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Finally got a good fix for my loose door panel

lone73

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 24, 2003
Messages
456
Location
Texas
Corvette
'73 4spd coupe, '04 6 speed coupe
I fought this for weeks so I thought this might save some time for those that have the same prob. Its at least a different approach to a solution and may serve as inspiration for some. Hope it helps somebody...
Apparently, after a C4 door panel has been off a few times it can develop the problem of getting loose at the top after reinstallation and a few slams of the door. My problem was not so much age and use as it was a poor repair job from a body shop after being hit in the left door. I ended up with the same symptom however.

There are tabs along the top of the fiberglass door frame (the structural part of the door under the interior panel) that are supposed to hold the upper edge of the panel to the door. They are sloped inward causing a slightly loose panel to launch itself up and inward every time the door is slammed. After 10 ~ 20 door slams (in my case at least) the door panel will jump over the upper tabs and be sloppy and loose after that. Not cool at all. I posted my problem with this a while back and was supplied a link to a vette article by a forum member that addressed it to some degree. The article described adding an additional post to the door frame’s top edge that simply stuck up higher than the original tabs to catch the panel. I decided what I’d really like is to get the panel to stay down where it belonged. After going through a few iterations of reattaching the panel I came up with an idea to attach it securely. As mentioned the panel really needs to drop in relation to the door frame. Since the panel attaches primarily to the shiny aluminum panel directly beneath the interior panel, the fix seemed to be to get that aluminum panel to drop down a ¼ inch or so. I was able to accomplish that by simply slotting the screw holes in the fiberglass door frame downward. (You might be able to do the same by slotting the holes in the aluminum piece upward ). I then had to redrill the few plug holes along the bottom of the door so that I could get those plastic plugs back in without them pushing back upward on the panel. I had to go thru a dry run of attching the panel to draw the new hole locations along the bottom edge of the door. I set the interior panel in place temporarily and held it down with a clamp. I pulled the panel downward by clamping between the top side of the armrest and the underneath side of the door using a quick-clamp. I then bumped the top edge of the panel a few times with my fist to get the panel thoroughly seated along the top of the door frame and squeezed the clamp a bit to get it seated snugly, then marked the new plug hole locations with a felt tip pen. Before marking the new holes do a quick check along the bottom edge of the interior panel and make sure it aligns with the bottom edge of the door. You obviously don’t want the panel to be adjusted down too far. The holes must be drilled down far enough to create at least 75% of a new hole. If the hole encroaches on the original slot too much the plastic plug won’t stay in place. If you cannot drill that far down you’ll have to fill the original slots with glass and redrill. As can be seen in the below pic the rearward hole is too close to the original and the plug is now loose. The others are holding the door panel fine.

My drivers door panel is now very firmly mounted and does not rattle when I slam the door. The only side effect of this procedure is that the seal along the top of the panel pushes on the window just a bit and causes the window to catch the weatherstrip just slightly when its slammed with the window all the way up. I’ll have to adjust the window upper stop down just a tiny bit.
I would have been hesitant about drilling new holes in my door but as I stated above this all started from a sloppy body shop repair job after my car was hit in the drivers door. I had to settle for a used door that was apparently a little different than my original. I also had to learn how to adjust and repair C4 doors.
Here are a few pics showing the screws moved down from their original position as well as the redrilled holes along the bottom.

This pic shows the lower holes drilled for the plastic plugs along the bottom of the door frame.

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This is the upper half of the door showing the screws attaching the inner panel to the frame. The amount they are lowered is visible from the marks left by the screw heads.


regards
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T

tonylong

Guest
Thanks for this complete and informative post. I can tell you spent some considerable time and effort to write it up. I'm sure it will help someone else sometime. This should be a candidate to be in the How To section. Maybe some admnistrator can do this.
 

B17Crew

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 8, 2002
Messages
1,610
Location
Columbus, Ohio
Corvette
96 LT4 Polo Green/Light Beige Interior
lone73,

Nicely done write up, thanks for posting!

B17Crew
:w
 

JohnnyC

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 5, 2002
Messages
257
Location
NJ
Corvette
1996 Black Coupe - LT4
I have the same problem but with the passenger side, but not from a accident. I found the plastic ribs at the top of the panel had all cracked. The previous owner also driller a hole further down of the plug, but that only seemed to make it worse. I drilled some hols in the ribs and tried to pull them together, but i didnt do a great job. I'll be trying that again, maybe with some wire to get it pulled nice and tight joined again... or its either $500 for a new panel.
 

lone73

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 24, 2003
Messages
456
Location
Texas
Corvette
'73 4spd coupe, '04 6 speed coupe
Have you tried epoxy on them to get them back solid ? Of maybe some fiberglass resin and cloth? Hate to see you drop that kinda cash for a new panel.

Good luck with it
 
B

bgold3238

Guest
Mine are the same way i`ll look into fixing them now that i know where to start...thanks
 

Paul Higg

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 22, 2008
Messages
1,195
Location
Georgia
Corvette
2007 Monterey Red
EXCELLENT article! I just replaced the window switch and had the same problem. It still rattles but it will stay in place (barely). I am going to take your same approach. Thanks.

