Rid your GP of squeaks and rattles

By: Mike De Quardo (mad@execpc.com)

Despite some reservations, here is my $0.02 on the squeak/rattles/noises threads. I've had a half dozen or so of these myself and know how maddening it can be to try to rid yourself of them. This experience is from my 97 SE but I suspect it applies to all flavors. As always, YMMV.

Please note that doing any or all of these may void some parts of your warranty - but only if you screw up! :-) If you are at all uncomfortable removing these pieces please stop and make an appointment with your dealer. Note that no mention of any wiring mods are made. Nothing needs to be done in that area (except for the one removal of the fog light switch) and none is recommended. Minor safety precautions are noted in step 6.

Here goes: Fixes rated with DDDD's for 'degree of difficulty'. 'D' equals easiest. 'DDD' equals toughest.

1) Glove box: the first to present itself. Fix: apply several self-adhesive felt pads to the upper-left side (the inside part of course) of the door. 'D'

2) Instr. Panel Surround (popping noise): this is the 4" wide strip of plastic closest to the windshield. There is actually a TSB for this involving revised attachment clips that your dealer should address for you if requested (TSB #738311). This is a tricky fix to do yourself, but it can be done. 'DD to 'DDD' Details: The trick here is that it's difficult (impossible IHMO) to remove this panel without losing some of the clips. Read on. First, pry gently with a small screwdriver blade to pop up the panel holding the ambient light sensor, etc. Then unscrew (1/4 turn) the light sensor, leave it loose, and place the small panel aside. I believe the correct procedure is to lift up from both front corners at each side (closest to you as you sit in the car) and free the 4 or so clip attachments from the dash end of the panel. Then lift up and pull to remove the rest of the panel closest to the windshield. I've not been able to do this without losing several clips. Next step is to have on hand a magnetic probe with a small tip to delve into the slots and holes to retrieve said clips. Be creative as you might have to pull and rotate them to get them out. Place the clips back on the tabs on the underside of the panel. The noise is caused by expansion and contraction of the clips in the slots. Place a generous amount of grease on the clips and reinstall by first fitting the edge closest to the windshield (tipping up panel) at a 45 degree angle and pushing the clips snugly into the slots. Tilt panel down until front-edge clips engage. Go around the panel perimiter to make sure all clips are fastened. Grab sensor and return it to the small panel and press the panel back into the larger one. After this is done cut a 1/4 inch long piece of 1/4 or 3/8 inch rubber tubing (vacuum line tubing) and 'wedge' this into the left side gap of the panel between it and the 'A' panel molding. You're done!

3) Lower steering column panel: This removes with 2 plastic push pins and 2 Phillips screws underneath the steering column. This panel can be then pulled straight out. Apply thin felt pads to the mating surface with the main dash panel. 'D'

4) Console and insert: Apply small rubber tubing strips (vacuum hose line diameter cut length-wise, a half inch or so long) to each side where the console butts up against the main dash. For the insert itself (the part that includes the cupholders) apply suitable silicone grease to the attaching clips. Again a bit of a tricky fix for the removal/reinstall-see #6 below. 'DD'

5) Side mirror panels: Only happened once to me but a huge squeak was silenced by wiping a small amount of silicone along the 3 inch or so vertical mating surface between the plastic and the weather-strip. Curiously it only happened to my left mirror though I should mention I had the 98 mirrors installed on my '97 and this may have brought about the problem in the first place. 'D'

