Should I worry about my car's detached door seal?
December 23, 2007 12:53 PM   Subscribe

The rubber door seal has come off the door of my car -- how big a problem do I have?

It's cold in Wisconsin today. Really cold. All four doors of my Subaru were frozen shut, but with a lot of tugging I was able to get them all open. The problem: the driver's side rear door now has a loose length of rubber tubing hanging from it. From looking at the other doors, it seems this tube is supposed to be forming a seal or buffer between the car door and the body of the car. I assume that the ice was attached to the tube, and when I jerked the door open, the ice held onto the tube more strongly than the tube held onto the door. Both ends of the tube are still attached to the door, but it's hanging loose in between.

How immediately do I need to fix this? Am I right that it's safe to drive with this tube detached, i.e. that it's not part of what actually keeps the door from flying open while I drive? Do I need to avoid opening and closing the door until it's fixed? Is frigid air from outside now going to shoot in while I drive and freeze my kid in his carseat? Is this something you would go to the garage for or would you just rubber-cement the tube back into its channel?

In case it's not obvious from this question, I am not an expert on automobile maintenance, so non-technical responses are appreciated....
posted by escabeche to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
If it rains, and you leave your car out, you may get water on the floor. Not the end of the world, but unpleasant.
posted by smackfu at 1:03 PM on December 23, 2007

I'd guess that you can probably just slip it back into the groove. That's what I'd try first.
posted by ssg at 1:33 PM on December 23, 2007

Look closely and try to understand how the parts were originally assembled. Is there residue suggesting the gasket was glued on, or was it more of a snap-together arrangement? If the latter, you can probably just work it back into place. It might help to bring the car into a heated garage for awhile to make the parts more malleable (and your fingers more effective, too).
posted by jon1270 at 1:50 PM on December 23, 2007

Oh, and rubber cement is cement that dries to a rubbery consistency; it's not much good for gluing rubber to anything else. There are special weather-stripping adhesives available.
posted by jon1270 at 1:53 PM on December 23, 2007

I believe you need to get this fixed. there are some circumstances in which it's conceivable this could suck exhaust into your passenger compartment.

As you drive at speed, the bernoulli effect will tend to suck air out of the passenger compartment through the gap in the tubing, reducing the pressure in the passenger compartment. As you come to a stop, the pressure will re-equalize with the outside-- by sucking now exhaust rich air through the gap in the tubing. Until you are able to get this fixed, you can minimize the amount sucked in through the gap by maintaining positive pressure in the cabin by making sure your heater and air controls are always set to pull in outside air. Don't turn it onto 'recycle'.

By the way, your rubber seal may or may not be ripped. If it's not ripped, when you peer closely at it, you will see that it looks like a larger tube joined to a smaller; the smaller tube sits behind a continuous slot running around the door, normally, and you could probably push it back through the slot it came out of with a popsicle stick or a tongue depressor (a table knife runs more of a risk of tearing it) and it will be good as new. If it's ripped, it will look like a single tube (I'm afraid I think that's more likely), and you will have to replace the entire section of the seal of which it's a part.
posted by jamjam at 1:55 PM on December 23, 2007

If the rubber itself is torn, Super /Krazy glue works well to join rubber to rubber. If it's torn from the door, use contact cement. Apply to both surfaces, let dry, then join carefully, making sure it's aligned and no wrinkles are trapped. Silicone seal will also work; it takes longer to cure, but you can re-align as it cures.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:01 PM on December 23, 2007

I drove through an Illinois winter with the same problem resulting from the same situation. It was annoying, sometimes it was cold, and no doubt it was inefficient in terms of gas mileage, but it never was a real problem. The worst thing was sometimes the inside of my windshield would ice up.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:06 PM on December 23, 2007

Wait, the inside of my windshield already ices up. Do you think that means that this seal was already loose prior to the door-tugging incident?
posted by escabeche at 2:33 PM on December 23, 2007

God, that's the one thing I hate about my Subaru. You'd think they'd do it differently, considering these are really great cold-weather cars.

No, your door isn't going to fly open and it isn't the end of the world but IMO you should get this fixed. Several reasons: that exhaust issue (maybe,) the wind noise will drive you nuts (maybe,) the glass won't be tight now so you're risking damage to the window, it might be easier to break in, cold air will come in, the window will leak in rain, etc. It all depends on how much you're willing to put up with.