Paul
 
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Bobkaz

Guest
Another cause for door panel coming loose. 1994 Vette

Passenger side door panel would come loose at the top of the door just about every time the door closed. Found that 2 of the 4 ribs located on the inside of the upper portion of the door panel had cracked. The ribs are meant to hold the curved form of the panel. GM just does not use quality material. The plastic material used in my kids toys seem to be superior to that used in the Corvette. Before I could bring myself to spending all that money for a new panel, I made an attempt to fix this one and succeeded. I placed a ratcheting strap through the compartment in the arm rest and over the top of the panel. I tightened the strap until there was no longer a gap in the rib crack. This action also brought back the correct curvature of the door panel. I then cut metal strips and screwed them to the rib, one screw on each side of the break and high up as possible. 100_0701.jpg100_0700.jpg
 

boomdriver

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 18, 2008
Messages
1,886
Location
texas
Corvette
87 z-51
Passenger side door panel would come loose at the top of the door just about every time the door closed. Found that 2 of the 4 ribs located on the inside of the upper portion of the door panel had cracked. The ribs are meant to hold the curved form of the panel. GM just does not use quality material. The plastic material used in my kids toys seem to be superior to that used in the Corvette. Before I could bring myself to spending all that money for a new panel, I made an attempt to fix this one and succeeded. I placed a ratcheting strap through the compartment in the arm rest and over the top of the panel. I tightened the strap until there was no longer a gap in the rib crack. This action also brought back the correct curvature of the door panel. I then cut metal strips and screwed them to the rib, one screw on each side of the break and high up as possible. View attachment 1418View attachment 1419


Good fix ! :thumb

I've never done one with the "rib" design, but I have had to repair others that were flat or smooth. This plastic is "weldable", so it can be heated and melted. Use a pencil torch, with some 1/4" wire mesh.
cut mesh to fit the area and shape it, apply heat to plastic, immediately press mesh into the soft semi-liquid plastic and smear plastic over and onto the mesh.If the mesh does not get completely buried in the plastic, simply re-heat and press the wire in until it is completely in the plastic and has formed a new matrix. The break is now repaired,. the plastic is once again monolithic and it has the added benefit of reinforcement. So far, the cracks have not reappeared.
When it cools and hardens in about 10 seconds, it holds cracks together, broken seams, seperated pieces. This takes a little practice and a 3rd hand is very helpful. The door panel top edge can be re-attached where the angled portion has to hook onto the door frame and always breaks off. The "welded" areas cannot be seen on the opposite side and it does not distort the shape. I have done this when there was vinyl on the other side or bare plastic.
I have also seen mesh screwed in place that did basically the same thing,.

Previous attempts with glue, epoxie, fiber glass resins and gray tape, all failed miserably......Took longer to clean them off than they held.
 
B

Bobkaz

Guest
Good fix ! :thumb

I've never done one with the "rib" design, but I have had to repair others that were flat or smooth. This plastic is "weldable", so it can be heated and melted. Use a pencil torch, with some 1/4" wire mesh.
cut mesh to fit the area and shape it, apply heat to plastic, immediately press mesh into the soft semi-liquid plastic and smear plastic over and onto the mesh.If the mesh does not get completely buried in the plastic, simply re-heat and press the wire in until it is completely in the plastic and has formed a new matrix. The break is now repaired,. the plastic is once again monolithic and it has the added benefit of reinforcement. So far, the cracks have not reappeared.
When it cools and hardens in about 10 seconds, it holds cracks together, broken seams, seperated pieces. This takes a little practice and a 3rd hand is very helpful. The door panel top edge can be re-attached where the angled portion has to hook onto the door frame and always breaks off. The "welded" areas cannot be seen on the opposite side and it does not distort the shape. I have done this when there was vinyl on the other side or bare plastic.
I have also seen mesh screwed in place that did basically the same thing,.

Previous attempts with glue, epoxie, fiber glass resins and gray tape, all failed miserably......Took longer to clean them off than they held.


Very good idea. Would have never thought of that. If what I did should come undone, I will give that procedure a try. However with my luck I will end up melting the rib beyond use. Thanks for all the information.
 

boomdriver

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 18, 2008
Messages
1,886
Location
texas
Corvette
87 z-51
Very good idea. Would have never thought of that. If what I did should come undone, I will give that procedure a try. However with my luck I will end up melting the rib beyond use. Thanks for all the information.

Thanks...it took some, more like many failures to come to this method. With practice the "plastic welding" technique can be perfected. The best part is that you can be conservative with the heat, and the worst that will happen is having to re-apply heat. Always weld on the hidden side and leave the pretty side alone.

My mesh patches were usually no more than 2" X 3" at the most, so there was a small enough space to control the plastic and not worry about burning thru. It takes a little practice but you quickly get a feel for the process.

The original idea was to get the mesh red-hot and push it into the plastic, which I had done before using wire strands to cross a crack and hold it closed. That turned into a full on repair with mesh to reinforce like the mat does in fiber glass. I quickly realized that it was more about the plastic and not the mesh... melting plastic was much more efficient than handling red hot mesh. Depending on the damage, sometimes its useful to use something to hold a crack closed and apply the repair, while other types of damage do not need any support,. only reinforcement.

I also used a couple tools with a blade (scraper & screwdriver etc) to press down the mesh without making holes in the plastic or bending up the mesh too much and so the blade edge could be used to smear the hot plastic. It also helps to bend the wire ends of the mesh downward so they "bite" into the plastic better and grip as you press the mesh into the soft plastic. Doing this allows you to do an edge first to get the mesh patch situated, then you can work in steps to get all the mesh submerged. With an edge thats "in" you can heat, press, then heat the next area, press in and keep going until you get the results you like. The mesh does not need to be 100% buried, just well into the plastic with at least some plastic smeared over portions of the wire mesh. I also used small expanded metal, but I like the mesh better. Hardware cloth or small mesh. Door screen is too small and to pliable.

I go back and "weld" as the other repairs come apart again. I have also successfully added plastic to a repair by using small shavings or chips and melting them into the repair area.

These door panels are the only thing that JB weld could NOT fix permantly..
 

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