BODY-17, Rear Hatch - Squeaking


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Information

A noisy rear hatch (squeaking or rattling) can be caused by several different things.

Over time, the hatch seals tend to dry out and shrink. As a result, the hatch does not fit as tightly and it can rattle or squeak. If so, this can often be corrected by adjusting the two posts on the rear hatch. To adjust the posts, loosen the lock nut next to the hatch. To tighten the post, turn it clockwise several turns and then tighten down the lock nut. Be careful not to tighten the post to much or the hatch will difficult to latch and unlatch.

Another possible cause is latch mechanism for the rear hatch. The latch mechanism needs to periodically lubricated. Use a good quality grease to lubricate the latch mechanisms on both sides. A combination of lubrication and adjusting the posts will often solve a squeaky hatch.

Finally, the most difficult hatch repair is caused by the rear glass separating from the hatch frame. This is caused by repeatedly slamming the rear hatch. The vibration caused by slamming the hatch closed, over time, causes the glass to separate from the frame. That's why it's important to close the hatch by lowering it down against the hatch opening gently and then pushing down on the rear of the hatch to latch it.

There are several schools of thought with regard to repairing the rear hatch. Many will tell you that the car must be taken to a professional glass service to be re-glued. While this does ensure a quality repair, it can also be very costly. There are others who have taken on this repair themselves and have successfully repaired the rear hatch. However, the hatch has to be removed from the car for repair. So, if you decide to do the repair yourself, you should have someone assist you during the removal and installation.

Repairing Separated Glass

Introduction

There are a number of different sealants/adhesives that can be used to repair the rear hatch glass. The best ones are urethane based. Probably the best overall is 3M Window Weld Urethane Auto Glass Sealant.

I've added a few notes to the procedure that follows which were devoloped by Russ Bullock and provided by one of our members. The notes added are intented to help with separateing the rear hatch glass from the trim and the frame.

Procedure

  1. Remove the rear hatch as follows:

    1. Disconnect the rear window defroster wires (one on each side).
    2. This step is not mentioned in the factory shop manual. If you have a rear wiper, the power and control wires for the wiper must be disconnected from the wiring harness. This connection is not anywhere near where the wires feed into the rear body pillar. It is accessable thru the side panel. Then these wires must be withdrawn thru the hole in the rear pillar near the top of the hatch. I nearly yanked them out in a bad sort of way when I first tried to remove the hatch. (Russ Bullock)
    3. Disconnect the rear hatch shocks.
    4. Lower the rear hatch but do not allow it to latch. You may place a piece of wood between the back of the hatch and the body to prevent the hatch from latching.
    5. From inside the car, remove the bolts that hold the rear hatch hinges to the body of the car (2 hinges - 2 bolts per hinge). On early cars, there's a cover over the hinges. On later cars, the rear header panel will have to be removed.
    6. Have someone assist you to lift the rear hatch off of the car.

  2. Remove the trim strips from around the edge of the hatch. You'll find clips that hold the strips in place. In most cases, the clips are accessed from the underside of the hatch.

    Note from Russ Bullock

    Removing the spoiler trim is a royal PITA! The top trim was a snap. The side trim is attached with what I would call knurled-knob nuts which have nearly useless flat-blade slots in the top of them. The factory must use a special tool to fit over the stud and engage these slots on each side of the nut. I used brute force (i.e., a pair of vise-grips). The rear spoiler is attached with phillips head machine screws with a hardness rating similar to that of warm butter. I actually got a couple of them off with a screw driver, but most had to be drilled out.

  3. Work slowly and carefully to pry the frame off of the hatch glass. Scrapers usually work well for separating the glass from the frame.

    Note from Russ Bullock

    The sealing compound had completely let go from the glass at the left hinge, which was the motivating factor behind this project, but the remainder of the seal was still very much intact. Separating the glass from the frame is the toughest part of the job. I started with a 1.5" wide flexible putty knife to slip between the glass and the seal. The metal blade and the amazing rubber-kryptonite sealant did not want to slip past each other without considerable force and a variety of four-letter words. WD-40 applied to the working surfaces helped greatly. I also sharpened the end of the blade by grinding on only one side (like scissors) and used the unground side on the glass side of the bond. In addition to this putty knife operation, draw your attention to the top side of the hatch and use a good sharp utility knife to cut the outer edge of the glass from the sealant. WD-40 comes in handy here too. Cutting this edge bond first allows the putty knife operation on the other side of the glass to go a little more smoothly. I kept a thin block of wood wedged between the glass and frame where I had already achieved separation. This helped to force open the gap so that the putty knife could do its job. Take care with the wedge block so that the frame is flexed, but not bent. Overall, it took me four hours to separate the glass from the frame.

  4. Using an adhesive remover and scraper, remove the remains of the old sealant.

    Note from Russ Bullock

    Once separated, I cleaned the glass of remaining sealant with a razor blade scraper followed by 4X steel wool. I tried using a Scrub-Brite pad, but found that it left slight scratches in the glass surface. I used some fine polishing compound and a cotton cloth to remove scratches that might be seen after the glass is re-bonded. I might actually grind or sand a rough surface into the glass at the bonding surfaces near the hinges to make a stronger bond there. Any thoughts or warnings about this idea would be most appreciated.

    Concerning the use of solvents to soften the sealant: GOOD LUCK! I even went so far as to try GumOut carb cleaner, the stuff with Xylene and other possibly carcinogenic (and definitely flamable) solvents. That sealant took everything I could throw at it, then threatened to taunt me a second time. Apparently the only thing that can make this stuff turn loose is 20 years of UV solar radiation.

  5. Reinstall the hatch frame onto the car with it in the closed position. Do not attach the hatch shocks yet.
  6. Make sure the hatch frame fits properly to the hatch seals. Over time the hatch frame may have become bent and may need to be bent to get a proper seal.
  7. Place a bead of sealant all the way around the hatch frame following the directions for the adhesive.
  8. Place the glass on to the frame and push down around the edges to make sure the glass makes good contact with the frame. Here's a good suggestion from Vaughn Scott for installing the glass. "With the glass upside down, maneuver it so that it's behind the car with the rear edge facing forward. Place the rear edge of the glass in the rear of the frame and rotate it forward until the front of the glass is about a foot from being in place. Have one person hold it in place while the other person goes inside the car and takes the weight of the glass. Then the person outside of the car pulls their hands out of the way and the glass is lowered into place."
  9. Using the adhesive, fill in any gaps between the glass and the frame.
  10. Allow the adhesive to cure for at least 24 hours.
  11. Reinstall the trim strips and clips. This may require unbolting the hatch hinges.
  12. Attach the shocks to the hatch.

Clark's Garage 1998