Sunday, February 08, 2015

Shade-tree Saturn Ion Mechanic Tips #1

Wow. I just realized that about eleven years ago to the month I purchased a brand new Saturn Ion 3.

It was involved in one rather substantial front-end collision (I was stopped at a stop-sign and a collision in cross-street traffic spun a vehicle into mine). Repaired.

It was involved in one rather substantial rear end collision where two drivers coming off pit row…no wait..where two drivers merging onto the freeway via an on-ramp where traffic was stopped crashed into each other, and pushed into my stopped Saturn. Repaired.

I’ve been tagged from behind a few more times by other drivers where after consultation with the responding officers and the driver that rear-ended me, we all decided to call it a “tap” and call it a day. No harm no foul.

It has seen a few recalls, something with bushings, something with headlamp wiring harnesses, and just this past week or two, the ignition switch.

I decided to “punt” and let the dealer service department fix the issue with the driver/passenger door locks. Turns out (both sides) that it was the connecting rod from the main electronic switch assembly to the lock cylinders that had come loose and was obstructing my power window travel up and down (and inside lock latches). That is a cheap part and can often be fixed with some pliers. Unfortunately, in my case, when it broke it tore the connecting plastic to the lock cylinders. Those had to be replaced and they were not cheap. And then the labor costs!

I am not a mechanic but am pretty handy. I’ve pulled motors and transmissions before and have regularly changed belts, plugs, starters, alternators, and pumps. Unfortunately, major service just isn’t practical as the neighbors around the Valca micro-ranch generally frown upon major vehicle repair during daylight or nighttime hours.

However, I’ve decided that I really want to continue in a long-term relationship with the Ion so I’m regaining my confidence in fixing more of its parts.

Take for instance the side-door rear-view mirrors.

To do the door lock/cylinder repair work, the dealer shop had to remove the side mirrors and the door panels.image

Only on the driver’s side, they failed to reinstall the side-view mirror properly and there was a 1/4” gap at the leading edge to the window frame.  Sure I could have taken a few hours off work, driven half-way across the Houston-Metro area back to the dealership, and gotten “warranty” service for shoddy craftsmanship, but hey…today was a sunny day!

I was all-in for the challenge of refitting the side mirror mounting to restore the fit.

The mirror unit was firmly attached to the door frame and there was no change of firmly pushing it back into place without some disassembly work.

I’d already done research a few month’s ago on how to remove the door panels when I debated taking on the door latch rod repair so I was already familiar with the general process.

A simple search and I had found some specific videos regarding the side view mirrors as well.

Those gave me the remaining info I needed, though the detailed close-up views are a bit lacking in the videos.

So here are some up-close photos just in case someone needs to reference them.


First remove this plastic panel piece.  You can do it with your hands. Pull (peel) it down from the top. There is a single metal clip holding it in place up in the top left 3/4 area. the bottom edge has some plastic tabs that hook into the inner door panel so don’t pull/pry from the bottom or sides. Peel-pull it downward. If you must pry, do so from the top and use a putty knife to avoid messing up the plastic trim edge.  After a little bit of firm resistance the clip released and it popped right of in my hands.

Behind it you will see a foam sound deadening insert that can be removed by gently pulling on the finger holes.  You will see also where the mounting clip slot is so that is why you want to focus your pull at the top and not the bottom.


Here are the parts removed.


Now you can see how the side-view mirror mounts with three attachment bolts and nuts.


It is simply a matter of gently removing the nuts from the bolts; being VERY careful to not drop them into the door when removing.

What I found was the cause of the 1/4-inch fitting gap in my case was the third bolt to the right.

What happened is important to understand.

When the mechanic attempted to back off the nut, it seems to have been stuck tightly to the bolt. This cased the nut to remain fixed. The back-side of that bolt is actually a wide-threaded screw similar to what you might find when you assemble furniture from IKEA. That wide thread on the back-side screws into a plastic post on the side-view mirror.

In this case, the nut didn’t budge from the post but actually backed the rear screw out of the plastic post. When the mirror was reattached, the mechanic failed to realize (or care?) what had happened so the screw never went back into the post stood proud of it, keeping the mirror housing about 1/4-inch forward of the door frame! Nice.

Rather than bust the plastic post, I gripped the bolt stud tip with some vice grips (it has a handy star end likely used to screw the bolt into the plastic in the first place), and then used my crescent wrench to break the sized nut loose so I could then remove it and clean the post with a wire brush.  Don’t forget you are dealing with plastic posts on the hidden side so hand-tighten the nuts on the posts right up to the metal door frame surface, then turn them just a bit more with the wrench and don’t over-tighten or you might crack/break the plastic posts they screw into!

Close up view below from the inside.


Once I had the post issue repaired, I just positioned the mirror back in place and made sure it was fitting tightly against the door frame as it should have been.

I retightened the nuts on the posts by hand and then just a 1/4-1/2 turn more with my wrench and it was done.  Replaced the foam insert and snapped the cover in place.  Repair done and no more gap. See the very first photo in the series for the final result.

Total service time, probably about 10 minutes because I was being careful.

Surprisingly (or not I guess) you can even pick up replacement Ion side view mirror parts on I didn’t need one but if you break your plastic mounting posts you might. 2003-2007 Saturn Ion 4-Door Sedan Power Without Heat Black Textured Non-Heated Rear View Mirror Left Driver Side (2003 03 2004 04 2005 05 2006 06 2007 07): Automotive


--Claus Valca

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