Have you mastered the double-hand door lift and hip bump close? No, it’s not a dance move sensation sweeping across the nation. Your door is sagging and it’s the only reliable way to get it closed anymore. If this tango goes on much longer it can lead to other problems like damage to the hinge brackets, pins popping out, breaking of latch components and scrapes to your paint job.
The most common cause of a sagging door are worn hinge pins and bushings. The pin is responsible for the swivel action in the knuckle of the hinge and as the door swings out from the car, pressure is applied to it along with the bushings causing them to wear down over time. The pin starts having more and more play within the hinge resulting in a loose door that drops down once opened. You can tell if this is the case with your hinge by opening the door and moving it up and down at the handle end. If the two parts of the hinge move up and down or back and forth in relation to each other, the hinge bushings and pins are worn out and need to be replaced with a door hinge repair kit.
- Floor jack with a block of wood
- Hinge repair kit
- Long punch or 1/4-inch extension
Replacing Worn Hinge Pins and Bushings
In most cases you’ll be able to buy a repair kit that includes the hinge pins, bushings and clips, making the repair less expensive and take less time than replacing an entire hinge assembly. You won’t have to completely remove the door for this repair so have a helper hold the door upright for a few minutes while you perform the swap. But there are certain years and models where you’ll be stuck having to buy the entire hinge as a complete unit. If this is the case, skip to the second section that deals with replacing the entire hinge assembly.
- Open your car door and jack it up with a wooden block just enough to relieve the weight on the hinges. You only want to support it, not raise it up because that would re-introduce tension on the hinges. Make sure you’re not bending the bottom lip of the door as you do this.
- Tape up the edge of the door along the hinge side as well as the fender edge right next to it. This will protect your paint from accidental scratches as you work.
- Remove the spring that holds the door open with either a door spring tool or by inserting a pry bar or screw driver behind the spring and prying it out.
- If your hinge pins are held in place by either e-rings or cotter pins, pop those out first. Take your long punch or extension and start hammering out the top hinge pin on its pointed end. This usually means driving down the top pin by hammering from above and driving up the bottom pin by hammering from underneath. I find it’s easier to use the extension on the top hinge pin rather than the punch because the hole in the base gets a nice lock on the top of the pin keeping it from slipping as you whack away – your windshield will thank you. You’re not going to have much swinging room for the bottom pin so wrap a rag around your hammer to protect your paint. If your pins are wedged in really tight spray some lube to persuade them.
- With both hinge pins out, have your helper slowly pry the door away from the hinges to give you better access to the bushings. Be careful not to bump the door against the fender or pull on the wiring harness.
- Take a look at the orientation of the bushings and which hinges they are inserted into (door or body-side) so you can re-install the new ones the same way. With either your punch or a large flat head screwdriver, hammer out the old bushings. Sometimes they just pop out on the first try and other times you have to keep chipping away at it.
- Examine the holes left behind on the hinges for signs of uneven wear. If they have a pronounced egg shape then you’re going to be better off buying new hinges.
- Assuming your hinges are still in good shape, take this opportunity to clean up any grit and grim that’s built up in the holes and surrounding area.
- When installing the new bushings you’ll notice that for each pin there’s a larger and smaller bushing. Don’t mix these up! The hinge pins are tapered so the larger bushing always goes near the head of the pin where it’s wider and the smaller bushing goes near the pointed end where it’s narrower. Gently and evenly hammer in each bushing in the correct orientation and hinge hole making sure it’s going in perfectly vertical. If the bushing gets tilted in any way then you’ll crush and damage it. A clever way to prevent damage is to find a large bolt and washer. Slip the washer over the bolt followed by the bushing. Using a matching socket and extension with this combo helps the bushing stay perfectly straight on its way through the hinge hole and protects the head from getting deformed.
- Realign the hinge brackets and slide the pins in the same direction they were before – usually the top pin pointing upwards and the bottom pin pointing downwards. Finish by hammering them all the way in.
- Slip the new locking rings or e-rings along the groove at the tip of each pin.
- Reinstall your tension spring by compressing the spring while putting it back into place.
- Test your door for firmness by trying to move it up and down. You should have no play what so ever. Then check to see how it closes. Since we didn’t loosen or remove any of the hinge brackets your door alignment should be pretty spot on.
- Remove your masking tape if no more adjustments are needed.
Replacing the Entire Door Hinge Assembly
If you can’t find a door hinge repair kit for your car, the hinge pin holes are unevenly worn or the hinge brackets are bent then you’ll have to replace the entire assembly. I prefer to support the door while I swap out one hinge at a time, it makes the door-re-alignment process much faster and you don’t have to uncouple any of the wiring. But different cars give you varying degrees of access so you might find it easier to remove the door completely and lay it on a soft surface so you don’t scratch the paint or damage the inner panel.
- Open your door and rest the bottom of it on the wooden block on top of your jack. Have your helper steady the door while you work. Take special care not to bend the bottom lip of the door.
- Mask the hinge edge of the door and adjoining fender to protect the paint from scratches and bumps.
- Before removing any of the hinges, take a piece of chalk or wax pencil and mark the their location – this will put you in the ballpark for fine-tuning your alignment later.
- Start with one hinge and remove the bolts. You’ll have to wiggle the hinge around until it comes out. Be careful not to scratch the paint.
- Bolt in the new hinge, matching it up with your marks as accurately as possible. Have your helper make adjustments to the door’s position as you tighten the bolts to keep the hinge brackets lined up. Leave the bolts just loose enough so that the bracket is firmly in place but you can still shift the door if you need to make any final adjustments.
- Repeat the process to swap out the remaining hinge.
- Lower the jack and start closing the door to see if the door latch and striker meet up. You’ll most likely be pretty close and since the hinge bolts aren’t tightened all the way, you and your helper can wiggle the door into the proper position.
- Give your door a few test closes. It should latch effortlessly making a single click. Once you’re happy with the alignment, finish the job by tightening the bolts all the way.