How to Replace Exterior Door Handles on a Car

Lead Image
  • 2-3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 20-50
What You'll Need
Replacement door handle
Masking tape or labels

We take the exterior door handles on our vehicles for granted. That is until they don't work and we can't get into our car or truck. The following article will describe the steps necessary to replace a worn out exterior door handle. This is a fairly easy job for a home automotive mechanic.

Step 1 – Preparation

The first step in replacing your exterior door handles is to find the replacement part. You can go to your local auto salvage yard and tell them the make, model and year of your car as well as which door handle you need; the driver's door, passenger door or the right or left rear door.

If you can't find the proper handle at the auto salvage yard, you can most likely order it online from an aftermarket manufacturer or by calling your local car dealer's parts’ line.

Step 2 - Removing the Old Door Handle

To access the exterior door handle hardware, you will need to remove the interior door panel. The door panel might be held in place with screws so locating them will have to be the first step in this process. You can check your car owner's repair manual if necessary to locate these screws. Other times, the door panel might just be held in place with clips that will release as you pull on the panel. Try gently prying at the interior panel to see if it comes off like this.

Once you have the interior panel removed, you should be able to see the exterior door handle hardware. Remove any wiring and label each wire with the masking tape or paper label for easier replacement later. Unscrew or unbolt the exterior door handle and pull it out from the door. Retain the mounting hardware for use with the new handle.

Step 3 - Installing the New Door Handle

Installing the new exterior door handle is just a matter of reversing the steps you took to remove the old one. Put the new door handle in position and fasten using the mounting hardware removed earlier.

Reconnect the wires using the labels as a guide to their location. Close the door and try the new handle for smooth and proper operation. Do this a few times to ensure it works. Now you can replace the interior door panel, being careful not to damage the upholstery.

Follow these steps for any of the other exterior door handles that might need replacing.

Step 4 - Check

This would be a good time to check the door hinges on your car for smooth operation. If they are squeaking, apply a coating of spray lubricant or white grease to them. Swing the door opened and closed a few times to work in the lubricant.

If your car doors sag or doesn't open and close properly, you might want to replace the hinge pins. This is a fairly easy do-it-yourself job.