Is there anything more frustrating than being locked out of your Corvette and having to wait God-knows-how-long for a locksmith? How about being locked out because the key broke off in the door? Still not agonizing enough for you? Well, all this happened to yours truly only hours after purchasing my first Corvette, an '84 I affectionately call "The Bronze Bomber"-and in public, no less. What a way to start out!
Annoying as this situation was, it did determine what the first tech piece on this car would be. At the very least, a new door lock cylinder was a must. Corvette Central sells them in pairs, though the new pair wouldn't match the interior compartments. Not wanting to carry a third key, we compared the cost of re-keying the interior locks with that of getting a whole new lock set. The prices were close enough for us to go with all-new locks and ignition (we'll show you how to replace that in a future issue). Given that the outer door widow seal had just been assaulted by a "Slim Jim", we ordered a pair of these as well, and a few other goodies we'll show you here.
We kept a factory shop manual close at hand and paid attention to how the original parts were assembled. The installation took what amounted to an entire day to accomplish. The hardest part, of course, was the door lock cylinders. Access to the inside of the door handle area was the toughest hurdle to clear, which brings us to our first caveat. In order to get the space we needed to replace the cylinders-and take pictures while doing so-we removed the sheetmetal inner mounting plate that resides behind the door panel, as well as the lock mechanism itself. This also gave us a chance to clean and lubricate the door locks. One experienced C4 mechanic we consulted, however, said that he does the job without removing these pieces. It's a tight fit, but who are we to argue? The process for the lock cylinders is the same either way, and we suggest that you do whatever works best for you.
With that, lets get to it and see what it takes to make sure your C4 stays all locked up-or unlocked, as you see fit.
While We Were At It
It's a fact of life-old Corvettes develop squeaks and rattles. And some have actually claimed that '84s can be a bit noisy. Well! But since we did have the doors in The Bronze Bomber most of the way disassembled, we decided to add a few items to make sure that the ride in this '84 is as quiet and rattle-free as can be.
After removing the wire harness rosebud clips, the inner panel and lock mechanism can be pulled out as a unit. But first.you'll have to reach inside the door and disconnect the two lock rods that connect to the door handle. As you can see here, one rod will slide out of the lock mechanism (A); the other must be disconnected (B). At the far left, a small circlip holds the small lever and the wire connector to the lock cylinder. Once these are removed, along with the door handle lock rod, two sheetmetal nuts are all that hold the door handle in place.
Here's a better look at the lock rods. The bent end of the rod slides through the hole in the plastic clip and into the small lever. The clip then snaps over the rod to hold it in place. The other rod, which connects to the door handle itself, can stay in place when you remove the lock mechanism, but will have to be removed before the door handle can be pulled out. It helps to hold the handle in the "open" position when removing it.
With the door handle out of the car and on a workbench, we're ready to replace the lock cylinder. Use a small screwdriver to remove the "W" clip and the cylinder slides right out.
You'll receive a couple of tubes of lithium grease with your lockset. We made it easy on ourselves and lubed the cylinders before they were installed. It's a simple matter to work the lube into the cylinder with the door key.
Since we had removed the inner mounting plate, we took the opportunity to replace the door glass anti-rattle cushions. It's a simply remove and replace operation, but one that'll make sure these window stay silent.
We also ordered a set of '92-96-style door insulators. It takes some cutting to make the foam fit the older doors, which can then be set in place with a few pieces of tape. You'll need some patience to make the door panels fit properly, but we like our quiet enough to put in the time.
Finally, we installed a set of C Central's Interior Door and Armrest Savers. This simple insert sits in the door handle "grab" area, and is secured in place with the factory screws. Instead of pulling on vinyl, we've now got a solid piece of steel to pull on.
Once properly lubed, it was time to install the new cylinders into the door handles (which were also new items from Corvette Central's catalog). We found it helpful to use a small amount of grease to hold the two small springs in place. We then held the cylinder, with the spring-loaded key door in place, "up" and lowered the door handle over it. It took one or two tries, but everything lined up as it should (the cylinder only goes in one way). You'll then need to hold everything in place while you insert a new "W" clip.
You'll then need to reach into the access hole and remove the large nut that holds the cylinder in place. We accomplished this quite nicely with a long, narrow set of needlenose pliers. The lock cylinder can then be pushed out through the opposite side.
The rear compartment door locks are even easier to replace. Simply remove the small Phillips-head screw and pull off the rear plate.then hold down the button and pull the lock through. Reverse the procedure to install the new lock.
Replacing the door handle is a straightforward affair. You can bolt it back in place (remember the wire clip), then slide the wire connector and lever back on to the new cylinder, securing them with a new circlip. The door handle rod can be installed before or after the lock mechanism is replaced; the cylinder rod will have to wait until the mechanism is reinstalled. Here's another view of what the rods should look like when you're done.
At this point, you can bolt the inner panel back in. Remember to route the wires so they don't bind and clip the wire harness back to the panel before re-installing the door panel. Repeat the process on the other door, and you're all done!
After the new lock is pushed into place, we used a small screwdriver to start the nut, then resorted to our needlenose pliers. Note that the raised part of the lock cylinder is down and to the right; the small locating nub on the back of the cylinder also faces down.
We buttoned things up with a new center compartment door. Later on, we'll order some vinyl dye from Corvette Central to make everything match.
Our lockset also included new pieces for the interior compartments. Our center compartment door was beyond repair, so we made things easy and removed it before replacing the console lock. Here's what you'll find under the small snap-on cover. Remove the small bolt and the catch.
Like most early C4s, our outer door window seals had seen better days. (Having the door opened with various medieval torture devices didn't help, either.) Since the doors were apart, we decided to replace them.
The weatherstripping will need to be moved aside to access two of the three rivets. After removing two small screws at each end of the door, we used a plastic putty knife to peel back the foam rubber. Afterward we glued the edges back in place with weatherstrip adhesive.
You'll have three rivets to drill out per side. Using a drill around all this fiberglass made me nervous, so I picked up a Craftsman Professional 9.6v cordless drill. The variable speed feature made going slow and easy a snap, ensuring that there were no unfortunate mishaps (i.e., drilling too deep). Make sure that the holes are clear of any debris from the old rivets, or the new ones won't seat properly. Remember, this is fiberglass, not metal, so be careful!
The new strip has clips instead of plastic nubs, but installation is the same-carefully line up the holes, and make sure the clips are in place before securing things with three new pop-rivets.