Another weird car

I am not sure why, perhaps my shop has become known as the place to take weird lock problems or something, but I had another winner. The customer came in with a 94 Ford Aerostar, and the tailgate would not latch, and the drivers door had a broken tailpiece and when the power lock was actuated, the door would only unlock about 1 time in 20.

I first attacked the tailgate. First I removed the inner panel and the aged plastic threatened failure at each flex. I noted that someone had been here before, as there were several pre-broken clips and there were several places where the attachment screws had broken through the plastic.

The linkage and lock cylinder seemed to be fine, so I started to remove the latch itself. The latch is held in place with three 6mm pan head Torx machine screws that are secured in place with Locktite. In attempting to remove the screws I stripped out my torx driver and had to make a speed run to Sears to replace it ($95 later I escaped.).

The Areostar's tailgate is fiberglass, and is molded in two pieces and bonded together. The latch is secured to a metal plate that is pop-riveted on to the inside of the inner fiberglass skin and then the outer skin is bonded to the inner skin. This fact is relevant because the metal plate can't be removed once the skins are bonded together as it is bigger than any hole in the skins.

I found out this interesting fact as I could only get two of the three screws out completely, and the third screw had sheared off after I had coaxed it out about three turns.

I attempted to remove the stub of the screw by heating it with the torch and then grabbing it with a set of vice grips. All this did was to make the stub a bit smaller.

I made an other speed run to the hardware store to get some new screws, and the right metric tap to clean up the threads. I used a Dremel tool to grind the stub flat, I reattached the latch with the other two screws and using a tap as a center punch marked the stub and drilled it out. My plan was to drill and re-tap to the next size up. Curses foiled again! the damn drill had walked about 1/16" off center.

I am now screwed royally. I had to futz with this sucker for about two or three hours in order to rectify the screw up. But the problem was solved, and the door worked good as new.

I started in on the drivers door and realized that that problem was not going to be fixed that day so I put it back and had the customer return the next day.

The drivers door latch is removed by removing the window track and fighting with three linkage connection points and a cable. The three Reed and Prince screws will then place the latch in your hand. I noted that the drivers door panel had been off before as about 6 of the 8 clips were broken or missing.

The latch was an interesting puzzle. It appeared to function as designed, except there was drag when you tried to actuate it with the solenoid. There seemed to be none of the usual problems of wear or foreign object problems, and cleaning and greasing did not seem to fix the problem. The dealer wanted $150 for a new one and did not have one in stock. I was not a happy camper.

I finally made a critical observation that disclosed the problem. The latch case is formed from two steel stampings and is then riveted together. One side of the case is formed with a 90 degree bend and for some reason this bend had been bent wider than 90 degrees. I bent it back and it worked like a charm.

So this is how I spend my days. Did I mention that the temps here have been over 100 F and the garage is without air conditioning?

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Roger Shoaf
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I had a buddy who owned one of those. It had so many problems we called it his "Errorstar."

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