Worn Out Hinges?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 03, 2014

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1996 Ford Windstar in perfect condition that was driven for years by a little old lady. She actually was from Pasadena, California. The problem is the occasional buzzing. It is like I left a door open while the engine is running. The van will be running fine, with no problems, except the buzzer is buzzing, the interior light is on and a picture of the van is lit up on the dash in red with a door open. Once the van reaches 15 mph, everything goes back to normal -- until I slow to under 15 mph, at which point the buzzing starts again. Can you help with this annoyance? I'm going nuts.

-- Danny

RAY: You say the car acts as if a door is open when it's not, Danny.

TOM: Well, it may be that a door actually is open.

RAY: Not fully open -- as in, you make a left turn and you roll out of the car and end up at the curb. But not fully closed, either.

TOM: I feel fortunate in saying that I haven't seen a 1996 Windstar in the shop recently, but there's either a switch in the doorjamb that gets pressed when the door is fully closed, or on some cars the door latch also acts as the switch.

RAY: And unless that switch is fully engaged, the buzzer is going to come on, along with the dome light and dashboard warning.

TOM: My guess is that the hinges on one of your doors are worn out and the door isn't closing correctly. That wouldn't be a surprise on a car that's approaching the two-decade mark.

RAY: If I had to guess, I'd try the driver's door first. Why? Because it's the door that gets opened and closed the most over the life of the vehicle.

TOM: You can try this experiment: Next time the buzzer goes off, roll down the window and get your whole arm on the outside of the door. Then pull the door closed as hard as you can. If you can get the buzzing to stop when you pull, and start again when you release the pressure, you've found the offending door.

RAY: If that experiment doesn't work, you'll have to engage an able-bodied assistant to help you push harder. While the buzzer is sounding, have your assistant stand outside the car and push on the door with both hands.

TOM: If that stops the buzzing, have that assistant run alongside the vehicle for the next few years, pushing on the door, until something more serious breaks.

RAY: Actually, if you get no results on the driver's door, try the driver's-side sliding door next, and then work your way around the vehicle.

TOM: And once you've found it (or even if you can't identify it on your own), a body shop probably is your best bet to have it fixed. Try to get it done before you go completely nuts, Danny. Good luck.


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