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Leak Prevention Update

Contributed By: John Brewer

Well it's been about three months since I re-did the lining on the inside of my front passenger door and no leaks yet. And in Alabama in the spring, we get some serious rainfall- not that long lasting but very very high short term (24hrs or so) volume. The kind of rain that really gets things pouring inside the car.

*Note: The following terms apply below-

  • Outside = After removing the door panel, this is the surface you see.
  • Inside = The opposite side of the outside surface, inside the door itself.

What I did was remove *all* the plastic on the outside of the door. Even the tape-like stuff that was covering the hinge bolts ('89 GW) one of which had been leaking. Then I cleaned the outside metal with mineral spirits- and for good measure- "Prep-Sol", a pre-painting cleaner (make sure your solvent doesn't remove paint!). I then covered, from the outside, the hinge bolt access holes (if you've had the door panel off you know what I mean) and all the small holes with 2" aluminum tape; also called 100mph tape. I really rubbed hard on the edges to be sure I'd get a good seal. Occasionally you'll have to overlap for more width.

I made little hoods or umbrellas for the holes where the door-pulls screw in (2) and put them on the inside of the door since I couldn't cover them without punching holes in them with the screws. I cut a piece of plastic off the original sheet to shield the electric window switches- basically looked the same as original but not connected to the rest of the plastic.

This left three large holes: The access hole to the door lock area, the access hole beneath that, and the very large hole at the bottom of the door where the speaker goes. For the two smaller holes, I cut a plastic sheet a tiny bit smaller than the hole itself, trial-and-error and cut again. I then lined the plastic with 100mph tape and used it to cover the holes on the outside. This completely sealed these holes yet still allowed for visual inspection without removal. I actually did one edge at a time and was surprised how tight the plastic became.

For the bottom hole, about 6" high and 14" long, none of the above methods would work. What I did then, was to cut a sheet of plastic (from the original, though any quality plastic sheeting would work) a good bit higher and a little longer with the same rough shape as the opening. Then with the speaker removed, I taped the entire length of the top of the plastic sheet just above the opening on the outside. I then pushed the lower part of the plastic inside the door so that any drips of water would be shielded from the speaker and door panel. I then carefully trimmed and taped so the whole thing was water tight and secure around the top. I left the bottom and most of the sides free so it acts like an umbrella. The entire operation took about 2 1/2 hours and that included removing the old stuff, cleaning the door, figuring things out, and with my one and-a-half, three, and four year old boys "helping". I think I could do the other front door in an hour or so with less help though it wouldn't be as much fun.

I ended up with a very water resistant package that seems to be holding up. This design also has a DISTINCT advantage over the original (besides the fact that it works). It allows you to work on the inside of the door without having to remove, and then discard and replace that large, difficult to work with, plastic sheet! I can grease my window track by removing *only* the door panel and pushing the lower shield aside. I can get to my door lock and latch area by removing only one or two, small, easily replaceable cover. All the other holes are basically useless unless you're removing the works. It really makes maintenance and inspection on doors, and the electrical connections within them, much easier to perform and hence- much harder to put off. I think I'll be doing my other doors soon since the locks need maintenance anyway.

I discovered the source of some additional leaks the other day. I have been getting water, standing several inches deep sometimes, in the inside of both my rear fender wells- well is right! Some time ago, I dug away the body filler in the lower front corner so the water could drain out but it had obviously become plugged.

In the past I had always looked for leaks at joints; windows, tail lights, running lights, gas filler hole, tail gate, etc., and had plugged the small ones I had found with plumbers putty (don't laugh it works!). I guess this must have helped but after a heavy rain it would still be quite wet. The other day, looking around again, I noticed a small hole in a sheet metal joint on the outside of the vehicle! It is the corner that juts out and is next to the tailgate. Putting my mouth on it I can blow a very steady stream right into the fender well area. Very obviously it has leaked since *new*, occurs on both sides, and is due solely to shoddy workanship. I have noticed that many seams on my FSJ are very poorly sealed and the body filler is just slapped on with no attempt at quality control whatsoever. Probably some Union flunky doing a crummy job because he is unfirable, unpunishable, and un-competent. I apologize if this offends anybody but it *is* the case. I suppose I'll fix it since I give a damn about quality.

You've gotta wonder- is this why FSJs received such poor reviews in Consumer Reports- crappy work like this? This kind of stuff really burns me up. The same kind of crummy work made my front door leak and has caused other problems. With a production line of 29 years, the automobile was clearly engineered very well. For many years it was built very well. The American worker could learn a very valuable lesson from the Japanese!

John Brewer
Fri, 2 May 1997

"Any man who would trade liberty for security deserves neither."
      Benjamin Franklin

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