Back in December, while we were driving to SMOFCon, the rear door of the Astro jammed shut while we were stopped overnight in Tonopah. We haven't yet fixed that, and today we went to the Pick-N-Pull in Sparks to see if we could find a replacement door latch, and more importantly, so that Lisa might get a chance to see how the whole thing fits together. The rear door design on the Astro is terrible. It is nearly impossible to get at the mechanisms inside the door while the door is closed.
Here's a picture of a 1990 Astro right rear door (it's the same design) with the upholstery removed so you can see the sheet metal of the door. See the plastic molding? You can't remove it when the door is closed because the screw holes are all inside the area hidden when the door is closed. Lisa experimented with this door and found that if you can get into the large open space in the sheet metal at the upper right, it's relatively easy to reach the latch from the inside, pull up on it, and open the door. But how can we get at this in the first place? In the actual door, there's a thick pad of carpeted upholstery covering everything, and no way to remove it. As a last resort, we could cut a hole through it, but we really don't want to do this because then repairing the hole in the upholstery would be a challenge. Some sources suggest removing the screws that hold the speaker at the upper left in place, pushing it into the door (it will fall down into the door if you do this), then reaching through the door over to the latch. You have to have very long, very thin arms to do this. Neither Lisa nor I think we could do it.
After some experimentation, Lisa thinks that she may be able to pry the molding on the right side of the door away (on that side it is held in place by brackets, not screws) far enough to expose a small hole (you can't see it in that picture because it is behind the molding to the right of the upper-right hole in the sheet metal) into which she can stick a long screwdriver, or more likely a custom-made piece of metal that she'll have to fabricate, and she should be able to manipulate this into lifting the latch and opening the door. Once the door is open, it's a relatively easy affair to remove the molding and access panel and replace the latch. That assumes that the latch broke in one of the ways we think it did.
The Astro pictured had already had the rear latch salvaged, but there was another one on the lot that still had its latch. This second one had Dutch doors with a long upper hatch. As near as we could figure, in normal operation you could only open the upper hatch electrically, and it was shut. Someone had tried knocking out all of the glass and had pried back the interior molding, but was unable to get the door open. Without the upper door open, it did not look possible to open the Dutch doors and get at the mechanism we needed. Lisa climbed inside the junked Astro, put down some bits of loose carpeting over the broken glass, and pried the interior handle off. Having done that, she was able with a screwdriver to manipulate the latch. The upper hatch sprang open. Success! The Dutch doors then easily opened on the mechanical latch, and within a few minutes Lisa had the access cover off and the door latch mechanism removed. We paid $14 (plus the $4 they charge for the privilege of entering their junkyard) and were on our way. Lisa tells me that her confidence in being able to fix the rear door on the Astro is now very high, and that's good because it's very difficult to load our large gear like the Match Game SF tech kit without the rear door working.
After a brief stop at the Petro Truck Stop down the street to get cleaned up from our junkyard foray, we proceeded to undertake our grocery shopping, then headed home. Lisa, who had done the hard work (I just held tools and carried things), was tired out and turned in early when we got home, but she assures me that she feels very good about tackling the door on the Astro very soon.