Ground Effects Repair

July 2018 - The Ground Effects option include molded panels that attach to the bottom of the side doors. While these are decorative, they visually blend together with the functional storage compartments of the house batteries on the passenger side, and the large storage compartment as well as sewer and water access panels on the drivers side. The door that gets used the most in our Roadtrek is the side door immediately behind the front passenger door. As a result of frequent slamming, the ground effects panel at the bottom of this door became loose.


This panel is attached to the door at two sites. Behind the black vinyl strip are a set of screws that attach the upper part of the panel to the door. at the inside bottom of the door, a set of three clips attach the the panel to the bottom of the door. I was missing one of these clips, but that's another story. I just taped it where the clip was missing. What I will describe here is how to fix the loosening of the upper part of the panel.

First step is to remove the black vinyl strip piece that is covering the screw holes. This is held on with very strong double-sided adhesive tape. You can carefully peel this vinyl strip up starting at one end. It's a lot of work, but if you take it slow, it will come up. Then you can carefully remove all the residue that is left on both the back side of the vinyl strip, as well as on the door panel. I got most of it off just rolling it off using my thumb. Some "Goof Off" or equivalent was also helpful with what was left. I washed any oil residue off with soapy water from both the vinyl strip and the door panel.


This is what it looks like with the vinyl strip removed. There are a series of "wells" molded into the panel. A screw with a rectangular washer is placed in each well and screwed into the underlying door. The problem with this design is that the back wall of the "well" is only a thin layer of plastic. With the vibrations of the door slamming, this plastic can eventually rip at it's edges. That's what happened on my door panel at both the very front well and at the very rear well.


Here is a closer look at the two rear-most wells. The one on the right is fine, the rectangular washer is securely holding the back wall of the well against the door.  I removed the screw and washer from the well on the left. You can see that the back plastic wall of this well is completely gone. It has been torn off around it's edges. The screw and rectangular washer have nothing to hold against the door here. The same thing happened to the well closest to the front.  Below is a closer view of the well with the back wall broken off. That's the door metal you see with the screw hole in it.


I was left with the question of how to secure the well to the door when no back wall is available. Since the wells have a unique shape with angled side-walls, I decided to make a custom bracket that fits into the well and presses against the angled side walls. I used 1/2 inch thick plastic obtained from a cheap plastic cutting board (left over from a prior project). Using my bandsaw, I cut out a piece that roughly matched the shape of the well, including it's angled sides. It doesn't have to be perfect, just close enough to grip the sides of the well when screwed in. Below is what I came up with.

 
 
 
 

I used a spindle sander to thin out the plastic in the middle so the screw would be long enough. You could counter-sink the screw head instead if you prefer. Next I screwed this plastic bracket into place inside the broken well.


This solution worked perfectly. The plastic bracket pulled the panel tightly against the van door when it was screwed in. I made a second bracket and used it in the front-most well which was also broken.


Now that the top of the ground effects panel was tightly secured to the door, I could put the black vinyl cover strip back on to hide the screws. I used 3M Auto Super Strength Molding Tape (7/8 in x 5 ft) part number 03615, which I bought from my local auto supply store. It's also available from Amazon. I just cut a length of this double-sided tape equal to the length of the vinyl strip and attached it according to directions. I applied it to the vinyl strip first, then pressed the strip into correct position on the door panel. This forms a rock solid bond and there is no way this is coming off without significant work. It survived a recently completed 5000 mile trip just fine.


Just for your interest. I'm including a picture of what the bottom of the door panel looks like with the three clips. As I mentioned, I'm missing one of the clips and have to order a replacement. I just used strapping tape to hold the panel securely until I get around to re-clipping it.