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A lot of Gen 3s have this annoying habit of chewing up the door panel
retainers (the plastic "pins" that are supposed to secure the
perimeter of the interior door panel to the door). In some cases the
panel itself cracks right where the retainers latch on, making it
nearly impossible to use the retainers.
The bulk of the pulling action on the door panel is directed at the
handle/cup, and Ford decided that a screw was needed there to help
hold things together. In theory this would keep most if not all of
the load off those lousy retainers, and all they'd have to do is keep
the edges of the panel from rattling and squeaking. Well, that's all
well and good if that screw is actually attached to something solid.
Instead, it's just a flimsy piece of sheet metal (basically the
world's cheapest L-bracket) which is only held to the door by one
fastener (some sort of screw, apparently attached from the inner part
of the door?)
So when you pull on the handle, it's flexes the bracket and then one
by one the retainers succumb. Then the door feels cheap and loose.
And to make things worse, you bend/weaken the bracket every time you
pull the door closed. Sure, replacing all the retainers makes it feel
good as new... for a few weeks until the retainers fall apart. I got
tired of that routine, so I drilled two additional holes through the
bracket and the inner door sheet metal, and used pop rivets to hold it
more tightly against the door. That tightened things up considerably,
and with any luck I'll never have to replace those stupid retainers
Hrm... This explains a lot, actually.
Of course, I had my door panel unsecured for so long that I got in the habit of using the door pull-handle (the one you use to open the door and get out) to close the door from the inside. I'm sure that can cause its own set of issues, but so far I haven't had any.
I also usually have my cell phone and work ID Badge in my door cup, so it's rarely even available for me to use to close the door.
I might have to look at the state of my "L" brackets... I have a pack and a half of door panel clips still laying around from the last time I did work on the speakers.
-John Breen III
(*Ed Note: I don't have the part number at my finger tips, however Eric hipped me to the fact that if you use the Green Panel tabs (ours are orange) that go to GM products they are much "stouter" than the OEM - your local AZ carries them. These, and Dan's tip should go a long way to keeping those pesky panels in place.)