[DML] DMCTech: Replacing Door lift struts
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[DML] DMCTech: Replacing Door lift struts



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DE LOREAN DOOR LIFT STRUTS

Description

The quintessential gullwing doors of the DeLorean are opened and held open by two components: the Torsion Bar and the Door Lift Strut. The Torsion Bar is as  unique to the DeLorean as the doors. It’s a twisted metal rod, treated in a special cryogenic process. It runs along the top edge of the door like a long hinge, which in fact it is, with a dark, striped line spiraling along its length.  The Torsion Bar does the heavy lifting. It can hold the door open a few inches by itself, counterbalancing most of the weight, but the door gets its extra oomph from the Door Strut, which also isn’t strong enough by itself. They function differently and give a different advantage to each component through the arc of the door opening. The closed door holds the Torsion Bar at maximum tension. As the door opens, the tension and therefore the lift decreases as the door opens wider. Since Lift Struts are mounted at a different spot along the door edge and frame, the changing angle of leverage as the door opens gives them steadily increasing lift as the door opens. Torsion Bars are covered in a different section of this Guide. We’ll just note here that they shouldn’t be scraped or scratched due to the tremendous amount of energy torqued into them, which can lead to fracture if the surface is at all compromised. The Door Strut looks like similar gas-filled struts used to hold open tailgates on vehicles that swing upwards to open. (But they don’t have the DeLorean Torsion Bars!) 


Symptoms

A DeLorean with droopy doors, such as “Doc Brown’s” time machine when he first shows it to “Marty McFly” in “Back to the Future,” is in need of new struts. If your doors stay open at different heights, barely make it to the top of their arc or don’t quite get there, or bounce back down a bit, and you don’t know when you last replaced them…then you can be sure you need new struts. The struts are what controls the lift at the upper end of the arc, so problems there are virtually always due to worn struts. Unlike the Torsion Bars, Door Lift Struts are a consumable item like windshield wiper blades. They don’t last indefinitely, another reason why droopy doors are almost always strut related. But Door Strut replacement is probably the easiest repair you can do on your car. You can replace one in a few minutes with no special tools. 

Torsion Bars rarely need replacement or adjustment, fortunately, since it’s a difficult and potentially dangerous procedure.  You might need a Torsion Bar adjustment if the Door Struts are brand new and the door still droops, but that’s fairly rare. You NEVER adjust the Torsion Bar to compensate for droopy struts in need of replacement. That’s like buying a new car because your tires are worn out- backward thinking. Also potentially injurious to your rear window and knuckles, and a pretty knuckleheaded thing to do. 

Removal and Installation

New DeLorean Door Struts are readily available from your favorite DeLorean parts vendor. You won’t save anything trying to adapt a gas strut from some other application. You could even damage your car. The vendors have the right ones, and the prices are competitive. You should use a helper to support the door while you remove and replace the strut. It’s still fairly heavy, though the Torsion Bar is still doing most of the work. If you’re 6’-4” or 5” inches tall, you could try resting the door on your shoulder if no helper is available, (That’s what I generally do, but it’s a bit awkward, especially since I’m “only” 6’-3”!) The door has to be held completely open so that the new strut will fit in place while fully uncompressed.

1.    Open both doors. Have a clean rag ready to wipe the old grease off the mounting ball stud that holds each end of the strut.
2.    The strut has a socket at each end that fastens to a ball stud on the door or door frame. As you look at the NEW strut, you notice a small Retainer Clip, made out of wire like a paperclip. Part of the Clip runs through two small holes at the edge of the socket and forms a straight edge inside the mouth of the socket, plus the other end grips the neck of the socket. This Clip, plus friction and a snug fit, is what retains the socket on the ball stud. With a fingertip, (or small, suitable tool,) swing open the Retainer Clip on the NEW strut where it circles the neck of the socket. Once open, slide the straight part of the Clip out of its two little holes and carefully set it aside. Do the other end too. Check inside each socket to see if it has a small amount of grease already in there. If it doesn’t, you need to put a small amount in there before installing it. 
3.    Look at the upper end of both OLD struts. On one, the little holes that the Retainer Clip passes through are clearly visible. On the other side of the car, the two little holes are on the back side of the socket, out of sight. Start on the visible side… it’s easier.
4.    With a helper now supporting the door, undo and remove the upper retainer Clip from the old strut. Gripping the strut with one hand, give the strut a whack a few inches below the upper socket, using a soft hammer or the heel of your hand to break it free. 
5.    Turn the strut vertical. The bottom retainer Clip is now easy to see and reach that way. Remove it in similar fashion, and set the old strut aside.
6.    Wipe the old grease off of the upper and lower ball stud.
7.    Match the lower socket to the lower ball stud first, making sure you don’t have the strut upside down. (The thicker part of the strut is the upper part, which attaches to the open door.)  Whack the socket home onto the ball stud. Insert and lock the Retainer Clip in place. Wiggle the strut a bit if the socket won’t seat, or the Clip won’t cooperate. Repeat on the upper end.  While doing the upper socket, you may need to twist the strut a bit or bounce the door slightly to get things to seat properly.
8.    Repeat on the other side. Here, you first mount the upper socket, turning it upright enough to mount the retaining clip. Then install the lower socket. Discard the old struts before you accidentally close a door on one lying in a door frame channel. You wouldn’t normally reuse the Retainer Clips, but if you like to be a careful person, save an old pair in case you’re replacing your struts in the driveway and somehow lose one in the grass, (because you’re not quite as careful as you thought.)

4/5/08    
© Wayne A. Ernst
DMCTech
Use at your own risk and discretion.



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