Changing Door Hinges
Written by Dave Grutter
The cause of this problem is a worn out bottom door hinge. The bushings or whatever in the hinge are shot. We're lucky that Nissan designed bolted-on hinges rather than welded-on. A hinge cost me $34 and change, inc tax, at the dealer. [Editorial note: They cost about $25/per from Brown & Brown Nissan].
My brother-in-law is ex-GM auto body tech, so he and his tools came in handy. First, we unscrewed and unclipped enough fasteners from the wheel-well liner to peel it back over the tire. Then unscrewed three fasteners from the bottom of the fender panel (one you have to get at w/door open).This way we could hold the fender out of our way a few inches w/a block of wood. Make sure door is closed now. Old hinge comes out pretty easily. Chisel off as much as you can of the seam seal stuff. After we mounted the new hinge we screwed the fender back, but it took a few small adjustments of screws to line it up. The hardest work about this part is scraping away the seam-seal stuff.
This is where it becomes useful to have an auto body guy around. There's a 'tweaking' tool they have that's like a steel bar with cutouts on one end and a sliding gadget w/plastic blocks for padding. The cutout end hooks onto the 'catch' on the door frame, and the sliding gadget hooks into the 'latch' opening in the door. They pull up on the bar and it realigns the door. It makes a hell of a creaking, twisting noise, but after three good adjustments the door is good as new. I won't be reapplying seam seal but I probably will spray the hinge and around it w/some black primer.
The beauty of the 'tweaking tool' is that it does all the work. It provides all the force and leverage. You can tighten all the bolts right up, then align the door. No need to quickly tighten the bolts after aligning. Without the tool, by trial and error, youll be aligning the door then final-tightening the bolts. You would want to make sure the door-side bolts are tight before alignment, leaving the 'play' in the frame-side bolts.
I think the best 'trial and error' method would be to positon the car so that a floor-jack could be used to align the door. You wouldn't want the jack to be exerting force directly to the bottom 'edge' of the door sheet metal, though.
I would recommend the tool, even if you had to mount and tighten the new hinge yourself, then stop by a local neighborhood bodyshop afterward, and offer them a few bux for the use of theirs!
Comments by Ronald S. Chong
I just tried the floor jack method that Dave Grutter (above) suggested as a possible alternative to using that special alignment tool. It worked flawlessly. Here's what I did: