Continental R door trim removal

With a little practice, which owners of Conti Rs will probably acquire sooner or later, this can be done in less than an hour.
The pictures can be clicked to see larger versions for more detail.

This account relates to a 1993 car. Later models are likely to be similar, but I cannot guarantee that yours will be identical.

The tools required are simple and few:
  • A broad-bladed screwdriver, mostly used as a lever. A suitably-sharpened strip of hardwood could be even better.
  • Half a dismembered spring clothes-peg, as a lever for light trim and as protection when the screwdriver is used for heavier leverage.
  • A Snap-On (or similar) screwdriver with plain and cross-point bits.
A roll of masking tape is also useful, to secure screws to the parts whence they came: this considerably eases re-assembly, especially as it reduces the likelihood of mislaying the odd screw.

This very poor photograph shows the door before disassembly. It is probably best to start by removing the chrome trim.
Start with the window switch assembly. The finishing plate must be removed to gain access to the securing screws behind it.
Half a clothes peg fits the square hole nicely.
You will need to apply the lever thoughtfully through both holes.
Lever gently and patiently to ease the finisher away.
The securing pegs are top left and bottom right, as the next photograph shows.
With the finisher off, the securing screws can be seen, top right and bottom left. Unscrew and ease the bezel away from the leather. If the leather has been "Connollised" or otherwise refinished, it may adhere, and need to be eased away with fingernails.

It is as well to tape the screws back into their holes in the bezel and replace the finisher. If the nylon "top hat" fasteners are in poor condition, it is a good idea to fit new ones.

This bezel is plastic, and may have cracked if the screws have been over-tightened.

There is a short "flat" at top and bottom of the door-handle's bezel, allowing a thin lever to be inserted. If you need to use a metal implement to get started, it is best to start at the top, where any scratches are unlikely to be seen. You may need to sharpen a clothes-peg lever, as the gap is narrow.

In this picture, it is difficult to see, but there is one such inserted at the top.

Perversely, the pegs are bottom left and top right of this finishing plate!

The "H"-shaped finisher of the door-locking switch is the easiest to remove (pegs top right and bottom left), but beware that, if you lever on the crossbar from the bottom, you will actuate the Bentley's central locking.

You can now see that the door-handle's bezel (metal) is secured by two slotted, cheese-head setscrews and the locking switch's bezel (plastic) by cross-head, countersunk screws. They are easily dropped and always roll into invisibility.

Now, remove the rear door latch's bezel, tape up all the screws, refit the finishing plates to the bezels and set them aside.

Lower the window fully.

The rear cheater panel is a fibreglass moulding, covered with leathercloth. It is located positively at the bottom, slides into position at the top and should be capable of being removed without tools.
However, it can be tricky to get it started, and will almost certainly try to take the end of one of the window rubbers with it (see next pic but one). A lot of care and a little courage is required when dealing with the trapped rubber. The next photograph shows the panel on its way to removal.

You may find it necessary to apply some leverage to get this started. If you use a screwdriver or similar metal lever, a clothes-peg (or two) should be used to protect either or both of the brightwork and trim from scuffing. Lead strip or leather offcuts could be substituted, or a suitable soft lever made up from hardwood lath.

Once the panel has been eased to this point, it can easily be removed by hand and set aside with the accumulating bits and pieces.

Here is an inside view of the last position. It shows the rubber seal (at the top of the photograph), which tends to catch on the cheater panel and obstruct its removal. This is where you need to exercise some courage and lots of care to avoid damaging the rubber.

When you refit, the end of the rubber will spring over the end of the panel and lock it in place.

Now address the front cheater panel. This is the triangular panel at the front of the window, covering the door mirror's securing arrangements.
The photograph shows where to insert a suitable lever (at the top of the panel), with a half-clothes-peg protecting the edge of the panel from damage.

Lever gently to ease the cheater panel away. It is secured by a flat spring clip, engaging a vertical strap welded to the back of the cheater panel.
Ease it about half an inch. The next photograph shows the result from inside.

Here you see that the cheater panel has moved back and rotated clockwise. You can now ease it backwards by hand, remove it and set it aside.
This is the back of the cheater panel, showing its securing strap.
With the front cheater panel removed, you can see the setscrew securing the front of the waistrail to the door. Remove this setscrew.
Here you can see the setscrew securing the rear of the waistrail. Remove this also. The waistrail is now held in place only by a row of spring clips, running the length of the door seam. At this stage, that fact is not obvious. It is as well to check at this point whether "Connollising" or a similar process is likely to cause the bottom trim of the waistrail to adhere to the door trim behind it (see the following photographs if the import of this is not clear). If so, it may be possible to run a fingernail carefully between the bottom of the waistrail's lower trim and the leather panel behind it.

The waistrail needs to be levered up from the end nearest the rear of the door, as shown in the following photographs.

This shows where I start to lever the waistrail upwards. You may want to lay a strip of lead or leather beneath the screwdriver or other lever, as you will be levering on the window glass at the point where it just emerges. If in doubt, start further towards the rear of the door.
Lever until the rear of the waistrail has risen about an inch, as shown here.
This rather poor photograph shows how things should look from the inside. Note the bottom trim of the waistrail: I mentioned previously that this may have adhered to the door trim by "Connollising" or similar. It should now be clear where you need to run a fingernail to release any such adhesion.

You should now be able to lift the waistrail away from the top of the door. It is heavier than you might think - solid applewood, I believe (or is it cherry?), beneath the veneer.

Lay the waistrail carefully aside and tape its setscrews into their eyes at either end. You are now about to address the armrest and grab-handle, which secure the door trim panel firmly to the door.

