Replacing a 1995 Chevy Astro Front Door Handle
After the first time I had to replace one of the front door handles on my 1995 Chevy Astro minivan, I was determined to make it an easier thing to do the next time around. Which turned out to be a good thing as the replacement parts are not very good quality.
The original OEM driver's side door handle lasted about 15 years before it broke and had to be replaced. Since then, each replacement door handle has lasted one to two years, then failed somehow. Either the handle itself broke, or the latch mechanism on the handle assembly broke.
In either case, I found myself doing this repair far more often than I'd planned. So some things were in order to make it an easier job in the future.
The first time, I had to remove the interior of the door, only to find that you had to be a contortionist to reach the top nut on the handle. My right arm almost did not fit in far enough to reach that nut. Several hours later, I had it fixed, along with numerous scratches on my right arm. At least you can get to the bottom nut via the rubber plug on the end of the door panel.
After that fiasco, I modified the door to make the job easier. I now no longer need to remove the interior of the door. I carefully drilled two overlapping one inch holes in the end of the door panel, directly opposite the location of the door handle. Later, I overlapped a third one inch hole to make that opening a bit larger. I cut out the bits where the holes overlapped, and Dremeled the hole to remove the sharp edges.
Replacing the door handle now takes fifteen minutes, with maybe an extra ten minutes if you manage to drop one of the nuts down into the door and have to partially open the interior panel to remove it. Here are some pictures of the tools that I use to do the job, as well as the hole I drilled for access:
Note that the hole is slightly curved to follow the outside of the door. It's located about one quarter inch from the door edge and care has to be taken that you do not hit the latch mechanism when you drill.
The quarter inch nut driver was used to rescue one of the nuts when it was inadvertently dropped into the door interior. I had added a number of quarter inch hex headed metal screws around the circumference of the door's interior when the plastic door panel fasteners started to loose their grip. The screw driver was used along with the locking forceps to insert the rod back into the plastic retainer on the handle (forceps to hold the rod, screw driver to lever the held rod into the retainer.) The open ended wrench and rachet are both 10mm.
Here's a close up of the failed replacement handle assembly. Note that, this time, the rotating bit simply fell off of the handle assembly. Nice. The other times, the handle itself broke away from the rest of the asembly. This handle was less than two months old.
I drilled the access hole in the passenger door right after the last driver's side handle replacement when I realized that the OEM door handle on the passenger side was already partially broken. I sense a replacement in the near future...
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