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Monday, June 24, 2024

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Driver's Door Overhaul Day One

The holiday weekend afforded me some time in my schedule to begin work on the driver's door overhaul so this morning I grabbed the necessary documentation and parts and headed out to the garage.

I began by mixing up some epoxy to apply to the new door panel in an effort to strengthen it and reduce the risk of it breaking the next time I have to pull it off. I have traditionally mixed up epoxy on a piece of cardboard but I found that method messy and somewhat wasteful so I decided to try using one of the irrigation syringes I stock for use in brake fluid flushes. I capped the end of the syringe, pressed the base and hardener into it, mixed the epoxy with a long stick and then inserted the plunger to apply it as I would a tube of RTV. It worked! I used fewer tubes than planned and then set the door panel aside to dry.

(Image: Cutouts in new door panel made with a Dremel) I then started work on the car by removing the old door panel and sound insulation. That was the easy part and only took me five minutes since I've done it so many times. Unfortunately, the work that followed was not nearly as easy. To make a long story short, I toiled for almost two hours and only managed to extract the door latch assembly from the door using a T30 torx socket. The time spent wasn't exactly wasted, however. I now know how the locking assemblies interact and I also know why the door handle seemed to have developed a bit more slop over the years -- the operating rod that connects the door handle to the latch assembly was worn nearly half way through. Thousands of cycles of metal-to-metal contact will do that. The good news is I found that potential problem. The bad news is I lacked the parts to fix it and will need to order them this week. And that means I'll be driving the E46 this week.

Research for this project revealed that the best way to swap out the lock cylinder is to remove the door handle assembly. I found a DIY with some decent pictures and the writer seemed to indicate it was a straightfoward process. Unfortunately, my garage wasn't built in fantasy land. The writer glossed over something critical to this process that I only discovered after I loosened the door handle assembly and attempted to remove it: I couldn't get the handle to clear the window, even with it fully up.

Now, I'm not exactly stupid, though an ex-girlfriend or two would probably beg to differ. I tried to plan ahead here with a flashlight and mirror and honestly thought it would work. And it would have if there weren't a recess molded into the door sheet metal (the same one that allows you to get your fingers behind the handle). It turns out that I need another half inch for the handle to clear the recess and I'm not getting it unless I figure out a way to remove the window or tilt the back end of the window up and out of the way.

My patience was wearing thin at this point so I decided to cut the work session short and take both door panels home so I could prepare the new panel for installation. But even that turned out to be slightly more difficult than originally planned when I realized that not only did the panel come without pre-drilled holes for the speakers but it lacked a hole for the remote mirror switch as well. Without getting into too much detail at this point I'll just say that I measured three times and cut once. The end result was a perfectly cut door panel. A dremel equipped with a new carbide plunge cutting bit spinning at 20000 RPM made realtively easy work of the process but it did take me a solid hour to complete the task. And yes, it was just as nerve wracking as I predicted.

The plan for tomorrow is to simply get the door handle assembly out of the car via whatever means possible. If it's in good shape I'll code and install the new lock cylinder before I reinstall it. Then on Tuesday I'll order the new operating rod and other parts necessary to finish this up.

Mileage: 208880, Supplies: $30