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Replacing the Weatherstripping on a C4 Corvette

Technically Speaking

James Berry Jul 31, 2019
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Question:

Hello, Vette magazine. I wanted to thank you for all of the how-to articles you publish. I own a C4 Corvette and love to work on it on the weekends.

I purchased a complete weatherstrip kit about a year ago, but have been putting this project off. I have never installed any weatherstrip before and am unsure what to expect.

My weatherstrip is so deteriorated that I have never removed the top. I am afraid if I remove the top the weatherstrip may leak or, worse, may come off with the top. I would love to take the top off and take the Corvette for a long cruise down the coast.

Could you give me a simple how-to install procedure and what problems I may encounter?

Please keep the how-to articles coming, especially the C4 articles.

Thanks,

East Coast Chris

Answer:

Chris, I started in the garage with my dad and cousin so I appreciate the weekend thrashers that get in the garage, get dirty and do their own work.

It's hard to believe C4 Corvettes are three decades old. Over time, all weatherstrip will crack and tear. The rubber will break down, especially in the corners, where the weatherstrip can shrink and create a gap. This can cause water leaks, a poor seal and wind noise. The deteriorating weatherstrip can even leave an unpleasant appearance for everyone to see.

This is a great DIY weekend project that most anyone can tackle. If you can get a friend to help out it will make the project go a lot faster and be more enjoyable.

I recommend breaking this job down into sections and replacing one weatherstrip seal at a time. This will give you a stopping point where the vehicle can be put back on the road and the project can then be picked up again until it's all finished. Replacing the weatherstrip itself does not require any specialized tools, so whatever you have already in your toolbox should do the trick.

Chris, you asked about any problems you could run into when replacing the old weatherstrip. The weatherstrip around the windshield can be hiding an underlying problem rust. We will cover replacing the windshield weatherstrip so we can point out where these problems can hide.

Start by disconnecting the battery since the doors or rear hatch may be open while replacing the weatherstrips. You don't want the courtesy lights to slowly discharge the battery. Also, while you are removing the old weatherstrip, we recommend laying the new weatherstrip out in the sun to give it some extra pliability.

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Remove the roof panel to gain access to the windshield weatherstrip. The weatherstrip is held in place with plastic pushpins and adhesive. Once you have removed the pushpins simply start removing the old weatherstrip. Don't be alarmed if it comes out in small pieces. Use a small plastic scraper to aid in the removal.

The most time consuming process will be removing the excess glue and the small pieces of weatherstrip stuck in the C-channel. A hooked pick will make this part of the removal process much easier. The channels need to be thoroughly cleaned to prepare them for the new seals, so be prepared to expend some elbow grease.

Once the weatherstrip is removed it's possible you'll find that moisture was trapped under the weatherstrip and caused rust to form around the windshield frame. Unfortunately, this is common. If it's just surface rust it will need to be cleaned, treated with a neutralizer, and painted. If the rust has penetrated the windshield frame you will need to have this professionally repaired. This may involve a simple repair or it could require the complete replacement of the windshield frame.

After any rust repair, and with the weatherstrip channel frame clean, test-fit the new weatherstrip before breaking out the adhesive. This is where a helper will come in handy to help locate where the weatherstrip center, corners and edges will fit so once the adhesive is applied everything should slide right into place. During the test-fit you can use a marker or a small piece of masking tape to mark alignment points for the perfect fitment location for the weatherstrip.

After the test-fit is perfected, it's time to apply the weatherstrip adhesive. Tip, only apply adhesive to the area you will be working. On a long piece of weatherstrip you can break this down into several small sections. To get the weatherstrip adhesive to work correctly apply a thin layer on the hard surface (e.g., windshield frame) and then another on the weatherstrip. After the two surfaces to get tacky apply another thin layer to the hard surface and then install the weatherstrip, working the edges into the channels using a plastic tool. Before the glue sets, insert the retaining screws or plastic pushpins.

Install the top, roll up the windows and visually inspect for any gaps. If no gaps are found it's time for a water leak test. Get inside the vehicle and have your helper run a garden hose over the vehicle. Mark any leaks with a grease pencil.

If you have any leaks you may be able to shim the weatherstrip using vacuum hose behind the weatherstrip. There are many different sizes of vacuum hose to help in this process.

When you get to the door weatherstrip, the door panels will need to be removed. Before you start on this portion of the project inspect the outer door seal strip to see if these need replacing. They normally do not come in the weatherstrip kit.

There you have it, Chris. So get in the garage, get that top off and go for a ride down the coast before you start the project. Trust me, you may never put the top back on again. Vette

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Here are some of the tools that can make the job easier: a plastic retaining nut remover, a small scraper to remove excess glue, a straight or hook pick to remove excess glue and small pieces of weatherstrip glued into the C-channel and a filler spreader or flat piece of plastic to help push the weatherstrip into the C-channel. If you feel brave you can use a small wire brush on a slow rpm drill to help remove any excess glue, but be careful not to slip and damage any painted surfaces.

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You can use a hooked pick to clean the glue and excess weatherstrip out of the channel.

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I like to use a black weatherstrip adhesive. Be sure not to use too much weatherstrip adhesive, as too much will not allow for a good bond and the excess can squeeze out and be difficult to clean up.

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Once the weatherstrip is removed it's possible you may find rust and rot around the windshield frame caused by moisture being trapped under the weatherstrip.

 

 

Photography by James Berry

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