During the removal of the rear quarter panels for the rear fiberglass refurbishing, it was noted several hairline cracks around the area of fiberglass that support the lower ball-studs for the door struts, as seen below.
The cracks are undoubtedly due to the ball-stud bending from excessive pressure over the past 25 years. As you can see from the pictures, the ball-studs, more specifically the supporting bracket, has bent out. This bending has put extra strain on the area of the fiberglass that supports the metal holding bracket, causing fractures. Had this problem not been found this early this area of the body would certainly have ripped out as has happened on more than a few DeLoreans. The fix was to install PJ Grady's heavy duty strengthening brackets that spread the load of the door over a greater surface area. This was a very involved procedure that requires the removal of body panels, however I would highly recommend them as a preventative installation. So if your ball studs look like the following, then you might consider this upgrade.
As this procedure is not completed that often and there are no documents around that explain the installation process, I've attempted to put together a little step-by-step guide for others.
Note: Luke Sandel informed me that it may not be necessary to completely remove the quarter panels to gain access to the upper infill panel, thus making it unnecessary to remove the rear fascia and rocker panels. The process he used was to remove all of the screws hidden behind the weather stripping on the quarter panel. Once the T-panel is removed you can lift the top half of the quarter panel away enough to remove the infill panel. I already had the quarter panels and rear fascia removed for other projects, so it was no extra work for me, but proceed as you wish.
What makes this job the most difficult is that it requires you to remove the upper infill panel, as seen below.
This is the plastic molding piece that the T-panel and quarter panels screw into. Therefore, in order to remove this you must remove the T-panel and both quarter panels, assuming you are installing both left and right side brackets. In order to remove the quarter panels the rear fascia must be removed. As you may have noticed there seems to be a cascading effect of parts to remove all to get at a simple plastic panel! This is probably why most people choose not to install these brackets. The process to remove all of these pieces is covered in the workshop manual, so I won't go into deep detail. Once the fascia is removed four bolts will be revealed that hold the quarter panel to the body, as seen below.
There are also mounting screws held behind the weather stripping that need to be removed, so the weather stripping will need to be peeled back.
The final mounting bolts are buried under the rocker panels, so yes, the rocker panels will need to be removed, part of them at least. I found that by removing just the rearmost five screws allowed for adequate enough space to reach the mounting bolts with a screwdriver. You will probably find that all of the screws that hold the rocker panels onto the fiberglass body are severley corroded and cannot be removed by a simple screwdriver (why would it be that easy?). I found it necessary to use a dremel with a cut-off wheel to remove the heads of the screws, be sure to where eye protection! Once the rearmost five screws are removed you can peel back the rocker panel to reveal the mounting bolts for the quarter panel, remove these and you're done! Well, almost, remember to remove the side lamps, the quarter panel should now be loose and can be lifted from the body.
The next panel to be removed is the T-panel, it is simply held in with 3 screws on either side, the weather stripping should already be removed, so simply remove the screws. The only other retaining screws are the three holding the rear valence in place. Remove these and twist the valence out of place. CAREFULLY, lift the panel from the back and pull towards the engine. This should leave the upper infill panel exposed. Remove the ball stud by unscrewing it. Inspect your B-pillar for excessive cracking in the fiberglass. I had several hairline fractures, but felt the new bracket would suffice in fixing the problem. The following are pictures of the current fractures.
If you have excessive cracking, you should have the fiberglass area strengthened before you are finished.
The infill panel is held in by A LOT of epoxy/sealer. Use a knife to cut through all of the RTV seal. You should now be able to pry up the panel and remove it. Now the strut bracket is fully visible.
Remove the stock bracket by removing the two bolts on either side. Secure the new bracket in the same fashion starting with the two bolts as seen here.
You are now left with two empty holes, these are for the 1/4 inch rivets. You will need to drill a 1/4 inch hole through the two holes on the bracket into the fiberglass, careful not to go too far. You will now need to find a rivet gun like the one below.
This is typically not something you can pick up at your local hardware store and could prove to be a show-stopper. I called every rental place in my area an no one had one to rent out. I finally had to resort to driving to body shops explaining my odd situation. But I did finally come across a shop that had one and they let me use it for free! Insert the rivet and use the gun to expand it into place. Keep working the tool until the shank snaps with a loud crack.
Once the new brackets are installed you will need to reattach the infill panels. I found it necessary to remove all of the green epoxy that was used on the infill panels before attaching to the car, as seen below.
I used a chisel and hammer to scrape the glue off, this is the finished result.
The infill panel will glue back in with a good polyurethane glue. I used some from a caulking tube. Be sure to clamp the panel in place while it dries. I also neatly reapplied the RTV seal around the panel using sealant from a caulking tube, much easier than from a hand held tube. Good Luck.
|Part Description||Purchase Source||Price|
|Polyeurethane Glue||Home Depot||3.00|
|RTV Sealant||Napa Auto Parts||14.50|
|HD Ball Stud Brackets (2)||PJ Grady||40.00|