Fuel Injected Freedom: A Cautionary Tale of Vehicular Repairs Gone Awry

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This article was formerly published on my old blog in March 2014.

When I started the process to replace all of the carpet in my Porsche, I hoped for an uneventful project even though, deep down, I knew that no project involving a vehicle goes smoothly. Originally all the carpet and seats were tan, but over time it had become more of a blotchy brownish color. I replaced the front seats with black leather ones, and then acquired a full set of burgundy carpet and black rear seats to finish the job.

At first it did go well. I stripped out everything from the front seats back, and the new carpet fit almost perfectly. After a long and exhausting three hours spent hunched inside a tiny car, kneeling in gravel, and bending over for extended periods of time, the sun went down and I closed it up to be finished the next day. When I shut the driver’s door, there was an unusual snap and a clatter. I tried the handle and it wouldn’t open. Tried the inside handle, and still no luck. Of course, I knew exactly what had happened, but I was really hoping that I was wrong. I left it to be dealt with later.

I came back to it the next day, finished reattaching seat belts and other little things, and then sat and stared at the firmly latched door.

The stubborn door that faced me with defiance as tough as steel

The stubborn door that faced me with defiance as tough as steel.

At this point I was stumped. I knew what was wrong, but the nature of its wrongness precluded a straightforward solution. Since sitting there staring dumbly at a door will not, in fact, cause it to open, I started by removing the interior trim panel as much as I could and poking at the latch mechanism inside the door. None of my aimless prodding or prying did any good. So I shut the passenger door so it just latched, but not tightly, and noticed I could see the latch through the gap.

The passenger door that doesn't have stubbornness issues. I think it likes me better because I never slam it or take it apart and poke at its innards.

The passenger door that doesn’t have stubbornness issues. I think it likes me better because I never slam it or take it apart and poke at its innards.

When I removed the weather stripping from the driver’s door jamb, I could see about the same amount of the latch. The next step was to see if there was any way to trip the latch through that gap/ I opened the passenger door and found that pressing down on this little prong of metal below the latch piece will make it open.

The latch that opens.

The latch that opens.

Armed with this knowledge and a long screwdriver, I assaulted the gap between the driver’s door and the jamb. Due to the angle, however, the screwdriver couldn’t reach where I needed it to go. So I raided my brother’s closet, found a hangar with a sturdy wire hook, and made this beautiful piece of failure:

A squiggly wire thing that didn't work.

A squiggly wire thing that didn’t work.

After another stretch of time that could’ve been half an hour or two hours, I resorted to whimpering and repeatedly pulling the latch release as if my pitiful desperation would make it miraculously work. I also had periodic fits of rage during which I tried kicking the door, pounded on it with my bare palm until the sheet metal dented, and accidentally caused damage to the interior panel which I ignored because I had to replace it with a black one anyway.

When I reached a point where I was about ready to drive my car off a cliff and perish with it, I took a break to post on Porsche forums asking for help, and eat some pizza. Somewhat calmed, I went back to the demonic car and stared at the door for a little while. Then I did some more random stabbing and poking. A flood of desperation surged through my body, increasing my IQ while simultaneously granting me almost superhuman strength. I grabbed the screwdriver, shoved it into the gap, and wrenched it sideways to bend both the car and the screwdriver.

I bent my car! But it's okay, that's just a flange that the weather stripping goes on. I bent it back and everything's normal again.

I bent my car! But it’s okay, that’s just a flange that the weather stripping goes on. I bent it back and everything’s normal again.

Screwdrivers are surprisingly difficult to bend.

Screwdrivers are surprisingly difficult to bend.

I turned my properly curved screwdriver around, stabbed it violently into the general vicinity of the latch, and pried. Within seconds the latch came free and the rebellious door finally opened. I removed the latch and sure enough, my suspicions were correct.

How the latch is not supposed to look.

How the latch is not supposed to look.

How the latch IS supposed to look.

How the latch IS supposed to look.

In 2010, I had to replace my driver’s door entirely because I was too sleepy one icy morning. When I tried to remove the latch from my old door, one of the bolts was too corroded and stripped out. I cut through the bolt and in the process, that little peg, so small and yet so very important, was cut halfway through. I briefly tested its strength, and then filled the cut part with JB Weld and installed it.

My mistake held up for three years of constant use, and I stopped worrying about it until I heard that dreadful snap. Fortunately I had a perfectly good latch from my parts car so once I got the door open, it was a two-minute fix.

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