First, remove the trim panel covering the door pocket.
This is secured at its bottom by three "fir-tree" clips. Lever firmly where shown by the half-clothes-peg protruding at the bottom of this photograph. You may need something more substantial than a clothes peg, as fir-tree clips hang on like the devil. Once you have opened a sufficient gap, fingers are best. You may need to fettle the trim-panel's brackets afterwards, because they often become distorted during this process.
This photograph, taken from the rear end of the door, shows the panel partly released. It is supported at the top by two metal strips (see next phtograph). Once freed from the fir-trees, hinge it upwards until it comes away in your hand.

Fettle its securing eyes if required and lay it aside.

You can now see the securing tangs with their respective setscrews at either end of the arm-rest and the bottom of the grab-handle assembly. This rather poor photograph does not show them well, but you will see them in real life.
Also visible are the metal strips that support the top of the trim panel that you have just removed.
When reassembling, it is all too easy to tuck the top edge of the trim under these instead of over them.

Remove the setscrews securing the arm-rest.

The arm-rest is now attached to the door frame by three concealed bolts that slide into keyhole slots in the door's frame. This photograph shows the position of the arm-rest in relation to the grab-handle.
When re-assembling, it is important to ensure that the concealed bolt-heads are engaged in the keyhole slots. Note that the arm-rest is firmly attached to the door and this condition must be achieved on re-assembly; this is the most difficult part of re-assembly and care must be taken not to disturb, during subsequent handling, the engagement of the concealed bolts in the threaded sleeves by which they are attached to the arm-rest.

Slide the arm-rest backwards. It will move about a quarter of an inch, just sufficient to disengage it from the slotted part of the "keyhole".

Here, the arm-rest has moved back and can now be removed, with a certain amount of jiggling about to exsinuate (if that is a word) the bolt-heads from their keyholes. The import of the commentary above will now be apparent, since the keyholes themselves can only be discerned later, when the trim panel has finally been removed.

Set the arm-rest aside, having taped its setscrews into its securing eyes and taking care not to disturb the three locating bolts, lest much difficulty be encountered when struggling to relocate the arm-rest later.

The grab-handle is still secured by a setscrew at its bottom (seen in this photograph) and one at the top (not visible here) formerly concealed behind the waistrail.
Remove the bottom screw.

This unit also has a concealed bolt, engaging a keyhole in the door frame. Swing its bottom end towards the rear of the door and jiggle to free it from its keyhole.

This photograph, taken at a 45 degree angle behind and above, shows the grab-handle assembly detached at its bottom and freed from its keyhole, the bolt being visible on the left of the photograph, vertically below the highlight on the door release handle.

The grab-handle incorporates a courtesy light (with a festoon bulb), which must now be disconnected. This is fiddly. In theory, you can prise the light unit out from the front (suitable lever under top edge, at some risk of breaking the wretched thing). In practice, it may have become adherent to the leather, so it is probably best to pull the connectors off from the inside; it is much easier to remove the lamp from the grab-handle assembly on the kitchen table than when attached to the car and glowing warmly.

This photograph, taken almost vertically above, shows clearly the wires supplying the courtesy lamp with electrons and illustrating the fiddly nature of the task. (The strut at the left is my notorious half-clothes-peg, propping it apart for the pic.)
The connectors ought to be at the bottom of the lamp unit, but the chances are that some reader's car will have had it fitted upside-down at some time in its life. Either way, pull them off and push them back into the door through the hole in the trim.
Remove the remaining setscrew holding the grab-handle assembly at its top, hinge it up to release its securing bracket from its slot and set it aside, taping the setscrews into their eyes and taking care not to derange the adjustment of the keyhole bolt during subsequent handling.

The door panel should now be free, save for a row of plastic pegs, set around its periphery and engaging in holes in the door frame. However, it is quite likely that it will not be, because the ineffectiveness of plastic clippery is legendary, particularly when applied to heavy trim panels of the Bentley variety. Ergo, your car, like mine, may well have a self-tapping screw or two to stop the bottom of the panel flapping about when the door is opened.

When assembled, this screw, at the front of the door, is almost hidden beneath the carpet's pile, Here, I have unscrewed it so that you can see it. It is not necessary to remove it entirely - just unscrew enough to free the panel.
Same as previous. This is the screw at the back of the door. Yours (if you have any) may be in slightly different positions.

You can now ease the panel away from the door. If yours has never previously been removed, it may be a bit resistant: I suggest trying to pop out one plastic peg at a time, starting from the top and using fingers rather than instruments, if at all possible.
The panel is quite heavy

This is what the back of the panel looks like. You can see the pegs fairly clearly. If any are broken or ineffective, it is a good idea to replace them.
Here is the door, bereft of its trim. The line of keyhole slots are best seen at full size.
Detail of the rearmost keyhole slot.


Re-assembly is merely a reversal of the above. Points to look out for are: All that said, these are not difficult jobs and ought not to take more than an hour each for removal and refitting, provided that nothing has been broken or mangled.

Having removed the door trim for whatever reason, it is a good opportunity to clean the leather thoroughly, restore its finish if it has become worn and condition it before refitting. The underside edge, in particular, is likely to be moderately dirty - mine was absolutely filthy! Grab-handles and arm-rests can become pretty grubby, too, particularly on the edges where they have been used to close the door.
It takes time to clean away ingrained dirt, as many reapplications of cleaner are needed to ease away the grime without damaging the finish. Heavy scrubbing is not good medicine for upholstery leather.

22 January 2011