Welcome to the JNBQC, Door Panel Edition. Detroit has some catching up to do, and we're all rooting for The General's contestant here!
With the '91 Audi 81 getting a 1.5 and the '91 Lexus ES250 earning a 2.0 on the JNBQC Pain-In-The-Ass-O-Meter™, Detroit will really need to shine to come out as the winner. We picked this '93 Buick LeSabre Limited, which sold for $21,735- a bit more than the other two cars, but the adjusted-for-inflation difference between 1991 (the year of the Audi and Lexus) and 1993 puts the Buick's price right there with the other two.
Because you generally get more features per buck with an American car than you would from those foreign manufacturers, the LeSabre Limited comes with some snazzy gadgets to go with the Nearly Wood™ door panel trim.
Check it out, a Passenger Climate Control panel on the passenger door!
And LeSabre Limited buyers got the Concert Sound II audio system, which we assume sounds way better than Concert Sound I. Nice features, but will they make this panel a nightmare to remove? We'll find out!
First, Shawn starts removing all the screws he can find. Here's one next to the latch handle.
Right away, we run into some Torx screws. Fortunately, I came prepared, having stashed my Torx bits in my junkyard toolbox for the Crown Victoria window regulator job.
Shawn keeps feeling for fasteners and removing whatever he finds. So far the panel isn't budging, so we're definitely missing a few.
GM seems to have taken some tips from Audi, by using some long-ass screws to hold the panel in place. They come out pretty easily, though.
Here comes the switch panel. What will we find behind it?
First, we need to disconnect the wiring harness from the switch panel. Arrrgh, funky right-angle connector that needs much persuading with a screwdriver; probably cheap to make and easy for a worker to connect on the assembly line, but Shawn had to be very careful to avoid breaking either side of the pair.
Still, the design looks quite corrosion-resistant, though we couldn't figure out the reasoning behind the right-angle setup.
We still can't figure out what's holding the panel in place at this point. Could there be fasteners beneath this safety light? It's got to be meant to come out, for bulb replacement… right?
Yes, it comes out, but quite a bit of force was required to get those ratchety teeth to relinquish their hold on the door panel's plastic. This unit probably couldn't stand many removal/installation cycles, but so far it's unbroken.
Well, look at that- a bolt head in a difficult, around-the-corner position!
After much cursing and searching for 1/4"-drive ratchet accessories, an increasingly frustrated Shawn was able to get this lag bolt out. At this point he warned me that we'd need to trade places soon, with him taking over with the camera, or (in his words) "Hulk crush Buick!"
Now we've got another electrical panel to remove. Buick sure didn't skimp on the switches and controls, compared to those skinflints at Toyota and Audi!
Damn! Broke something! The only way we could have known which direction to pry this panel would have been to have the shop manual sitting in front of us, because there's no way to infer the nature and orientation of the plastic one-way latch on the front edge of this panel by just wiggling it around. If you're a Buick tech, no problem. If you're some schmoe in the junkyard, you're gonna break the tab.
These connectors were way easier to remove than the first set, since they're more along the lines of the European-style Bosch-type units.
Look, made by Eaton Controls!
Now we've got a 10mm bolt to remove, in addition to Phillips screws and Torx fasteners. It comes right out, no problem.
At this point, it became clear that the panel was sticking in the corner behind the climate-control panel. Time to start prying around the edges, to see if we can pop it out.
Careful… careful! We're getting a lot of ominous crackling-plastic sounds here, but it's obvious that this panel must come out.
Meanwhile, all our jiggling and prying on the panel has caused at least one mounting tree's socket to break and fall out of the door.
At this point, we've already broken at least two pieces and Shawn is getting pretty pissed off at The General, so I take over. Time for a little brute force with the pry bar!
Whoa, hold on a sec- there's another bolt behind the light opening!
More prying, jiggling, wiggling, and cursing finally does the job; the panel comes loose!
Yet another style of electrical connector must be separated, but it's pretty easily done. This one resembles a Japanese-type connector, so we've got sort of a world tour of electrical connector styles, all in one car!
Here's the last connector, this one in the distinctly mid-80s-Detroit style. Snap it loose!
The mounting trees around the perimeter are, in a word, crap. Some of them tore out during removal, while others were just beat up a bit. You'll need some new replacement trees when it comes time to reinstall the panel, if you're going to take on this job yourself.
Looks like the team at Livonia Cell #9 made this panel. Prison labor?
And that's it for the 1993 Buick LeSabre Limited door panel removal job. Total time: 30 minutes. Pain In The Ass Quotient (PITAQ): 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, mostly due to difficult-to-find fasteners and easily-broken plastic tabs. Number of broken parts: four. As patriotic Americans, Shawn and I were really rooting for the Buick to take the win here, but we ended up being quite disappointed. The culprit here appears to be The General's focus on maximizing ease of initial assembly and cutting costs on not-visible-to-buyer components; you're free to blame this problem on one or more of the following:
A: Featherbedding union slobs and their Kumbaya-singing liberal enablers among the Coastal Elites, with help from those goddamn socialist governments in Germany and Japan and their taxpayer-funded health care, forcing Detroit to cut corners in order to pay exorbitant salaries and benefits to uneducated schmucks who would benefit greatly from a dose of Harsh Economic Reality (conservative talk radio version).
B: Wall Street's obsession with short-term shareholder gain and the generally exploitative nature of American-style capitalism (NPR version).
C: The Peter Principle in full fucking effect at all levels of management throughout the American automotive industry going back to at least the middle 1960s (my version).
D. The Trilateral Commission, with backing from the Federal Reserve, seeking to destabilize the American economic base, in order to bring us closer to the day when the shadow government located beneath Denver International Airport can ship all dissenters to camps- even now being built- in the Utah desert (conspiracy theorist version).