I'm a marketing professional with 13+ years experience. Also, I write about stuff and help people fix problems.
Repairing an Interior Car Door Handle Is Actually a Pretty Simple Fix
After a good ten years of use, thousands of door opens, or a brother with ogre-strength, the chances of those flimsy plastic door handles failing, or breaking is pretty high. Fortunately for you, for having found this article, it is a pretty simple thing to fix.
We'll talk about the basics on what to do, and I'll provide links to Amazon where you can sift through a plethora of after-market car door handles, both interior and exterior. The focus of this article is a 1998 Toyota Corolla, with broken interior car door handles, and exactly how to replace them. Be sure to check the comment section below. While this article has worked for nearly everyone, there are tiny problems some people ran into, and those are addressed pretty well in the comments. Thanks, everyone!
Difficulty level: Easy
What Tools, Experience, and Amount of Time Do You Need?
Tools Needed (recommended)
- Utility Knife (or sharp pocket knife)
- Replacement Car Door Handles
- The old screw from each door handle, or,
- replacement screws of similar size
Experience & Time Requirements
- Very little to no experience needed
- Each door handle will take about 20 - 30 minutes (at first)
Read More from AxleAddict
First, you need to order replacement car-door handles. You could go through the dealer, but I've found with a quick search or two on Amazon, I was able to find exactly what I needed. Just remember: sometimes the front handles are different than the back, and that the left-hand (LH) side handles are different from the right-hand (RH) side handles. The rest of this article assumes you have the replacement, interior car door handles.
Here's How to Replace the Broken Car Door Handle
You're going to need to remove the interior door panel. There will be a few screws that you need to remove, but this panel is primarily secure by a series of plastic "snaps". The Toyota Corolla '98 door panel is secure by three screws in addition to the snaps: 1 in the handle casing, and 2 underneath the rubber arm pad in the middle of the panel. I recommend doing it in this order.
- Open the door, and prop it open. Lock the door manually.
- Unscrew the broken door handle. Set screw aside. If you can, remove the broken piece entirely. If it is still connected to the opening mechanism and will not come free, don't worry. We'll handle this later.
- Remove rubber arm pad in the middle of the door panel. This piece snaps off. You may need to jam a flat-head screwdriver underneath the panel to get the leverage. Pull hard, with constant, even pressure, and it will snap off straight up.
- Removing the rubber arm pad will reveal two screws. Unscrew them. Set screws aside.
- Now you're ready to remove the door panel. If driver-side, look at the left side of the door panel and you'll find a small plastic screw. Unscrew it slightly. (this piece is not needed. You will most likely end up forcing it out. If it goes back in, great, if not, no worries.)
- Start at the bottom left or right of the door panel. Put your fingers under the plastic and pull out towards you with firm, even pressure. You will hear a snap, and that section will pull free.
- Work your way around the edges of the door panel snapping each section free.
- Once the entire panel is free, lift it directly up and over the locking mechanism. Support it with your legs. Do not let it fall to the ground. If you have power windows and locks, there will be some power cords and wires coming from the door into the panel. This will restrict how far you can move the panel from the door. Do not touch, fuss, or otherwise disturb these wires.
- You'll see a metal arm, with an L-shape at the end extending out towards where the door handle should be. The tip of the metal arm is to be inserted into the receiving hole on the replacement door handle. There is a piece of plastic that acts as a buffer that may still be connected to the piece of metal. Your new door handles will already have this piece of plastic in the hole. Use whichever one works the best.
- Attach the metal arm to the door handle (with the door handle inserted into its proper place in the door panel. (You may need to snap the metal arm into place inside the door handle. Use the pliers for this)
- Now you're ready to attach the door handle (now in the door panel) to the door itself. There are three arms extending from the back of the door handle. Two of them (top and bottom) are L-shaped, and one it a pole, or cylinder. You will see matching receiving pieces in the door frame. Line these up as you realign the door panel.
- When realigning the door panel remember to lift it up and over the locking mechanism before you lower it into position.
- The door handle will slide into place into the door, and you'll then have to slide it to one side (to bring the screw hole into alignment with the screwhole in the door). If the handle simply will not slide into place (like something is blocking it) see the tip below (after list).
- Once everything is lined up, begin snapping the door back into place. This is done simply by applying firm pressure up against the panel. It will snap into place.
- Once everything is snapped back into place, close the door and test the handle. It should work beautifully! Screw back in the three screws you removed, and return the rubber arm pad to its original location (it snaps back into place).
- You're done.
Looks like a long list, but it is actually a pretty quick process. I explained it a little more thoroughly than is probably necessary for the benefit of those who might prefer a more detailed explanation.
Common Tips and Trouble Spots
The damn door handle does NOT fit into the door. It fits in the panel, but will NOT fit into the damn door! (insert growl of anger)
- This happened to me, and I can reason it would happen to others. The middle pole-like piece coming from the back of the door handle is a hair too big to fit into the receiving slot in the door. Take the utility knife and gingerly shave off some of the plastic on this piece (effectively making the diameter of the pole a tiny bit smaller).
One of the plastic snappy-things fell out of the door when I pried it loose!? What do I do?
- Don't panic. Pick up the piece and look at the inside of your panel. You will see how the other pieces fit into place and will be able to find where this one fell free from and reattach it. If you're having trouble finding the location on the door panel, look at the actual door. You will see a hole in the metal that is meant to receive this piece.
If you have any other question, just leave a comment.
Really Annoying Video (Not Mine) But Does Provide a Visual Display of What I'm Talking About
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2009 Time Spiral