A door handle is a small component on the car body that is often overlooked. As long as it works, everything is fine, and you quickly forget about it. But if it refuses to do its job one day, good advice is now expensive: the car suddenly refuses to let you in or makes it very difficult. It is true that car door handles rarely break all at the same time. It is nevertheless annoying if you have to climb into the car awkwardly through the passenger side or even through the rear seats. Read in this article how to proceed systematically in such a case.
Door handle – a complex structure
A door handle of a car is much more complex than you might think. It houses many moving parts in a very small space. The parts are:
|– Top shell: A decorative element that is attached to the handle.
– Handle: Movable or rigid, depending on the type.
– Base carrier: The component that holds all other components.
– Locking cylinder: This is where the key is inserted.
– Locking bolt: It hangs on the locking cylinder and transmits the rotary movement to the lock.
– Springs and seals.
These components are made of wire, plastic, sheet metal and die-cast aluminium. As they are exposed to weather and vibrations, their service life is limited.
Service life of a door handle
It is difficult to estimate the service life of a door handle. It really depends on how often the handle is used and how well it has been maintained. However, from a vehicle age of 12 to 15 years, you can expect an internal component to break. Fortunately, door handles are designed to be easily repaired.
Repairing a door handle
1. Internal part
The door handle transmits the force of the hand to a mechanism inside the door.
- From the outside, this mechanism acts rather directly on the lock.
- The door handle on the inside is usually connected to a wire linkage. On this side, too, the components of the door lock are kept quite light and filigree.
Internal / External Door handle
affordably up from £ 0,68
If the door can no longer be opened from the inside, the side panel should be removed. In this case, it is usually not the door handle itself that is the cause, but the wire linkage inside.
With a bit of luck, it has only unhinged at one point and can be repaired in a few easy steps. What also happens frequently, however, is that the eyelet of the wire linkage on the inside handle is torn off or broken. In this case, the entire handle should simply be replaced. DIY solutions with glue usually only have a temporary effect.
Removing the interior trim can be a little tricky. It differs depending on the type of vehicle. Usually there are two screws on the armrest that can be found and removed quite easily. What can be surprisingly stubborn is the crank from the window regulator. If there is no screw here, it is a clamping mechanism. The ring on the underside of the crank serves to fix it in place. It should be pressed in one direction, then the crank can be removed.
The door handle itself is usually fixed with clips in the side panel. The side panel is attached to the underside and sides with screws. It is also fixed with a variety of clips and plastic rivets. Special tools for this purpose are available on the market. With them, the connections can be undone without damage.
Finally, the side wall is only attached to the window frame by a groove. There is a sealing lip there that you simply pull off. Now the side panel can be pushed out upwards.
The door is covered with a plastic film from the inside. It is very important not to damage or repair this film before reinstalling the inner lining. It should not be removed under any circumstances, otherwise the car will be flooded with water the next time it rains.
Now you have access to the inner mechanics of the door and can replace the damaged components.
2. External part
Although the outside door handle has a much more complicated design than its counterpart on the inside, its removal is considerably easier. Most of the time, the whole unit is fixed with only one screw. It is located at the height of the door handle on the sheet metal that ends with the frame. When the door is opened, the screw cannot usually be overlooked. It is simply unscrewed. Now the entire door handle can be turned out towards the front.
On older vehicles, the ravages of time can now be clearly seen: The springs are probably a little rusty and the aluminium components are also a little oxidised. It is therefore worthwhile to first completely disassemble and clean the door handle. However, if important components are broken, replacing the entire assembly is the most sensible measure. A door handle is a fairly inexpensive component. A single handle costs up from 12 pounds. The complete set is available up from 25 pounds. If you really want to save money, you can also buy a repair kit for 3-5 pounds. This includes seals, a lock cylinder, and springs.
Depending on the type of car, it can be quite a fiddly job to hook the linkage back into the lock cylinder correctly. But with a little patience you will get there.
It depends, of course, on the type of door handle you need. A door handle for Fiat or Volkswagen is much cheaper than a door handle for Mercedes. For the latter, you can expect to pay up to 45 pounds just for the lock cylinder.
However, it is important to pay attention to the door lock when changing it. Often, door handles for replacement also come with new locks and keys. If your own lock is still OK, you can continue to use it. This saves you from having to keep adding to your bunch of keys. You can also avoid the annoying question “Which key goes where?“.
Conversely, with older used cars, you only get one key because the other spare keys have been lost over time. Of course, you can have duplicate keys made. However, if the door lock or the door handle has a defect, a complete change of keys is a sensible thing to do. This way, you have a new set of locks with a complete set of keys on the car again. To make it fully consistent, you could then also replace the ignition lock. But this is usually not really worth it, especially with older vehicles.
Conclusion: Inexpensive repair for those who have patience
The complexity of this repair is limited. It can be easily mastered by DIYers with a little experience. It is important to be careful when removing the door panels, as they tend to break off. A spare set of rivets can also help here. With the door handles replaced and the mechanics repaired, the car will be in good shape for the rest of its life.
So, you can enjoy your old treasure for a long time to come.
Foto: Yaroslau Mikheyeu, Junjira Limcharoen, Srdjan Randjelovic, yoojiwhan, aSuruwataRi, Vjacheslav_Kozyrev, yortzafoto / shutterstock.com