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2002 Toyota Corolla

How to replace the interior door handles

Also applies from 1993 through 2002

So, in the space of a couple weeks three of the four interior door handles on the 2002 Toyota Corolla simply disintegrated. This makes me seriously wonder how we will be restoring modern cars 50 years in the future when the plastic molds have long since been recycled. At any rate, SWMBO had some sort of issue with having to roll down the window to open the door. I didn't see the issue, but oh well. :)

Items Needed Tools Needed
Replacement door handles
Screwdriver Set
Utility Knife

Here you can see the broken door handle. All three broke exactly in the same fashion. When you pull on the door handle that's where the greatest amount of stress is placed. Seven years of opening the door, plus seven years of UV light hitting the plastic meant that they'd become brittle with age and simply snapped.

First step is to remove the screw at the center of the door handle. They might be a bit hard to remove the first time as they appear to have some sort of fixing glue at the end of the threads.

The broken units are fairly easy to remove. You need to slide the unit forward (towards the front of the car) slightly and then pull it out. There's a number of retaining plastic tabs that hold it in to the door.

There is a locking snap clip that holds the handle itself to the lever arm that actuates the lock mechanism. In my case the handle was so split that it just came right off. Realistically what you need to do is carefully pry the locking part of the clip and slide it down off the arm.

Here's the new door handle assembly. I found it pays to take a few minutes to shop around for these. The local dealership wanted almost $35.00 each for these. I found a local Toyota recycling yard that happened to stock new replacement handles (which definitely means that this happens to a lot of people). Their cost was $20.00 each.

Here's the back side of the new assembly where you can see the locking parts of teh plastic assembly. You'll note that it came with a new snap clip.

Remove the old snap clip if you haven't already (I'm always careful with these sorts of things because you never know what you'll need to reuse).

Now, I spent fifteen minutes or so fighting with the new assembly trying to get it installed. Since I couldn't get it to fit it was time to compare it against the original. This is a good lesson in not forcing things. If you try to force parts to go together you frequently break them. As it turns out the circular center pin that protrudes from the handle (On the left-hand side of each part pictured above) has a larger diameter on the new part and wouldn't fit into the door panel correctly. Either they've been using the same molds so long that it has worn larger, or this was made without excessive quality control.

To bring the pin down to size I used a utility knife to trim away some of the plastic on the shaft until the diameter was narrow engough to fit.

Installation is reverse of assembly. Slip the lock rod into the snap clip and then use a flat head screw driver to twist and lock the clip.

From there it's a matter of innerting the door handle, wiggling it into the proper position and putting the screw back in place. If you've done things correctly then you should be able to open the door from the inside. If not, then the locking rod must have come loose and you'll need to backtrack.

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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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