Friday, March 30, 2007

There and Back Again

I always wondered with the "S" stood for on my 1982 Audi 4000S Diesel. Apparently it stands for Sisyphus. I spent a few hours tearing doors apart the other day and wound up exactly where I started.

I like the car for what's on the inside: a VW 1.6L Diesel engine which is very efficient and, if I ever get around to it, will be able to eat left-over deep-frying grease. The body is a little tougher to love. VW's aren't known for good electrical systems from this era, and the door handles keep breaking... which leads me to this post. Over the course of the winter both rear doors became inaccessible from the outside. Try to open them and this happens:
The handle comes partly out of the door and there's no way you can get it open. Both handles are broken and need to be replaced. I also can only unlock the passenger door with my key, so last fall I ordered a new driver's side handle-with-lock so that I could unlock the car from the driver's side. Thanks to Steve, the previous owner, included in my complimentary spare parts was another front-type handle.

My plan for the day was to take the existing front handle and replace it with the new one and see if the old front handle would work for the driver's side rear door. As I already hinted, things didn't go according to plan.
Problem #1: The front and rear handles are sufficiently different to prevent them from being interchangeable. The picture above shows both. The wide, flat metal part on the top one is what engages the rear door latch. There's a stub on the bottom example from the front just isn't quite situated right to do that job. Dang.

Problem #2: My keys work perfectly in the driver's front lock mechanism. Yes, that's a problem. I thought that replacing the lock was what needed to be done in order to get it to unlock from the outside. No, the lock works fine, but the shaft that connects the lock in the handle to the locking mechanism in the latch is completely missing. (I checked the bottom of the door cavity and everything. It's gone.)

Problem #3/Tangent: It's been an added annoyance that the driver's door won't let me lock it, then shut the door. The door has to be shut first, meaning that I have to either reach around from the back or climb through the passenger side to lock it. I thought that while I had the door apart I might as well try to fix that problem.

I took the lock/latch mechanism off and examined it. I lubricated it and poked around for any parts that could have slipped out of place. The more I studied it, the more confused I got. It appeared that it wasn't physically possible for the lock to work the way I wanted it to. I couldn't figure out what could have gone wrong with it.

Then I took off the passenger side lock/latch and had a look. To my frustration, it didn't seem to work the same way. (I also noticed it was made in Germany, and the other in France.) After thinking, and thinking, I realized I'd wasted the last hour. There was nothing wrong with the lock. It was designed to not let the driver lock the door before shutting it in order to prevent locking the keys in the car.

Possible Solution #1: It turns out that with the rear handle off it's really easy to reach in and unlatch the door with a finger. Here's a picture of the little lever in the hole where the door handle goes:
Just press down and the door opens. I considered leaving the rear handles off, but decided against it. A lot of rain could get in that way; plus it's only slightly harder to unlock the door through the hole than it is to just open the door.

Possible Solution #2: At this point I'm getting desperate. I've taken close to an hour more than I told Libby I would need to work on the car and it's about twenty minutes of assembly away from usable. The boys are getting restless. Nothing's working. I decided to make my front handle fit on the back. Luckily I'm working in my father-in-law's garage. There's hardware-a-plenty if I can just find it. I ended up modifying the front handle with a screw, some nuts, and sheet metal. It was a desperate attempt, and of course didn't work. It's the lower of the two below. I screwed it on anyway just to plug up the hole.
I gave up. Audi 1. Paul 0.

That's not really true. I've fixed a lot of stuff on this car already, including replacing the injector pump (a complex, precision job). That's the nature of tinkering. Sometimes everything works and in an hour I've rewired an electric window or successfully fixed the dashboard lights, and sometimes I've gone to change the oil and ended up finding out my plug is cross-threaded and spent a whole afternoon looking for the right after-marked gadget to make it work (all true stories).
I wouldn't have it any other way. I love fixing things. Hopefully I'll have a more successful Audi blog post before too long.

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