This is Zep 505 cleaner. I love it.

This is Zep 505 cleaner. I love it.

Car restoration is glamorous right?

A guy gets his hands dirty, uses a ratchet and some wrenches, maybe gets cut a few times. Women in the area get turned on. (Or a woman does it, men get turned on, we’re all equal here.)

I don’t remember an episode of Overhaulin’ where they spent two days using roll after roll of paper towels to get 26 years worth of gunk, grime, dog (and human) hair, slime, mud, rust, sand, and glue off of the car before any of the real magic can start to happen.

How was your weekend? Mine was great, thanks.

OK, it’s not too surprising. Our 1987 Dodge Ram is filthy. The old guy who owned it first definitely had a dog or two, and they just loved to go bye bye in daddy’s truck. This is also the luxury model with power windows and power locks so obviously both of those are broken. The door sills are rusty and filthy. All the interior molding needs to come off. It’s a cornucopia.

Starting with the doors, there are special tools you can use to remove the clips holding the door panels onto the doors. The Shop Truck came with the door panels already removed as part of the previous owner’s futile attempt to fix the power locks, so that saved some time — glass half full. Glass half empty: The doors looked like this:


Right out of the gate, I want to take off that plastic lining. I’ll replace it later, but it’s dirty and in my way right now. Peel SLOWLY, because the plastic is prone to ripping, and the glue is a pain in the ass to get off. There’s also a dent on the bottom-right that I’ll have to fix eventually. We’re also starting to see rust on the bottom of the door.

Now we’re starting to see better. There is some rust on the window regulator, which is a little concerning. The tape is coming off the wiring for the windows/locks, so I’ll wrap that up with some new electrical tape. The speakers are clearly not 6″x9″ so they’ll come off.

I removed the power lock actuators, which I’ll get into in a future post. I did this because the doors wouldn’t lock with the jammed actuators. It’s not like the windows, which are electrical or nothing. Removing the lock actuator basically turns the lock into a manual, which will be fine until I replace the electrical parts.

Now, we do some scrubbing. Paper towels are your friend, and don’t be afraid to use just under a roll per door.

I am a fan of Zep 505 cleaner. I found it for under $5 at my local home improvement store.

// Widgets

Take a section of the door, working from the top, above the window glass, downward. Don’t worry about the glass yet…that’s what glass cleaner is for. I like the 505 cleaner because it is a degreaser, and there’s a lot of grease to be de’d on an old car door. Spray, wipe, repeat. Don’t forget the door jams, under the door, the windowsill, and inside the door panel. Hit everything except the glass and the electronics. Don’t spray the window mechanism or the lock with your 505 cleaner.

Next, if you’re like most owners of 80s and 90s vehicles, you probably have some useless, not-funny-in-1990 stickers on your window. I think my guy had something about guns and ammo covering the “seatbelt safety” manufacturer sticker on the window. Removing old stickers takes patience and a razor blade. Don’t waste time with specialty tools designed to remove stickers. Buy WD-40 (you should have it already), drop some in a paper towel, soak the sticker, then use a razor to carefully remove the sticker, re-applying the WD-40 to get any residual glue or gunk left behind.

To clean the windows, use any glass cleaner. You can’t go wrong with Windex. Clean the outside and inside of the window and the mirror glass.

Let’s get back to WD-40 for a second. I love it. I first wrote about it for my old blog back in 2006. It goes without saying, but if you’re doing any kind of project like this, make sure you have a fresh bottle handy.

With your straw-pointed can of WD-40, you’re going to hit all the moving parts now. The door latch. The door catch. The lock mechanism. The door hinge connecting it to the car. The door handle. Anything metal and squeaky will get the WD-40 treatment.


I put an odor absorbing canister in the truck a few days ago, and it will also help with the smell of the cleaners we just used. This is a 1-2 hour job for both doors, and it’s not a bad little day project when you’re waiting for some parts to come in the mail. We’re left with a nice, clean door and smooth mechanisms all around.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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