Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
Well, it seemed like it was going to be one of those crazy days and it was. We had a customer come in for warranty work on her 1992 Mercury Topaz 4dr. The customer reported water on the l/f floor after a rain storm. I don't know when I became the "water leak guy" at our shop but I had a feeling I was going to be given the responsibility of this repair myself. The customer left the car for a week while she was away on vacation. Monday afternoon I removed the l/f kick panel, left A pillar interior trim, left sill plate and rolled back the rug about 2 feet. The jute backing stunk and was soaking wet. I removed as much as I could knowing the "smell" never goes away. While I laid across the front seat, an employee hosed down the left "A" pillar and door area. After approximately twenty minutes, water started dripping about halfway down the "A" pillar. Upon a close inspection it appeared that the water was actually coming in over the body flange that the weatherstrip sticks on to. This is similar to a pattern failure on GM Bonneville, Olds 88's etc. The water actually walks around the body flange because the seal no longer has the correct clamping load on the flange. A check of TSB's revealed nothing. A little history : As you have seen, most cars have either a weatherstrip on the door or a weatherstrip on the body opening. This car has the type on the body opening. The strip itself is not molded. It appears to be manufactured in rolls and is cut to length and boxed. When pressed on, the seam where the ends meet always lines up at the bottom near the sill plate. A fairly cut and dry procedure.
I called the dealer and ordered the molding. The next day the part came in. With the old seal already removed I simply pressed on the new one. Easy right? Not! As stated before, on a body opening weatherstrip, the seam where the ends meet is always at the bottom. So, you start at the bottom and push the weatherstrip on, going all the way around the body opening. With the weatherstrip almost completely installed I was coming up 3 inches short at the sill plate. Did I not tuck it in far enough at the top corners? What had I done wrong? Help!
I pulled the weatherstrip off and lined it up with the old one, side by side, on the shop floor. Sure enough, the new one was 3 inches too short. I called the dealer to explain my dilemma. He checked and cross checked the part number. He knew the part number was right and his only explanation was that it was boxed wrong. He ordered another while I went home with a headache.
The next day, there I was with another weatherstrip laid out on the floor next to the original. Still 3 inches too short. I called the dealer again. After contacting Ford he verified that it was a packaging problem and may take 3 months to resolve. Now, let me ask you a question. How do you tell a customer that their car will leak water for 3 months. In an act of desperation I grabbed one end of the molding while Larry, one of our techs, grabbed the other end. If tug-o-war was an Olympic event we would have won the gold. As our service writer walked in the shop she was puzzled to see us pulling on this seal with all our might. It must have looked pretty silly. We knew that seal wouldn't stretch but it really allowed me to release a lot of mental tension, mainly as a result of working on this car.
In the end, my brother Glenn had suggested taking the new seal and splicing in a good 3 inch section of the old seal. I did not want to create a second seam and called the techline for ideas. After a call back they suggested my brother's idea or ordering the seal for a 2dr since that would be larger, then cutting it back, so we would still have the one seam. This being all well and good, providing a 2dr is 3 inches longer. There was no way to tell.
Due to time, and lack of other alternatives, we went with Glenn's idea.
In the quest for doing the "right job" or the "professional repair" I realized that there are times when you have to settle for a little less. No one wants to Band-Aid a repair, but when the parts are unavailable, what can you do? You can't redesign the car.
After all was said and done, the spliced-in section was hardly noticeable and was watertight.