Door "bonk" hollow sound repair DIY for gen 5 - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 09:23 PM Thread Starter
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Door "bonk" hollow sound repair DIY for gen 5

Hi Everyone,

I just bought a used 2015 Outback (love it) but noticed that when closing the front passenger door, it made a hollow “bonk” sound rather than the solid “thud” that the other doors made. And sometimes when driving over larger bumps, I was hearing a faint hollow metallic sound from the passenger side of the interior. After reading Squidchief’s post here, I figured I was experiencing the same problem that he was, so I followed his instructions for the repair since my Outback is way out of warranty (102,000 miles on the odometer).

The repair worked for me, so I decided to write up the steps in detail for anyone that wants to do it. Disclaimer: I’m no pro, so I take no responsibility for your work, errors, breakage, etc. ;-) Just trying to be helpful to any DIYers out there.

The hollow “bonk” sound when closing the door is caused by the outer sheet metal of the door vibrating. Why does this happen? Inside the door, there are two horizontal supports, and during manufacturing, soft foam blobs (a little smaller than ping pong balls) are placed between the inside of the door metal and the two supports to act as dampers. For whatever reason, if the foam blobs separate and/or crack, they no longer provide the necessary cushioning, and the door metal audibly vibrates when it is closed, going over bumps, etc.

Squidchief’s solution is to reinforce the foam blobs with a high quality silicone sealant/caulk. Here’s how I did it:

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 09:24 PM Thread Starter
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Tools I used:
1. High quality silicone sealant/caulk from your hardware store (I picked DAP Dynaflex Ultra since it retains elasticity when it cures). It's here on Amazon.
2. Caulk gun
3. Philips head screwdriver
4. Small flat head screwdriver
5. Headlamp or flashlight to see your work
6. Nitrile or latex gloves for handling/applying sealant
6. Optional: thin plastic blade to aid in removing door panel without scratches

Steps:
(This takes about 60 to 90 minutes total. Make sure the window is up before you start, and read the directions on the sealant to make sure you are applying it within the prescribed temperature & humidity range.)

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 09:28 PM Thread Starter
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Disassembly:

(Photos of some of these steps below)

