Door Alignments (Type 1)
There have been a couple of door alignment queries raised in the last few days so I thought I would resurrect a contribution a made a few years ago, for general interest. All of what appears below has been posted, by me, on VZi before, all I have done is put it together in one lump. I haven't re-read it myself, yet, so I hope it all makes sense and is of use:
Most door alignments involve what you do to the door aperture rather than anything you actually do to the door itself. At the production phase, VW basically contorted the bodyshell so that it fit the door. Once this had been done, any door could be swapped with a minimal degree of re-aligning. This is one of the reasons why there is so little information about door alignments - VW didn't see the necessity. However, the aging process plus external influences have frustrated many who want to get things back to that "clink" you used to hear when the car was new (and the window open).
The 'aging' process can attack in different ways and the first thing to do, when considering re-alignment, is to understand the problem. The most commonly reported is hinge pin wear. This is easy to identify and tricky to repair, as it involves either replacing the pin or the hinge completely. Another widely reported ailment is a rusty lower A-pillar, which would obviously result in movement under the weight of the door, causing it to drop when opened. The quality of the repair done to the lower A-pillar will determine how well you can re-align the door afterwards. This is an important point because there are many Bugs out there that can never have the doors fit properly because of the repair work done to the heater channels and pillars (both A & B). If you have to replace full rear quarter panels and heater channels, you may have to employ some of the factory type adjustments which involve stretching the door aperture diagonally with special equipment. However, I will not go there just yet!
One of the most overlooked door alignment problems are those affected by a missing, or perished, checkrod rubber buffer. When this happens, it means that the door can open too much and 'lock' the hinges. Once the hinges are locked the continuing force of the door (especially when caught by high winds) will, through leverage, twist the hinge reinforcement plate inside the A-pillar. This twisting of this plate moves the relative position of the hinge pin forward, which in turn means that the door will sit further forward in the aperture. So, if you look at the door from the side, when it is closed, you will notice a wider gap at the rear edge than at the front. Sometimes this may affect only the upper hinge, causing the door to move forward and up, so it scuffs the top of the aperture under the rain gutter. You can often tell if the hinges are locking open, by checking for chipped paint at that part of the hinge. You can also inspect the check rod, if it is there. The important thing is to make sure that when the door is swung open quickly, the two halves of the hinge must not lock together (if you see what I mean). Rusty and stiff hinges can cause the opposite effect of a faulty checkrod.
Hinge pin wear, welding repairs and checkrod failure can all be quickly identified as to whether they are contributors. The next thing to do is look at the door in its closed position. If the contour line on the door is not in line with the contour line on the rear quarter, then the striker plate is probably out of position. I say this because even if the door rides high or low, the striker plate will pull it into the position at which it is set. However, you will be able to see if the door is well centered in the aperture or not. There should be an even gap all around the door and the lower rear corner should line up with the rear quarter panel (providing any repairs to the quarter panel have been done correctly). If the gap is not even, then note where it is not.
Now, remove the striker plate and hold the door closed. This will show you the 'true' alignment of the door without the influence of the door lock. If the door is fully loaded (glass, locks etc) then the contour lines should match. An otherwise empty door (as in a new one) will ride higher by a few millimeters and look slightly tipped forward in the aperture. Gently squeezing the door to the B-pillar (through the window openings) will replicate the position as if it were loaded. If at the end of the re-alignment the door is correctly positioned without the striker plate then you will be a striker plate away from a perfectly closing door, without the need for lifting or slamming.
A few door alignment tips to start with: All door alignment operations require that the door seal, striker plate and checkrod be removed. Do not use shims behind the hinge where it mounts to the A-pillar - There is virtually no room for them and is not part of this type of door design. Whenever possible, do this work before painting as many of the procedures are potentially paint damaging. And remember, if welding work has caused the door aperture to reduce or increase in size, there is nothing that can be done other than have the work rectified.
I will assume that all necessary repairs have been made, such as new hinge pins or hinges, repair of rusty A-pillars etc. Any of the contributory factors which caused the door to go out of alignment in the first place should no longer exist, unless you want a lot of experience.
So, in which way is the door out of position? There are many variables and I can't cover all of them, so if you have anything different to the following, let me know and I will do my best.
In the case where the door has dropped and is closer to the B-pillar at the top than the bottom. Look at the gap at the front of the door, particularly at the top and bottom hinges. If the lower one looks more or less normal but the top hinge has a wide gap, then the upper hinge pin location has to be moved forward. If the top looks OK but the lower hinge has a very narrow gap then this hinge pin position has to be moved rearward. You may even have to adjust both of them. By shifting the pin locations in this manner you will rotate the door in the aperture, bringing back the balanced gap all round while matching up the contour lines.
