When you’re driving down the highway at a breakneck pace, the last thing you want to hear is a strange noise coming from the car doors. After all, it could signify that the doors weren’t closed properly. And even if you’re strapped in, one of your passengers may not be. As such, learning what to do when your car door rattles would be in everyone’s best interest.
Of course, safety isn’t the only reason you might want to stop the rattling sound. It’s enough to think that it might distract you while you’re driving! Remember, the worst part of this scenario is that it’s basically inescapable, particularly if the source of the noise is something you can’t immediately fix. In that case, you’d have to put up with it until you reach your destination.
Still, depending on the source of the noise, you may be able to get a handle on it within seconds. So with that in mind, I thought we should start this guide by finding out what causes the rattling.
Why Is Your Car Door Rattling When Driving?
There are several reasons you might hear rattling sounds coming from one of your car doors. On the one hand, it could be something completely innocuous, like the door not being shut properly. You might have simply forgotten some knick-knacks in the door pocket. That, at least, would be easy to rectify.
Of course, if your door won’t close all the way, it may not be an issue of insufficient force. Instead, you might be dealing with a misaligned door or just a shifted striker plate. Still, even those problems can be remedied, though bringing the door back in alignment would take significantly longer than fixing the striker plate.
Then again, the issue could be even more complicated, to the point of requiring you to look inside the door. For example, some loose objects may be inside the door, rather than in the pocket. If something inside the door came loose or broke off, it could be bouncing around while you’re driving. To confirm that, you’ll have to give the door a few firm shakes and listen for the distinct sound.
But even if you hear a rattle, you have to be able to recognize the difference between a loose object and the sound of a loose windowpane. If the gaskets that hold the window in place are old and cracked, they may not be able to create a seal when you close it. Without the rubber cushioning, the glass rattles freely against the car frame.
The window opening mechanism is another potential problem. If the pane is no longer affixed to the regulator, you may need to install a new one. But as you will see, that’s easier said than done.
How to Stop Car Door Rattling
No matter how well you soundproof your vehicle, some noises are just too stubborn to do away with for good. Door rattling happens to be one of them. The best thing you can do is be ready to deal with the issue the next time it comes up. Here are some of the ways you might do that.
1. Empty the Door Pocket and Check If the Door Is Shut Properly
First things first: open the door and close it again. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Have you tried turning it off and on again” is an overplayed joke. But in this case, it’s reasonable to start by making sure your doors are closing properly first.
After you empty the door pocket, check if there are any objects in the door frame. If everything is clear, close the door firmly (but not too violently). As we have established, the rattling might have been caused by using inefficient force while closing the door. So we might as well rule that out right away.
2. Adjust the Door Striker
If you feel a snag at the last moment before the door slams shut, check the hook that holds the latch. That part, also known as the striker plate, can shift over time, which can prevent the door from closing properly. Fortunately, it should be pretty easy to fix.
First, clean both the striker plate and the corresponding latch on the door. Then, apply some grease to the striker, and close the door a few times. When you can see an impression of the latch in the grease, you’ll know where the striker should be. All you need to do then is whack it back into place with a rubber mallet.
Alternatively, if you want to avoid looking like a mess, you can play it by ear, like the guy in this video.
What’s more, if the striker plate is a bit too pliant for your liking, you can tighten the screws that hold it in place as well. But if it keeps shifting after you do that, you may have to replace it with a new one.
3. Replace the Window Gaskets
If you notice that your windows vibrate while you’re driving, you probably have a gasket issue. You’ll know it if the rattling noise worsens when you roll them down. What’s more, you may be able to see the cracks in the rubber seal around the glass. Since rubber tends to shrink over time, especially in extreme weather conditions, it may have loosened its grip on the windowpane, causing it to rattle.
Fortunately, the problem should be easy enough to take care of, especially if you manage to find the right materials. Most weatherstrip window molding seals are designed for certain vehicle models. For example, this one should fit the 2008–2010 Toyota Highlanders. If you can’t get your hands on the right seal for your car online, I suggest you take the matter up with your mechanic.
The installation process should be fairly straightforward. First, you’ll simply tug the old seal off and clean the edge of the window frame. You can then replace it with the new rubber trim, as shown in this video. Best of all, many of these seals can be installed without any adhesives.
4. Realign the Door
If your car door is visibly drooping and making odd clicking sounds every time you open and close it, you’ll need to realign it. That just means that one of the hinges that hold it up has come loose over time. But if you have a friend to hold the door up while you work, you should have the whole thing done in an hour.
First, open the door and slide something under it so that your friend isn’t holding all that weight. Then, get to work loosening the bolts that hold both hinges to the door. The key is to keep the bolts in, not remove them entirely. That should allow you to manipulate the height and angle of the door while still being able to quickly secure its new position.
Depending on the type of misalignment you’re trying to fix, there are different bolts you’ll need to loosen. This video shows how to fix the most common alignment problem I’ve come across.
5. Check for Loose Objects Inside the Door
These last few tips all require you to look inside the rattling door. If you’re not sure you’ll be able to take the door apart and put it back together, I suggest leaving this part to the professionals. But if you still want to do it yourself, at least watch some video guides beforehand. Just make sure they show how to open the door panels of the exact vehicle model you own.
Now, I’ve already explained what you’ll have to do in my article about installing sound-deadening mats inside car doors. Once you can see inside the door, you’ll be able to identify objects that might be causing the rattling noise. To secure those loose bits, you could either tape them against the sheet metal of the door or soundproof the whole area. If you need any pointers, you’ll find them in the article I’ve linked to.
6. Stop Speaker Bass Rattle
If you have speakers in the car doors, they might be part of the reason you keep hearing that rattling sound. As I have explained in a previous article, the problem may be caused by something as simple as having the wrong settings on the equalizer. But even if you have to tighten the screws that hold the speaker in the door, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Still, the more likely reason is that the speakers can’t reproduce the bass vibrations well enough, which is causing them to rattle. So, you’ll have to find a way to separate the bass sounds from the speakers. A subwoofer may be just what you need to prevent that kind of noise.
Alternatively, you could ensure that the space behind the speakers is insulated properly. In addition to placing sound-deadening mats inside the door, you can also get special foam rings that are specifically designed to absorb speaker vibrations.
7. Test the Window Opening Mechanism
While you can see inside your car door, you might want to check if everything in it is fully functional. That includes the window opening mechanism.
Now, I can’t claim to be an automotive expert, but I can tell you that your approach will depend on the system you have in your vehicle. With most car manufacturers transitioning away from the manual lever system to an electric one, you’ll probably have to deal with a window regulator.
If the regulator isn’t holding the glass pane firmly, that may be the reason the window is rattling. However, addressing that particular issue isn’t going to be as easy as attaching some sound-deadening mats. As you can see in the video, the disassembly of the system and the installation of a new one require some experience. Therefore, you really should leave that to the professionals.
No More Obnoxious Rattling Car Doors!
Whether your rattling car door poses a real danger to you or not, one thing is certain. As a driver, you can’t afford a moment’s distraction. You’ll need to deal with the rattling sounds as they occur, no matter where they’re coming from.
However, you ought to be especially quick to handle any noises you hear coming from your doors or dashboard. Both can be highly intrusive, so they’re the last things you should be dealing with while trying to focus on the traffic.