Sometimes you have to use your ankle to help support the bottom of the door.

VW Precision Door Alignment Basics

Adjusting the body for a perfect fit
By Dean Kirsten | June 26, 2013

Photos by Dean Kirsten


There is a common problem that happens to just about every body off the pan project. It occurs when the Bug body is replaced on the floorpan, and final door alignment begins. Rarely, if ever, do the doors line up as they did before, which is most frustrating after doing all that work to the entire body and pan. Of course, most of you know that you can adjust the depth of the door fit, by moving the hinges either in or out of their pockets. Volkswagen’s built-in floating hinge plates allow for some movement, but it’s limited at best. All this will do is help move the door’s outer surface to match that of the main body, and little else. So what are you supposed to do if the upper door corner leans backward at the top, leaving almost no gap at the top, and certainly not equal all the way down? For this, you need to get serious and adjust the body accordingly, and this story will help you understand this technique.
clean all hinge plate threads with an 8mm x 1.25 tap.
The project in his case, is a freshly done 1967 sedan, which has undergone months of bodywork (including door fit), and custom tricks, thanks to Buddy Hale of Type 1 Restorations in Tempe, Arizona. But when it came time to re-adjust the doors (with the body back on the pan), the gaps were no longer even, and both top corners were leaning back toward the rear of the car. To fix this, Buddy first removed all the floorpan bolts (if they have already been installed), along with the four rear body mount bolts and rubber pads (two at the rear shock towers, and two inside under the rear seat/torsion housing area). He then removed the forward body bolts that attach to the top of the front beam, and again, removed the rubber pads.
Buddy opens up the hinge slots by 1/8-inch, for extra clearance, and to prevent scratches later, when the doors are installed and once the body has been painted.
What Buddy is about to do is pull the body down either in the front, or the rear, depending on which way he needs to “adjust” the body. In this case, the front body mounts were tightened down (without the rubber pads in place) which, believe it or not, will pull the entire front half of the body downward, tilting the top of the door forward, correcting most of that upper gap problem. In some cases, the back four body mounts are pulled down, which pulls the back end of the body downward at the rear. This can correct a lower door alignment problem. We ended up doing a little of both, but mostly the fronts did the bulk of the work.
In doing this process, Buddy warns to go slow, make minor adjustments and recheck the gaps often. As a starting point, he does not have either the door latch or striker in place, and also does not install the door seal until later on. This way, only the basic door fit is checked without any other obstacles getting in the way. Newly painted cars are also a major concern at this point as well, as you don’t want to chip the door edge with a tightly fitting door.
The door skin is low here, so the lower hinge needs to be moved outward a small amount.
Once the six body mounts have been adjusted (each side is adjusted independently, as door fit is usually different from side-to-side), then Buddy installs the door latch and striker, and rechecks his work. If the major gaps are good, he then moves to adjusting the depth of the doors with the hinges and striker plate. Once this is close, he then installs the door seal, and tries it again. Normally, a new door seal will be “fat” and push the door outward, but this will often relax with time and usage. Once he has the door where he wants, he checks the body lines with masking tape and a straight edge for proper alignment. Obviously, if the body has been tweaked badly, there is only so much you can move things by tightening these mounts.
Buddy carefully fits the door to check the alignment, making sure he does not chip the paint. As you can see, the door is angled back and low at the top.
Remove all pan hardware before making adjustments.
Once the six body mounts have been adjusted (each side is adjusted independently, as door fit is usually different from side-to-side), then Buddy installs the door latch and striker, and rechecks his work. If the major gaps are good, he then moves to adjusting the depth of the doors with the hinges and striker plate. Once this is close, he then installs the door seal, and tries it again. Normally, a new door seal will be “fat” and push the door outward, but this will often relax with time and usage. Once he has the door where he wants, he checks the body lines with masking tape and a straight edge for proper alignment. Obviously, if the body has been tweaked badly, there is only so much you can move things by tightening these mounts.
Remove all four rear body mount pads.
From underneath, you can see the pad has been removed from the torsion housing, giving us room to pull down the body.
The rear of the body needs to be pulled downward, to help raise the far end of the door up. Both the shock tower mounts, and the inside torsion housing mounts are tightened down.
The final point is now that each mount has been tightened down without a rubber pad, Buddy then measures the gap under each mount, and machines custom aluminum pads to fit correctly (but you can use washers). Once the new mounts are in place, the mounting bolts are firmly tightened down. He then tightens all of the 8mm and forward (4) 10mm pan bolts evenly, and checks the door fit for a final time. Hopefully, everything has stayed in place, and the new gaps are now show-worthy.
Front (beam) pads are also removed from both sides. To pull the front half of the body downward, Buddy tightens the mount down.
Once the door fit is close, Buddy and Russell Rodriguez install the latch assembly, and alignment is checked again. Minor adjustments are common.
Door skin surface alignment is adjusted by moving the striker plate as necessary. Use a straight edge is used to make sure the door skin and quarter panel are flush.
With the door fit nearly there, Buddy then installs the door seal and rechecks the alignment once again.
By adjusting the hinges in or out, the door skin (depth) can be adjusted. Front door gap should be equal, all the way down. Our driver’s door sagged way low as you can see. Body mounts on this side of the car were adjusted separately.
Driver’s door needed to be raised at the hinge-side. So, front (beam) mount was pulled down, along with tightening the rear body mounts as well.
Once all the body mounts have been adjusted, Buddy then takes a feeler gauge and measures the gap remaining. He then machines a full set of custom body spacers out of aluminum. Rubber pads are no longer used.
The finished passenger door fit was dead-on!
Adjusting the rear mount
As you can see, the body lines up, and both the door skin and the quarter panel (skin) are flush from top to bottom.

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Buckeye, Arizona's Mike Olafson has owned his '55 Oval since 1996, but with encouragement from his wife, Tanya, the embarked on a full resto/customization in 2013 — taking Coolest Cal Looker at the 2013 Classic! Read their entire story in the November issue of Hot VWs.

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