18 September 2023
Trevor Cuthbert describes how to cure rattling windows in ex-miltary style split door tops
Need to know
Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: 2 out of 5
Models: Defender and other vehicles fitted with diagonally split glass door tops (including NAS and Wolf) 1984 on. Not suitable for vertically split glass.
Tools needed: Power drill, 3mm drill bit, pop rivet gun, needle-nosed pliers, screwdrivers, metal file, hammer, nail punch.
Parts & costs: Series Defender Outfitters Door Top Seal kit, £132.
• Wear eye protection when drilling and blowing with compressed air.
• Follow the manufacturer’s safety advice when using adhesives.
• Wear appropriate gloves or barrier cream to protect skin.
Contacts: MUD-UK. Tel: 01422 881951, mudstuff.co.uk
Land Rover split doors are predominantly associated with Series models up to the end of Series III production. They were also fitted to the first One Ten production of 1983 and 1984, albeit with an improved design of the removable door top and continued to be used on military Land Rovers, including the Wolf. The later door tops are easily identified by the sliding glass window panes, which are angled to the same degree as the front window frame, where they overlap.
Converting Land Rover doors from the modern push-button one-piece doors to the earlier split doors is popular because they are cheaper than new push button doors, they are simpler with less to go wrong, and are easier to work on. Companies like SP4x4 Panels in Liverpool offer replacement split door bottoms adapted specifically for the Defender, allowing the use of the later door check straps and provision for the interior lights door jamb switches.
One of the downsides of split doors is that, with age, the window glass begins to rattle in the frame because the felt in the window runners wears and perishes, allowing the glass to contact the metal structure of the runner. This chatter is irritating, and at certain road speeds or engine revs, the sound can be relentless.
One solution is to replace the felt in the window runners, which will last another few years. However, Mud Stuff UK sells a Door Top Seal kit, for the later type of door tops, which promises an improved seal keeping out moisture and drafts and eliminating the rattles and chatter.
Removing the door tops
The doors on this recently completed One Ten HCPU (High Capacity Pick Up) look excellent in their freshly applied paint scheme but the windows are very loose in their runners and chatter constantly, so they are excellent candidates for removal from the door bottoms and fitting the seal kit.
The door tops are fixed to the door bottom by two studs with an M10 nut on each. One note of caution though: if the studs need tapping with a mallet, make sure to tap each stud evenly and in turn, to avoid distorting the door top frame.
Looking innocent: The second hand door tops fitted to the new galvanised door bottoms look absolutely great and the sliding windows and window lock functions perfectly normally.
Solution: After unsuccessfully trying to stop the rattle with cardboard wedges, I invested in the Outfitters Door Top Seal kit from MUD UK, which promises a permanent solution.
May need a file: The instructions provided with the seal kit state that there needs to be 1/16in (1.58mm) clearance here for the new seal not to foul the window pull.
Carefully unscrew: The four screws in the lower window channel are soaked with penetrating oil and then removed while the top is still held firmly to the door bottom.
Unbolt it: Removing the door tops is a simple matter of loosening and removing the M10 nuts from the two studs through the door bottom using a 17mm spanner.
A little inertia: If the door top does not pull upwards easily, a tap with a soft mallet – evenly on both studs – should be enough to get it moving.
Damage avoided: The door top has been successfully removed and placed on the bench, with some clean cardboard laid down to protect the painted frame from being scratched.
Preparing the window frame channels
Fitting the new rubber door runner seals is easy and straightforward. Remove the old felt and replace it with the new rubber, right? It is indeed that simple, but the key to making a good job of it so the windows slide and lock correctly, is ensuring the new rubber seals are correctly seated in the channels. To do so, every piece of felt and debris must be removed. The felt was originally glued in place with adhesive, and all traces of this must be removed and the channels rendered spotlessly clean.
Unlocked position: Using a 3mm drill bit, the four rivets holding the lock mechanism in place are drilled out. Do not undo any of the other screws in the lock mechanism.
Lock out: The window lock unit is gently prised out from the bottom, levering carefully with a fine screwdriver, and extracted from the window frame as a single unit.
One at each end: Two further rivets are now all that holds the lower window channel and glass in place. These are drilled out using the 3mm drill bit.
Glass/channel assembly: The lower channel is now withdrawn from the window frame. The glass is slotted onto runners in the channel and so will come away with the channel.
Thorough cleaning: All the old felt seals and the smallest particles of adhesive debris are cleaned from the two upper channels, front outer channel and the rearmost inner channel.
Let it soak first: The kit includes adhesive removal solution and Scotch-Brite pad to clean channels. Blow out debris using compressed air, then use a degreaser to remove oils.
Fitting the new rubber window channel seals
Allow a little extra: A length of rubber window channel seal is cut for the first channel to be fitted. It is cut a few mm too long and will be trimmed to exact requirements.
The only way: A warm soapy water solution is used to assist getting the rubber correctly into its channel. Do not use silicone spray or oily solutions for this purpose.
Going in nicely: The seal strips are eased into the channels by hand plus careful use of a tool. The square profile is seated with gentle pressure from a screwdriver.
Gauged: This wooden disc width gauge is supplied and it will help confirm that the rubber seal is correctly seated and shaped within the window channel.
A good job: When correctly seated, the rubber is perfectly straight on both sides. It has a groove and overlap lip (inset) on each side to firmly slot into the channel.
Have we got it right? The glass and lower channel assembly can now be fitted back into the frame, and the action of the sliding windows checked for a good smooth movement.
Refitting: New rivets are provided in the kit to initially secure the lower channel to the window frame at each end, using a simple pop rivet tool.
Channel to frame: The four screws that were removed at the early stage are now fitted back in position and tightened up securely, but it is important to avoid over-tightening.
And finally: The window lock operation is checked and lubricated before refitting (new rivets in kit). The door top assembly is now ready to fit back on the Land Rover.
Repairing the damage
The door tops were refitted to the door bottoms ensuring the seal between them was correctly located, and the nuts tightened onto the studs. Don’t over-tighten the nuts, it can distort the window frame. Previously, when the engine was idling in the HCPU, the glass on both doors rattled and chattered immediately, growing more irritating when driving. Now, when I start the engine, there is silence from the windows, and on the test drive everything remained quiet. I’m also happy with how the windows slide in their frames – the action is smooth and precise.
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