Seasoned Chat Slut
Join Date: Jun 2003
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.