated them so they would operate properly.



After ensuring everything worked as intended by Chevrolet, I installed the new window cushions followed by the door panel.






Replacing door weatherstripping definitely is a do-it-yourself project and one that can be easily completed in an afternoon, provided you have all necessary materials.

As far as weatherstripping manufacturers, there are several brands to choose from. The ones I used on my Vette I found at the Daytona Turkey Run from a weatherstripping vendor. Brand unknown. However, they were new, looked good and pliable, and certainly in far better condition than the hardened rubber pieces my car had sported since 1976.

UPDATE: When I first wrote this article, I reused the factory door panel and only did the passenger side door since I was having trouble unlocking it. A while later, I decided to purchase new door panels since the original units were worn and tired, besides, I wanted a cleaner and simpler look. After receiving the new panels, I took care of the driver's side door and chronicled the process in a new detailed article. Click here to read it as it provides additional related information that may be valuable to help you complete your project.

As always, thanks for following my 1976 Corvette Stingray blog!