Replace and adjust a VW Beetle door might seem like a lot of hard work at first, but with the right approach and good focus you can easily get the job done very fast. It is possible for one person to replace and adjust the VW door by himself, but it is best to have two people to avoid any possibility of scratching the paint.
Before you start to replace and adjust a VW Beetle door, some useful tips
Before beginning, open the VW Beetle door a bit and then pull the rear of the door up and down while looking closely at the hinge plate area in the door jamb. Any movement at all of the hinge plate inside the door jamb indicates there is a problem. If you find a crack in this area, the only solution is welding. Also, before you begin replacing the VW Beetle door, have a really good look at the area around the bottom hinge. The A-pillar there (the front door jamb) can develop a rust problem at the bottom, and occasionally the lower hinge area can be affected. The hinge and retaining plate can be broken loose from the pillar so that no amount of adjusting will get it right. Again, only some expert welding will solve this problem.
When you have removed the doors, you will most likely be replacing the weather stripping. First replace the VW Beetle doors, then install the weather stripping. It’s only held with contact cement, so it’s easy to install with the door held firmly by the hinges (and a foot under the outer underside to hold the door still). When reinstalling the Beetle doors (e.g., after having the car painted), it is easiest to put the seats in first, then the doors. This way you will have less interference between the door and the seat than you would if you installed the Beetle door first; i.e., it will be easier to install the seats.
A suggestion — run some masking tape through your fingers to reduce the sticky (making it easy to remove) and stick it down the edge of the door jamb until the hinges are fixed with the first screws (you only need one screw on each hinge to hold the door in place before lining things up). This is the most likely area to get scratched if the hinges flop about while you’re trying to get them in.
When you don’t have a partner to help you, you can use this method to remove the Beetle door. Get the door almost to the right height sitting on some bricks (with rags on top to prevent scratching the paint underneath the door). Then use your foot to hold the underside near the outer edge while feeding the hinges into place. Gives you 2-1/2 hands!
What do we want to achieve here?
The objective here is to move both of the hinges upwards enough so that the VW Beetle door doesn’t scrape on the underside, and in/out such that the weather strip fits snugly all around and the door closes flush with the rear quarter panel. The hinge and striker plate screws see a lot of action as the door opens and closes, so they must be very tight. You will need an impact wrench to remove them. You can use a pneumatic impact wrench to do this. They are very affective and they go along with your air compressor.
When using impact drivers, you have to make sure that you get one with a reverse action as well as a tightening action. Use the correct large size Phillips head bit. If you don’t get the right bit and you try to loosen the hinge bolts with an ordinary screwdriver, you’ll ruin the slots in the screw heads and then you’ll never get them loose because they are VERY tight.
- Using your impact wrench, remove the striker plate from the rear door jamb and stow it and the four screws safely away.
- Reinstall the VW Beetle door (see the techniques above) and put in all of the door hinge bolts (three on the top, three on the bottom). If the door is on the vehicle, loosen the door hinge bolts. In either case, tighten the bolts with a large Phillips screwdriver to just “finger tight” so that you can still move the hinges with the door wide open. Try to get the hinge bolts tight enough so that you have to bump the door hard with the heel of your hand to get it to move (i.e., up and down). [Note: The hinge bolts screw into a retaining plate which moves (but won’t fall out if you remove the bolts completely), so the door can be adjusted in one place only (moving the whole top or bottom in/out of the car).]
- Connect the retaining strap pin, then slowly close the Beetle door.
- If it looks like it will be rubbing on the door sill, move the whole door up a little (an assistant is valuable here). Or if you have one of those “kewl” chrome covers on your door sill, a few judicious taps with your rubber mallet might help. [Note: The door is heavy and awkward to maneuver. You might need a tire lever (padded) under the door and over the door sill (also padded) with the door partly open, to lever it up so it clears the sill as it’s shut.]
- Tighten the lower hinge inner bolt enough to hold the door height once you’ve got it set.
- Look at the in/out alignment on the hinges. You can have one hinge bolt tight (on one hinge) and then move the other hinge in or out, then tighten one hinge bolt there and loosen the other hinge — effectively see-sawing the door in/out while not letting it slip down and hit the sill because at least one of the six bolts is tight. [Note: A bit of thin padding on the sill is a good idea until you’ve got the in/out position set (just in case it slips down).]
- Once you’re satisfied, tighten the other bolts. Use the impact driver to make sure they’re tight. [Note: With the seats in the lowest door hinge screw might be a slight problem. You may need an extension on the impact driver so you can get a good grip on the bolt. (With his pneumatic impact wrench, you don’t need such an extension shaft.) If you do have such an interference and find that you need an extension, you can angle it outwards just a little to avoid the side of the seat.]
- Adjust the striker plate in accordance with our Striker Plate Adjustment Procedure.
With these tips, it should be easy to replace or adjust a VW Beetle door. Good luck!