1. Use the small flat head screwdriver to lift up two small plastic panels/covers that are over a couple of Philips head screws that you will need to remove. One is next to the door handle, the other is down in the armrest hand grab area.
2. Use the Philips head screwdriver to remove the two screws you just exposed.
3. To remove the door panel, you will pull the panel outward, working around the sides and bottom to release seven plastic retainers. I started on the inner side near the hinges because I could get my fingers to pull the panel out. I counted the “pop” sounds as the retainers came free. Six are around the edges, and one is about in the center of the door.
4. Once the seven plastic retainers are free, carefully lift the whole panel upward. It has a lip along the upper edge (against the window), that conveniently lets the panel hang in place there. As you lift it free, go slowly to reveal the backside of the panel, where you will see cable linkage for the door handle & lock as well as several wire harness plug-ins on the back of the door panel. I have a 2015 Premium OB, so there were four wiring connections: one for the power window switch, one for the power lock switch, one for the little blue LED light in the armrest, and one for the low edge/puddle light.
5. Carefully unplug each of the wiring connections mentioned above (for however many you have on your panel). They have little locks/latches that you need to release with a very small flathead screwdriver in order to unplug them.
6. Gently swing the door panel outward, being careful not to pull or strain the cable linkage for the door lock & handle. I put a step stool next to the door with my tool bag on it and it happened to be just the right height to support the panel vertically (see photo). I guess you could unscrew the linkage and door handle assembly to completely separate the panel from the door, but I didn’t want to tamper with the handle/lock if it wasn’t necessary.
7. Unplug the wiring connector to the speaker, and remove the four Philips head screws holding the speaker in place. Remove the speaker from the door and set it aside. This gives you one point of access to the inner door.
8. In the middle of the door, you will see a silver metal bracket that the armrest screws into (you removed the screw in step two). Now remove the two screws holding this bracket onto the door.
9. On the high left, above the speaker hole, there is a larger wiring connector that is attached to the door. Carefully slide it to the left to release it from the door, then separate the plugs.
10. Carefully start separating the plastic moisture barrier (rubber sound dampening is attached to it) from the door. You will see it is held in place by some sticky black adhesive. I found that if you are careful, the adhesive is fully reusable. Just go slowly and don’t tear the plastic moisture barrier. You will pull some of the wires through pre-cut holes in the barrier as you go. I left the outer (vertical) edge near the door latch in place so I didn’t have to remove the barrier completely.
11. You will now see a black plastic cover attached to the door metal with four more plastic pop-on retainers. At the top is a single wire retainer you can pry free from the plastic, then pop off the four retainers to remove the cover. You now have your second main access point to the inner door.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 09:29 PM Thread Starter
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These photos show the horizontal support bar and the foam blobs. Look closely and you will see the cracks; I circled them in red in one of the images.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 09:30 PM Thread Starter
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Fixing the problem:
12. Shine your flashlight inside and look carefully at the foam blobs between the round (lower) horizontal bar and the door sheet metal. I used my fingers to gently push the door outward, and that’s when I could clearly see that the foam was cracked and separated, even though it was still fairly pliable and soft. My photos show the cracks I found.
13. Going through the speaker hole and the other larger hole, apply your silicone sealant/caulk over the tops of each foam blob. Because these are tight spaces, I decided not to try and get the caulk gun in there; I just squirted the sealant onto some cardboard and used my (nitrile gloved) fingers to reach in and apply the sealant. Make sure the sealant forms a consistent “bridge” from the door metal, across the foam blob, and well onto the round metal support bar. Think of it as a band-aid. I was pretty liberal with the sealant, thinking it doesn’t need to look pretty; it just needs to hold well so I don’t have to get in here again later. Use your best judgment in how much and where to apply it to fully bolster the horizontal bar across the foam and onto the door sheet metal. I also tried to push the door metal just a little to open up the cracks in the foam and then force the sealant down into the cracks with my gloved fingers. I think I used 60% of the sealant tube for the whole job. I didn’t need to do anything to the upper support bar foam blobs, just the lower one in my case.
14. Once the sealant is applied, you can leave everything open for a few hours to let it dry, or just close it up if you are short on time. Unless your car is going to sit outside in extreme weather conditions right after you do this, the sealant should fully cure in a couple of days.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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Reassembly and testing:
15. Work in reverse order to close it all up. Put the black plastic cover in place first, reattaching the one wiring retainer to it. When you re-apply the plastic moisture barrier, be careful to note where wires need to be brought back through, and especially make sure the screw holes for the silver metal armrest bracket (center of door) line up correctly. Reinstall the speaker and plug it in. Screw the silver metal armrest bracket back into the center of the door. Reconnect the large white wiring plug in the upper left after you bring it through the moisture barrier and slide it back onto its retainer on the door. Swing the door panel over and reconnect the wiring plugs you removed earlier. Hang the upper edge of the panel on the door at the window, but don’t push it back flat into place yet.
16. Put your key in the ignition and turn the car to “on.” Test the power window switch on the door panel and on the driver’s main panel. If the window will go up and down using the switch on the door panel, but the “auto” function doesn’t work, and the switch on the driver’s main panel doesn’t operate the window, don’t worry. It just means the switch needs to be reset since it didn’t have power for a time. Read the instructions under the heading “Initialization of power window” in your owner’s manual (page 2-36 in my 2015 manual) on how to reset it (easy).
17. If everything is working, turn the car off. Push the panel back into place, lining up the plastic pop-in retainers with their holes. Remember, there are six around the door edges, and one in the center. Then re-install the two screws in the door pull area and the door handle area, close the little plastic covers, and you are done.
18. Carefully close the door and see if it sounds better. I tried not to open and close the door for three days just to give the adhesive full time to cure.

I hope this write-up is helpful to anyone out there that has the same “door bonk” problem that I had. I am guessing this issue could happen with any of the doors, and the fix would be similar, just maybe a few changes in the work flow depending on which door it is, etc.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 10:13 PM
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Excellent. I have the factory installed side protective moldings on my 2017. I think they stiffen the door quite a bit.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-18-2018, 01:30 PM
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Very interesting design approach they took to add foamy blobs to bond the door panels to a rigid support member. If you had a scavenged junker door it might be illuminating to see how flexible/brittle those blobs are a low temperatures.

I imagine that if they were poor in low temperatures you could be riding down a potholed road at -20c and have a bunch of those break free.

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-03-2018, 07:17 PM
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Thanks for this walkthrough. Just did this myself. Now it sounds like a real door.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 10:53 PM
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Ed, Thanks for your photos and detailed descriptions. It really helped me out. With the door panel off, I took the opportunity to upgrade the stock speakers to some Kickers. What a difference!

Also, if your arms are small enough, you can get in and apply the silicone through the speaker hole itself. This worked for me.

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