In the opposite case, wide gap at the top (with the B-pillar) and narrow gap (or touching) under the rain gutter, expect the opposite with the hinges. Either the top front is too narrow (pin needs to move rearward), the bottom front is too wide (pin needs to go forward) or both.
Another of the mis-alignments, that I see very often, is where the gap at the rear of the door is too wide from top to bottom. The corresponding gap at the front is too narrow. This is the classic result of the checkrod problem. In this case both hinge pin locations need to be move rearward.
Some of the other mis-alignments are more obvious in their fix and affect more those whom are fitting new doors or refitting old doors. For example, doors that stick out at the bottom or top, or seem to resist closing after the door seal is fitted (springing back out before it can catch). These are to do with the positioning of the hinges when you bolt them up. Remember that you have to leave enough space at the front, for the door seal - If you slide the hinges in too far, the seal gets compressed too much. Sometimes the spacing is correct but the seal has not been push into the channel far enough (the glue must be wet when they are installed).
Now, to move the relative position of the hinge pins, and therefore the door, is quite simple but requires a little confidence (and can damage the paint at the hinges if you are unlucky). The hinges themselves cannot be adjusted. What you will be doing is twisting the reinforcement plate, to which the hinges are bolted, so that the angle at which the hinge sticks out of the A-pillar changes. The easiest task is moving the pin location rearward (increasing the gap between the door and the A-pillar). You need something heavy, like a large chisel with a 3/4 inch blade (wrapped in masking tape for the paint). Open the door, place the chisel so the sides of the blade are trapped in the hinge as you close the door. This is done from above for the upper hinge, and from below (runner board removed) for the lower hinge. At this point the door may be a foot or so open since the chisel has jammed it. Now with a quick action push the door almost fully closed and let it spring back to its partially open position (remember: no striker plate). Remove the chisel and close the door to see if, or how far, the door has move to the rear. What you are doing is locking the hinge closed and then applying the leverage to twist the hinge reinforcement plate. Do this adjustment a little at a time and keep checking so you don't over-do it. If you are adjusting both hinges then I would suggest that you do alternate adjustments as each hinge may assist the other.
Moving the hinge pin forward is less enjoyable. For this you need a heavy metal bar (about 6 x 1 x 0.5 inches), which you are going to use with a mallet to hit the hinge. Open the door fully and have someone keep the door open, under a little pressure (hinges locked), with no checkrod. Place the metal bar with the narrow flat end against the hinge to the outside of where the hinge bolts are located - Basically you need a position as far to the outside without placing the bar on the hinge pin joint itself. Using the mallet give the hinge a couple of dull thuds. Then check the alignment with the door closed. Don't hit the hinge too hard or you will crush the A-pillar behind the hinge and close the gap between the hinge and the folded seam in front of it. Again, this procedure is twisting the reinforcement plate which is why you have to use dull thuds rather than whacking the bar. It does work, just take you time. Using a tool to lock the hinges open, like a screwdriver, is not advisable for two reasons. Firstly the screwdriver might spring out and kill someone. Secondly, this could damage the door skin if the force causes the edge of the skin to contact the hinge.
If major work has been done to the car, in the form of panel replacement, then you might have the situation where the door rides high or low but the gaps are all the same, top to bottom (whether wide or not). This does not often happen (except at the production phase) and requires special tools and frightening procedures.
Once you have the door closing at the right height and with balanced gaps, you can fit the door seal, striker plate and checkrod. Make sure the checkrod has the thick rubber buffer and that the door hinges do not lock when opened. The door seal must be well seated and I recommend the use of the genuine part. The striker plate should be first installed so that the two notches at the top and bottom line up with the two punch holes in the B-pillar. Then close the door and make adjustments the strike plate position from there.
There is one other type of adjustment, which is one of the few adjustments you actually make to the door but is not as obvious as others. When fitting a new door, the top front corner (near the top of the quarter light area) is often not close enough to the door aperture. You might not notice it until you hear the wind noise as you drive down the road. To fix it, you have to force that area to sit further in, on its own. To do this, jam the door open with something like the wooden handle of a hammer (preferably with a rubber hammerhead), placed at the top rear corner of the door. From inside, grab the curved top front corner of the door and pull it sharply inward. It might even contact the door aperture, but that does not matter. Check the door after each pull (you may have to do many) until you are satisfied it is close enough to enable the seal to work properly. It is better to do this operation without the seal in place and prior to any paintwork.
This is good advise - I spent a week messing around with my door gaps to get them right and pretty much came up with the same conclusions. One thing I noticed is second hand doors usually are bent where the lower hinge is riveted into them. Try 2 seemly good doors in the same aperture and you get completely different results.
Perhaps someone will move this to the Tech FAQ archive..... :)
Hopefully someone will move this........wink, wink, nudge, nudge. ;)
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