Weather Strip Replacement

Weather Strip Replacement

Replacing old automotive weather stripping

A 100-year storm rages, yet you're cruising down the highway in relative calm, sealed tightly in your vehicle from the whistling wind and sheets of rain. Your comfort is courtesy of yards of weather stripping around the doors, windows, hood and trunk-one of those innocuous automotive systems, backed by years of technology, which we all take for granted. When those gaskets start to go, though, you'll need to give them some attention.

Wet Seal

While your physical comfort may be your first concern, the stripping also keeps potentially corrosive moisture away from the window mechanism in your door panels. In addition, it cushions the door/body panel connection, much like healthy cartilage in your joints. The stripping around your hood, trunk and a truck's tailgate performs the same functions.

If you're driving a new car, you may think the molding will last a lifetime, but if you've ever bought a used vehicle, you know that kind of longevity is not a given. That annoying, high-pitched whine of the wind past the door seals is the first sign of trouble. Once the wind finds its way past the seal, moisture will soon follow.

The technology has come a long way since the 1930s when seals were fabric webbing screwed into the metal body panels. Today, the high-quality aftermarket weather stripping is made with a rubber skin and sponge interior. The rubber creates a sturdy weather seal; the sponge gives under pressure and effectively conforms to the proper shape when the door or trunk lid is closed.

Perfect Fit

If your weather stripping is leaking, or has been leaking for a while and is now dangling from the doorjamb, it's time to replace it. If you've got an older vehicle, you may want to seriously consider taking the job to a body shop. What looks like a simple case of pull-off-the-old and slap-on-the-new can turn into a royal hassle. With the improvements in the technology, the newer stripping usually has more vibrancy than the original. So when you close an old door on new weather stripping, there may be too much bounce to allow the door to latch properly. The simple solution is to make adjustments by moving the catch on the doorjamb farther out, just enough to allow the latch to catch. The result is a door that seats properly but rides a fraction of an inch away from the rear body panel.

If you've just spent a small fortune restoring a classic, this may drive you nuts, but don't despair. Over time, measured in weeks or months depending on the amount of use, the new stripping will lose enough of its vibrancy to allow you to incrementally move the catch back to its original position and the door and body panels once again form a smooth transition.

If you decide this is a job you've got the patience for, it's time to contact your auto parts store. According to body shop experts, aftermarket weather stripping is, generally, of better quality than the original equipment equivalent. The stripping is very model-specific, available in the proper lengths for each application and with pre-seated T-clips, if appropriate. The T-clips align with openings in the body and simply pop into place.

Like the stripping, adhesives vary in quality. Again, going back to our body shop expert, you get what you pay for. One product is simply called Weather Stripping Adhesive. Most adhesive is available in black or yellow. Since the stripping itself is black, matching the adhesive to the weather-stripping color may help to cover up any messiness in the application.

It's very important to seat the new stripping firmly. Our body shop expert is still muddling through a warped rear window on an older SUV. The original owner misaligned the stripping by a fraction and over time his forcing the window closed warped the metal. Some applications are easier than others: often the interior and exterior panels form a lip that the stripping slips over. With the SUV's rear window stripping, the metal panel formed an L, the owner simply did not seat the stripping firmly enough into that L.

Since every application of weather stripping varies from the next, the best guidelines are to make sure the joins (where the two ends meet, such as between the door top strips and bottom strips), are neat as they usually occur at a highly visible spot. Don't stretch the stripping as you apply it. You may think you're getting a nice, clean line and it does look harmless. All you have to do is chop off the extra material at the end of the job. The problem is that the stripping "wants to come home," in the words of our body shop owner. That memory is stronger than the adhesive. Any pressure applied during application should be into the body panel, not pressure that pulls the stripping taut.

So, if you've got a little patience and good quality adhesive and stripping, you're on your way back to a nice, snug, rattle free vehicle.

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