Coming Unhinged by Removing Vintage Hot Rod Door Hinge Pins

Remove vintage door hinge pins and never touch a hammer

By Gerry Burger – Photography by the Author

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Removing stubborn hinge pins from an 84-old door can be a challenge. We designed and fabricated this hinge pin press to remove the hinge pins on our four doors.

Removing stubborn hinge pins from an 84-old door can be a challenge. We designed and fabricated this hinge pin press to remove the hinge pins on our four doors.

Building a hot rod involves myriad mundane jobs and while this work may not show in the end, they are essential to moving a project along. They can also present challenges along the way. Once such task is removing the doors from a 1936 Ford Phaeton. Now phaetons aren’t exactly the most rigid body ever produced and when you factor in the wood framed doors and A and B-pillars, these bodies can be downright flimsy.

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Since our doors are wood framed and mount to wood-braced A and B-pillars we were looking for a kinder, gentler method of pin removal.
Work began by cutting two pieces of ¼ x 1-1/2 flat stock three inches long.

Our project car is a good solid example and the wood appears to be in very nice condition. The doors all fit reasonably well with typical factory gaps.  While the wood appears good, we felt it was wise not to attempt to unbolt the hinges from the A and B-pillars as disturbing those mounting points could lead to major problems. If you don’t unbolt the hinges from the body the only other way to remove the doors is to remove the hinge pin and separate the hinge. That sounds simple enough but we are quite certain our Phaeton has never had the doors removed in its 83-year history. We expected them to be stubborn, and as it turns out we would not be disappointed.

We wanted all holes to be precisely aligned so we tack welded the plates together prior to drilling. Keeping all holes in alignment will ensure the pressure exerted from the bolts will be vertical and not bind.
Next, we marked the location of the three holes and drilled the two outboard holes to 5/16-inch while the center hole was drilled to ¼-inch.
Using a small air grinder, we dressed the scale off the hot roll steel until we had good clean metal. This is a must if you plan on TIG welding.
The three bolts were tightened to hold the nuts firm to the surface in preparation for TIG welding.

Once again due to the structural shortcomings of a Phaeton body we knew hammering the hinge pins out was not an option. And so, we decided what we needed was a hinge pin press. No, it’s not the latest fitness craze, rather it is a small mechanical press we fabricated to effectively jack the pins out of the hinge.

All three nuts were welded to the bottom side of the base plate. We then ground-off the end tack welds and separated the top plate from the bottom plate by removing the bolts. This completed the bottom plate.
We measured the diameter of the top of the hinge pin and determined that a 9/16-inch clearance hole was required for the top plate.
We applied penetrating oil for several days in hopes of breaking down some of the rust between the pin and the hinge.
After drilling the center hole out to 9/16-inch on the top plate we did a quick test fit to ensure the top of the pin had clearance to move upward.

Fabricating the press is straight-forward metal work involving cutting two pieces of ¼ x 1-1/2-inch steel three inches long. To be certain all holes would precisely align, we tack welded the ends of the pieces together and then marked and centerpunched our three holes for drilling. The two outboard holes were drilled for 5/16-inch bolts while the center hole was drilled to ¼-inch. The center hole locates the hinge pin with a ¼-20 bolt that serves as the push pin, while the two outboard bolts exert the jacking pressure.

This is the completed pin press, version 1.0. We thought it would be stout enough to push out a hinge pin.
Prior to attempting to remove the pin we spent a little time with a fine file cleaning of the paint from the small part of the protruding pin.

After drilling the three holes we inserted two 5/16-inch bolts in the outboard holes and a ¼-inch bolt in the center hole. We then moved to the welding table and TIG welded the nuts to the bottom plate with our Miller Welding Synchro-wave 200. The bolts were then removed and the end tack welds were ground off to separate the plates. We took the top plate over to the drill press and drilled the center hole out to 9/16-inch. This would allow the top of the hinge pin to pass upward through our press. We then threaded two 5/16 x 3-1/2-inch bolts in the outboard holes while a ¼ x 1-inch bolt was threaded up into the ¼-20 nut we had welded in place, and with that we were ready to go do some pin pressing.

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After carefully aligning the ¼-20 bolt with the hinge pin we gently snugged the bolt up against the pin. Take you time to ensure the bolt is perfectly aligned with the pin.
With the center bolt aligned we tightened the two outboard bolts to provide the actual jacking pressure. Finally, the pin moved upward but as you can see the press was bending under the pressure.

