Vanagon – sliding door quietening hack

As seen here on this Samba thread and I got the tape from Lee Valley, (link to product page). I’ll cut to the chase and answer the question “Is it worth it?” – yes. It really does make a difference in the noise made by the sliding door as it is opened and closed. This is on my ’86 syncro which has the improved sliding door set up that started in ’85. That improvement in door design is one of the nicest mods VW made to the van over the years. Ok, on to the hack.

First I pulled the track cover off the side of the van. Two screws at either end of the cover and then some wrestling to get it off. I’m not going to tell you the exact motions needed to get the cover off, but for goodness sake’s don’t pull the bottom of the cover out towards you. That is not the way it goes. It comes off straight up but you do need to clear the tabs that the attachment screws use and that does mean you have to ease the cover out a little towards you then back to the van. Sometimes grime and crap glues the cover to the van, so be careful.

Cover off and this pic shows the track one of the rollers rides on. You have to clean and degrease. And this is when I realized that I would only be doing a half assed job. You see the paint is worn off the track, and when I stick on the tape there will be no grease to keep that track from rusting. The best thing to do would be to paint on some POR15 or something similar before sticking the tape on. But I have a really annoying summer head cold right now and I just didn’t have the energy.

The forward end of the track. Two rollers there, and four surfaces to be covered in tape.

The lower track covered in tape. The tape is folded over the top edge of the track. It stuck on pretty tight. Both vertical inner surfaces of the track above this one was covered too.

I did this mod to my old ’82 years ago – a bit of self adhesive bitumen impregnated fabric to try and stop the track cover from acting as a sound board.

I put the cover back on and tried the door. Much better, really, I’m not joking. But still not as quiet as I thought it should be. I could hear noise from the upper track above the door opening. A roller bearing here as well, not the old plastic block of the pre ’85 doors. Tape applied to the outboard vertical surface (the only surface that showed sign of wear).

And I cleaned up the lower track surface, the one at the foot of the door. The track that is often dirty and greasy and rusty. Now I have my share of rust on the van, but fortunately the track surface was good and it got the tape. And now some proof. Note that the last clip that is titled “tape added to upper track” , the lower track had been taped too. God I have to deal with the rust on that door.

  1. #1 by edbee on August 23, 2012 - 7:31 pm

    I’m sold, I’m going to order a roll of that tape, but for some dresser drawers now and maybe the van slider later.

    Those 2 bearings in the belt line track, one of which is clearly visible in your second photo: I needed to replace both of those when I first got my 91 syncro (they were literally falling apart – balls falling out). The door was almost impossible to open. I called the local VW dealer and they wanted $50 each so I called BC Bearing and got both of them for under $6 including tax. They were a tiny bit different in that the bore was a couple of thou’ smaller than the originals but it took only maybe a minute with some emory cloth on each of the 2 bearing mounting ‘posts’ to make them fit perfectly. That was the first of many repairs to the blue syncro westy. If anyone needed I could likely dig up the part number of the replacement bearings.

    • #2 by albell on August 24, 2012 - 6:40 am

      Ed,

      if you come across the part numbers that would be great.

      cheers

      ab

  2. #3 by preff on September 22, 2012 - 11:15 pm

    Wow! Thank you for this idea. I think this is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my Westy. The screeching, rumbling, “khkhkhhkkhwwwwwwakkkmmmpk”ing side doors on my vans have always been a pain. Now, the only noise is the clicking sound of ball bearings and the satisfying click of a well-greased latch. Now I can get up and pee in the middle of the night and not wake the whole campground. Brilliant!

    • #4 by albell on September 23, 2012 - 7:33 am

      I can’t take credit for coming up with this idea despite knowing about HDPE tape and having a vanagon since ’93. I never put the 2 together 🙂

      One other thing that reduces the noise is some panel dampening inside the sliding door.

      cheers

      ab

  3. #5 by preff on September 23, 2012 - 11:28 pm

    Yes for some reason my 85 was much tinnier-sounding than the 84, so I used a lot of soundmat on all doors. Took a lot of the twanging out of them.

  4. #6 by Gnarlodious on July 30, 2014 - 11:08 am

    Experiment failed. I put the UHMW tape on the roller rail last fall and it was great until the hot weather but now it can’t take the pressure of the roller. The plastic got all buckled and made the door slide harshly. Took it apart and its a damned lot of work to remove the tape and adhesive. DON’T put the UHMW tape under the roller! Works great against the sidewall though.

    • #7 by albell on July 30, 2014 - 11:55 am

      Hi,

      Funny you should post this. I looked a week or so ago and found both the lower track and covered side track areas with the tape falling or gone.

      I looked because I thought the door was making more noise than usual.

      I pulled the cover off the side track and cleaned the wear surface up, but didn’t put any tale back on. But I did have a look at the roller and wondered if I could make a hard rubber or plastic roller. I think that would be better.

      Yes, I’m declaring my uhmw tape experiment a failure.

      Alistair

      >

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