6) Main instrument panel: Two big problems here: 1) the various clips need to have silicone grease applied to them. 2) The back of the area by the center vents is very flimsy and prone to many creaking noises. The last time I had the panel off I applied epoxy to all the attachment points (very weak design IMHO though to be fair, I've had the panel off half a dozen times and probably exacerbated the problem myself). This is also a tricky removal/reinstallation but is quite 'doable' for the average person. 'DDD' Details: In order to remove the main dash surround it is necessary to remove the lower steering panel as in # 3 above and also the cupholder/console insert as follows: Remove the felt bin that comprises the console storage area by simply pulling out. Remove the small storage bin in front of the shifter by lifting it out. Open the cupholders. Carefully pry near the console latch and between the console and the insert (near the cupholders). Pry each side until you disengage one or more of the attachment clips. Continue then-using only your hands!-carefully and deliberately towards the front until all clips are loose. Place shifter into neutral (usual safety precautions here, set parking brake, etc.) and then remove the entire insert and set aside. Once this is done you can now remove the dash surround. This large piece is held in place by a half-dozen or more clips which are on the perimeter of the panel. Start from the bottom near the ashtray/radio area and work upwards. They actually come out quite easily. Place the steering wheel into the lowest position. The fog light switch needs to be removed as the last step before removing the entire panel. This simply unclips from the rear of the panel. Once the panel is free, pull up to clear the steering column to remove. This will be a tight fit, but go slow and you should be fine. When you remove this there are 2 very small rubber bumpers that attach to plastic extensions that press against the cluster glass. These come off very easily and might be easy to lose. If you do lose them just place some black electrical tape on the ends of the two plastic extensions - you don't want to add more squeaks!

7) Radio removal and reinstallation: It is very important that the two screws holding the head unit to the dash are not overtightened when replacing the unit. One time I snugged them up and induced a very immediate and annoying rattle/sound when going over any small bump. I was able to trace it to the radio, removed the panel surround, backed off the screws one turn each and, voila', problem solved.

Use caution to remove the panel from the car as the clips can scratch the steering wheel leather and door jam paint easily (been there, done that).

To fix the problems of squeaks and noises I simply did 2 things. 1) Applied grease as in step two above to all the clips and 2) Applied epoxy to the back portion of the vents where the vents attach to the main panel. It's a little difficult to explain but very easy to see where you need to apply the epoxy. The main problem is the 3 center vents though this procedure could be applied to the side ones as well. Looking from the inside of the panel the vents themselves are just sort of pressed into place and attach to small tabs. It is this attachemnt areas that I applied epoxy to. I used a popsicle stick to reach down into the needed areas. You can apply the goop liberally just taking care not to get any in the way of the vent movement but this should not be a problem. I used '5-minute epoxy' that you can get at any hardware store. Just let it set-up for a few minutes before reinstalling.

As usual, reinstallation is the reverse of removal. Carefully place the panel over the steering column (remember to replace the bumpers or tape the plastic extensions) and push down to clear the panel. Once loosely in place replace the fog lamp switch to the back side of the panel. Then, starting from the top, push the panel clips back into position. There is a small felt-like strip that surrounds the inside portion of the panel. Make sure that it stays relatively in place. Continue pressing the panel around the outside making sure all clips are engaged. Once that is done replace the console strip (place shifter into neutral again) and lower steering column panel and you are done!

These are the areas I've addressed in my 27K miles. All noises have now been eradicated. I also had a noise coming from the right rear area that I tore apart the entire back seat, panel, rear sail panel, etc. in an attempt to resolve. I applied a lot of duct tape to places I thought were the problem.

Addition from Mike Grattan:
First, follow Mike De Quardo's instructions for removing the plastic cover under the steering column, the center console, and the instrument panel fascia. You should now have easy access to the DIC assembly.

The DIC assembly is mounted quite loosely just above the air vent duct and can be stabilized by inserting strips of self-adhesive foam rubber weather stripping in between the DIC assembly and the air duct. I used a thin variety of weather stripping called "Camper Mount Foam Tape" by 3M which I purchased at Grand Auto. I cut a few strips of it, removed the backing, and pushed it under the DIC assembly with a small slotted screwdriver while lifting the DIC assembly with another slotted screwdriver. Went for another test drive with the dash panel still removed and NO MORE SQUEAKS!

NOTE: No warranties express or implied and any fixes you attempt are solely at your own risk. Hope this helps some of you.

Questions? Ask Mike De Quardo (mad@execpc.com) or Mike Grattan (racerx@speed-racer.com)