Sliding Door Removal & Refitting

There was some time over Christmas break to fix some stuff on the van and our sliding door demanded attention, because a couple of months ago one of the bolts flew out when I opened the door.

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

See that bolt up top?  That was not connected to anything, which normally is a problem but even more so of one when that lock holds your door shut.  For months until I had the chance to fix this I was worried that one day the door would just come flying off while driving down the freeway.  Thankfully a mechanic told us that it wouldn’t be too bad, but that we definitely should take care of it.

So, it was time to take the sliding door off and fix this thing, which would also give me a chance to refit the door and both eliminate the gap below while bringing the door flush with the rest of the van (see below).

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

Removing the Door

Step one involved taking the cover for the sliding rail off, which is attached by two screws.

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

Once they are both out, it takes a lot of upward force and sliding back and forth to pry the panel off.  Some people used spots of grease to help, but mine worked itself out with sheer force alone.

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

Next step was to remove the sliding door latch by rolling the door back halfway and sliding the roller guide out, then bringing the rest of the door back and pivoting out.  It sounds complicated, but all in all was pretty straightforward.

And then, viola!

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

Fixing the Bolt

I was sure that this whole door would take an afternoon, but like all projects things are never as simple as they seem.  The reason for this was pure Volkswagen engineering.

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

You can see the lock and where I needed to attach the screw.  All I needed to do was place a nut on the other side of the hole and screw the bolt on.  Problem was, reaching behind the screw by hand was impossible.  In the second picture you can see some metal that comes down behind the bolt to cut off any chance of getting a finger behind there to hold a nut tight.

I was screwed.

Fix 1

With no obvious answer, I decided to glue a nut to the back and screw the bolt in carefully.

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

That lasted all of two seconds.

Time to try something else.

Fix 2

I needed a way to apply pressure on the nut from behind in a way that would both grip the but and press it against the metal from behind.  With no way to do this by finger, my father-in-law helped create a device from a coat hanger that might work.

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

He bent this around the nut and we put a little duct tape on the back to hold the nut in place.  In this way I would be able to press against the metal while screwing the bolt in.  It looked like this:

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

The first attempt failed horribly, just barely putting the nut on the bolt.  But there was no tension on the nut once the coat hanger torqued off, so there was no way to tighten the nut and I had to go back to the drawing board.

We decided to try one more time with the coat hanger, but I put duct tape around the entire nut save for a hole for the bolt.


It worked like a charm and the nut tightened like a charm.  We were even able to pull the coat hanger off, though I would have accepted clipping it off and living with a stray piece of coat hanger in the van door.  No worry, though, as this was no problem.


Last thing to do was to clean the 25+ years of junk, dirt, and grease from the wheels, door, and roller tracts.  It was not pretty and it hurt like all get out as I was doing this in -1 C temperatures.  Every ten minutes I had to go back in the house to wash rags and make sure that I could still feel my fingers.

But the thing got clean and that’s all that matters.  I then slapped a little grease on and refit the door.

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

Last thing to do was tighten some of the bolts to bring the door flush with the other panels.  The procedure was straightforward and awarded me gaps less doors that were flush.  Success!!

Fixing the Vanagon Sliding Door

A/C Repair

2 thoughts on “Sliding Door Removal & Refitting

  1. Hi there, nice explanation and work.
    My door is also not flush at towards the back. Do I need to take the whole door out? Which bolts you need to adjust? Any pics?
    I should get my Bentley book here soon, but just wondering if the explanayion is pretty obvious in it?
    Thanks for your help,

    1. Sorry for the late reply, internet has been spotty. It depends on where the door is loose. I suspect that the roller wasn’t fully on for the sliding door and that caused a lot of the problem, but I also tightened the bolt on the upper side of the front side of the door. The seam around there was loose and letting light in, so I wanted a better seal as well.

      Those two things plus cleaning were all it took.

      For your door, without seeing I’d say get inside and see where you have cracks in the seals. You can adjust the strike bolt on the body near the rear to bring the door closer to the back as well.

      Hope that helps but please let me know if there are any questions!

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