I’d much rather be driving my cars than working on them. To be brutally honest, I only own my own tools and twirl them at my car in order to avoid forking out bundles of cash which I could be spending on fuel. Or old car brochures, probably.
In recent times, though, I’ve become increasingly selective on which jobs I’ll gamely tackle myself – I’m not especially keen on suspension or driveshaft jobs, for example, but will happily take on most underhood stuff, including timing belts and the like. I genuinely relish, though, jobs like the one that unfolds after the jump – principally because they offer so much gain for so little.
My old Audi has recently been beset with a fault to both front windows. Initially, the left front would go down just fine, but needed a little helping tug to bring it back up again. Lately, though, the driver’s side went one louder – it would go down just fine….and then stayed down, and required removal of the door trim to go in and resurrect the glass. It tended to occur at the worst possible moments, such as when freshly arrived at airport parking ahead of a flight to Slovenia that leaves in an hour’s time.
Anyway, peeking around on the dark side of the door trim revealed lots of crappy bits of green plastic in places that they clearly shouldn’t have been. I soon realised that the plastic brackets – that guide the window carriages along the window rails – had become brittle over 2 years of up and down action. Their failure was causing the glass not to be held level on the window carriage, and it was was jamming at the beginning of the upstroke. The first good news was that replacement brackets could be sourced for £2.50 each on eBay, and the second bit of good news was that the repair job didn’t seem beyond my ken.
B5 Audi A4 doors come apart very easily. Once the door trim panel is off (five screws), the window frame, glass, regulator and motor come off as a single assembly – only four bolts and two press studs are involved. There then comes a little juggling and balancing if you’re not methodical enough to brace things properly, but everything you need access to is there in plain view.
The plastic brackets are a friction fit onto the window carriages – and this is where I bumped into obstacle number one. Although I’m quite lavishly equipped with hand tools, my workshop doesn’t have a vice or space for a workbench. I used a variety of different means to attempt to mate the bracket with its carriage companion, bracing it on a Black & Decker Workmate and bashing the two components with various heavy objects until – inevitably – I broke a bracket.
With one of the two new brackets now broken, all progress therefore stopped until a replacement arrived. With nothing to hold the window glass in place, I plugged the big gaping hole in the side of my car with a plastic seat cover and masking tape. It then sat, dejected until the new new bracket arrived in just three days later.
This time, I resolved to take the brackets and the carriages around to my Dad’s workshop, where he had tools suited to combining the two components in a rather more gentle, precise manner than beating them with hammers. Within seconds of looking at the task in hand, Dad pointed out that – rather than struggle with such a tight fit, why not simply file the male section down a little to loosen the fit with the female. To underline how much more competent my Dad is where matters of workshop efficiency are concerned, it then transpired that I’d managed not to bring the replacement brackets with me anyway. A call to my wife revealed them to be 11 miles away, where Nicola had retrieved them from our neighbours’ drive, onto which they had fallen after I absent mindedly drove off with them sitting on the roof.
Nevertheless, I filed the metal carriages down appropriately – an operation that took all of 30 seconds a piece – and then drove home to finish the job. The flat receiving bits of each carriage slipped neatly into each bracket, but I applied a little super glue to ensure they locked solidly in place. Two minutes later, the glass was securely mounted in the carriages, the mechanism’s stroke tested to its full travel in both directions and the anti-trap feature recalibrated. Now all I needed to do was reassemble the door – a simple job with just four bolts for the frame assembly, two press studs and then five screws for the door trim. I’d be done within ten minutes, wouldn’t I?
When it got dark, and I was hopelessly trying to grasp a torch between shoulder and cheek while aligning the door frame with both hands, I realised that I had underperformed once again. The heavy module that I had been sweating over proved incredibly easy to remove, but required microscopic precision to reinstall, being somehow too short and wide and simultaneously too tall and narrow to lock into its correct place. And then, after – I don’t know, breathing or something, it moved a nanometer to the left, and fell into place. Four bolts, five screws and two press studs later – and with the moon glowing brightly overhead – I was done.
All’s well that ends well, then? Well, not quite. In the process of removing the door trim and then refitting it on multiple occasions, I managed to break another plastic component – the one that supports the bent metal rod that sticks up to show that the door is unlocked. So that means I no longer have a little sticky-out doohickey that pops down when I activate the central locking. Hey – in the quest to make omelettes, eggs are gonna be broken.
So come on, make me feel better. In the comments section below, ‘fess up to that little, easy job you tackled – that turned out to be a right frickin’ pain.
(Images copyright Chris Haining / Redusernab 2018)