We had been lubricating the hinge with penetrating oil for several days to help free the pin. Hinge pins on early Fords generally protrude through the bottom of the hinge. It is only about 1/16-inch but you don’t want to expand that end of the pin or raise a burr on the pin.  With that thought in mind, we used a small piece of ¼-inch steel plate over the center hole in the lower plate. This would only be used to initially move the pin until it was flush with the bottom of the hinge. Next, we began to tighten the two 5/16 bolts to pull the two plates together and thereby push the pin upward. Now that sure sounds easy but it turns out that pin was not going to move easily. We cranked on the bolts until the steel plates were bending when suddenly with an audible snap the pin moved upward 1/16 of an inch. As we all know, that first movement is always the hardest.

So we went back to the welding table and after straightening the original pieces of flat stock we added these vertical braces to the press. We also cut a small piece of ¼-inch flat stock to use in the initial press. Hinge press 2.0.
We now moved to the lower hinge on the same door, but with a much-improved press. The hinge pin protrudes about 1/16-inch below the hinge so we used the small piece of flat stock as a pusher plate. This broke the pin free for initial movement until the pin was flush with the bottom of the hinge.

With the hinge pin now flush with the bottom of the hinge we loosened the press, removed the plate and then threaded the ¼-inch bolt in until it protruded above the plate. Taking special care to center the bolt on the bottom of the hinge pin, we carefully tightened the two outboard bolts to pull the pieces together. Do not try to tighten the ¼-inch bolt as a jack as that small bolt will not have the power required to move the hinge pin. Rather, use that small bolt as a locating pin with the actual pressing power coming from the two 5/16-inch bolts.

This shows how much the flat stock pushed the pin upward. The initial movement is the most difficult as it breaks the splined section of the pin free from the hinge.
After the initial movement we removed the flat plate and threaded the ¼-inch bolt upward approximately 3/8-inch. We then tightened the two outboard bolts which continued to push the hinge pin upward. We opted to weld just one vertical brace to the lower plate, this made it easier to see when the push bolt was aligned with the hinge pin.

The top ¼-inch of the Ford hinge pin is splined and over the years the splines tend to rust into the hinge. Once again it took considerable effort to move the pin upward. Once the pin was pushed high enough to clear the splines the pressing operation became much easier. We pushed the pin up about ¾-inch and then removed our homebuilt press. We used an 9/16-inch deep socket, along with a 2×4-inch bolt and a large C-clamp to push the pin the rest of the way out of the hinge. And just like that we had removed a hinge pin quite gently with no stress to the structural part of the 1936 Ford body.

As we tightened the pin continued to lift out of the hinge and this time, we had no distortion on our homebrewed press. Those two notches on the ends of the plates ensure we have plates in proper orientation.
Our press pushed the pin out about a ½-inch but the stubborn pin was still resisting removal.
Since the pin was moving smoothly, we opted for a simpler removal system using a 9/16 deep socket and a 1-1/2-inch bolt.

We learned a few things on that first pin. First it seems the ¼-inch steel was a bit too thin to take the stresses of pressing the pin.  We modified our hinge pin press with vertical reinforcing plates that effectively stiffened the press and made removing subsequent hinges easier. Also, using a press like this would be easier with two people. It is imperative that the push pin bolt is perfectly aligned with the hinge pin. Having one person locate the push pin on the hinge pin while the second person tightens the bolts would speed things up considerably. Finally, while this method protects the structural integrity of the body, the hinge pin press will definitely damage the paint on the hinges.

A large C-clamp put the squeeze on the bolt and pin and we had the pin completely removed from the hinge.
This is the hinge pin press available from Bob Drake Reproductions. Where we used grade eight bolts this press comes with hardened staggered length pins so you can press the pin all the way out of the hinge.
The press works similar to our homebrewed unit but this unit exerts force through the jacking bolt, while our home-brewed unit provides pressure with two clamping bolts.
The Bob Drake pins are hardened to move the most stubborn pins. The hardened steel is brittle so the pins can break, but replacement pin packs are available.
Here’s the object of all our pressing work. Using a pin press leaves the pin completely undamaged. We will spend a couple of minutes with a wire brush to clean out the lubricating veins in the pin and they will be reused. This may not be necessary, but we bagged and marked each pin so it will go back into the same hinge. Bob Drake sells replacement pins in mild steel and stainless steel.

So we have taken one more step toward the completion of our phaeton. We spent the better part of a day to build the press and remove the first pin. After bracing our homebrewed press, subsequent pins were removed in about 15 minutes each. So, we can now remove the doors for bodywork and paint. We managed to do it without creating any structural damage to the car, so we were pleased to have met the challenge. But wait there’s more… of course right after we removed the pins with our homebrewed press a buddy casually mentioned, “You know Bob Drake sells a hinge pin press right?”  Well, no, actually we didn’t know but we do now. We have included photos of that press in this story for folks who prefer to save the time of fabricating a press at home. Store-bought or homebrewed it’s still all about being in the garage.  MR


Bob Drake
(800) 221-3673

Harbor Freight

Miller Welds

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