I hate to say this but if you can't do it yourself your best bet is going to be the dealer or a body shop. Try the body shop first because they're more likely to be reasonable about this, especially if you're paying cash. You might have to wait for them to get the part in.

For future reference, I've applied self-adhesive closed-cell foam window stripping (from Home Depot) over the rubber where it contacts the glass to cut down on wind noise and an unintended side effect is that it seems to have alleviated the stickiness. On my last Subie I put silicone grease on the window where it contacts the rubber and that helped, too, but I have no idea what the long-term impact on the seal longevity would be. PM me if you want more details.
posted by Opposite George at 3:31 PM on December 23, 2007

In my experience on another car, urethane adhesive (from Home Depot) was great for bonding rubber to metal. I used it to repair a weather seal that was actually torn in two. The only downside is that it dries rigid and is not pliable like the rubber. If you think you will eventually replace the weather seal anyhow, or you're just using to attach the seal to the rigid door, it should work well.

Depending on whether you're still under warranty, you might want to talk to the dealer about it. They may fix it for free under warranty.
posted by Doohickie at 3:50 PM on December 23, 2007

Wait, the inside of my windshield already ices up. Do you think that means that this seal was already loose prior to the door-tugging incident?
posted by escabeche at 4:33 PM on December 23 [+] [!]

I don't know much about cars, sorry. All I can say is: before ripped seal -> no ice; after ripped seal -> ice. But the car was on it's last legs by then, so the ice could have been from any number of issues.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:06 PM on December 23, 2007

I live in Madison, after growing up in northern Minnesota. If you want a warmish place to work on it, send me a mefimail - I have an underground parking garage that I will offer to help - as well as lots of practical experience and advice. I've been there.

The above advice is worthwhile - mainly, your car won't die, the effects will be annoyances and there are simple ways to fix it.

You will want to fix it - it will keep noise and rain out of your car (and out of the inside of your car door) and other things. I highly recommend addressing this sooner rather than later.

If it is a mechanical connection, a car key can help you put the gasket back in place (not a screwdriver, they often have sharp edges that can tear). Doing this someplace warm will be helpful.

If it is glued in place, then some sort of glue will fix it. Various types work variously well. Doohickie's bonding agent is good advice.

The door is held closed by a mechanical latch, so no worries there.

Although, as a recently graduated Electrical Engineer (go Badgers!), I have to offer my condolences on seeing that you work at Van Vleck. ;-) Good luck, though, whatever you do.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:35 PM on December 23, 2007

Ditto, ditto ditto rubber cement. Had the same problem on my 94 Sentra. Fixed it right up, and it's stayed fixed for at least 5 years now.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:21 PM on December 23, 2007

The automotive section of your hardware store has polyurethane adhesives that are specially formulated for a wide range of temperatures. That's what you want (although rubber cement will do in a pinch if you have it, but I wouldn't buy it FOR this). I use a product called Amazing GOOP that comes in various formulations (or at least has different color packages) depending on application.
posted by dhartung at 9:49 PM on December 23, 2007

Is this something you would go to the garage for

I think a body shop would be a better choice. They have the material and the expertise and it should be a minor job for them. Phone around. Perhaps you could find one that will do it on short notice.
posted by Neiltupper at 3:43 AM on December 24, 2007

For reference, this is certainly something I wouldn't panic about. The exhaust gas issue is possible, but unlikely if you have your heater fan on at all.

The driver's door seal on my Crown Victoria hasn't touched the door (so effectively the same thing) for about a year or more. No discernible side effects, and I live in Toronto - plenty cold and snotty weather.

To improve the driving experience (The wind noise drives me up the wall - if I cared about the car I'd fix it) it is worth fixing, but you won't really damage anything in the meantime. If you find a lot of water coming in, up the urgency.

Definitely price up new seals rather than fix them. Glueing and the like will always make them less flexible than they were - but this again depends on how much the car is worth to you. Smear vaseline or silicone grease (and then wipe off the excess) on the contact areas. seals to prevent this happening again.
posted by Brockles at 6:26 PM on December 24, 2007

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