Some of you may come to a point where you need to replace your door handles on your Jeep...maybe you snapped something, maybe the previous owner had some ugly chrome ones on it, or you just spent 2 hours replacing it the hardest way imaginable only to have it break on you, requiring you to repeat the entire process.
After encountering the latter, I figured I'd do a write up on this since I went from getting one door handle done in approximately 2 hours to finishing one in about 10 minutes.
Remove your interior door panel
There are 5 T-15 screws holding it on (the 2 in the grab bar are longer than the other 3). Also, do NOT remove the one inside the interior door handle. It's not necessary.
There is a C-clip behind the window crank that will also need popped out in order to pull the window crank off. They make a special tool for this that makes it really simple, or you can usually get it with a flat head screwdriver. The goal to pop the clip is to push on the open ends at the same time until the clip pops off. Make sure your hand is there to block it when it pops off as these clips have earned the name "Jesus clips" due to their ability to disappear in the blink of an eye.
Once that is done, begin to gently pop the clips around the edges of the door panel. You can do this by yanking, but if you do that, you'll probably end up like me and break nearly every clip off. The clips are replaceable so don't worry if you break any. I haven't replaced mine yet (and probably won't anytime soon), so you're on your own for the part number. The easiest way to pop the clips is to use a thin flat head screwdriver or a skinny pry bar...once you get a few clips to pop out, you can pull the panel far enough back to see where the next clip is and pry it from right there.
After you get all the clips popped off around the edges, lift up on the door panel and it should pop free. The part closest to the mirror will probably be stuck in there pretty tight. While you can (usually) free it by bending and using some force, I've found that it's actually easier to take the door panel and just slide it along the bottom channel toward the outside of the Jeep.
ie. For the passenger-side door panel...pop all the clips, lift the top out of the window channel until the upper inside section is hung up. Then just slide it to the right until it pops out of the groove. Using this same trick will make it re-attach just as easily without cracking anything.
The blue arrow/shaded portion in the picture below shows you where the door panel will probably hang up.
Go ahead and remove the 2 philips head screws labeled by the red arrows in the photo above. This will be necessary for a future step.
Remove the grab bar support bracket from the door
Begin to peel the door liner from the door...it's held onto the door with a tar-like adhesive which will re-stick to the door just fine when you're done. Just peel it almost all the way off and let it hang (you can remove it if you really want to...but then you'll have to line it all back up when you reinstall it).
Now the factory service manual for my 2002 Wrangler doesn't say anything about removing the window glass, but unless you have long arms about as big around as a screwdriver, you're going to want to remove the glass. This isn't NEARLY as difficult as it seems.
Lower the window all the way down.
Make sure you removed the two screws mentioned in Step 2 with the 2 red arrows. Now pull the window track above that section out of the door up to about the upper inside corner and lift up on the door sail (the triangular piece attached to the window track in the lower inside corner of the window opening). Tilt the top of the door sail to the outside of the door and lift up until the metal on the bottom of it is completely outside the door (it sticks down in there a few inches). It'll all be held together by the window channel, so just take it and let it hang on the outside of the door.
Now roll the window up about 1/4 of the way until you see the bottom of the window through the holes in the door. Remove the 2 philips head screws on the bottom of the window as noted in the photo below.
Once that's done, you're ready to remove the glass. The window is pretty light... the big thing is, watch the plastic clips on the bottom of it where the screws were. There's a cable/rod that runs across the door just inside the top and they WILL catch on it. Lift the window straight up and when you're almost all the way up, tilt the top toward you. When you feel the plastic clips on the bottom catch on the cable/rod, hold the window with one hand and reach in with your free hand to pull the cable/rod toward you with until the clips are freed (you'll see where they're hanging up). The window will pop right out. Make sure you have somewhere to lay the window glass down so that it doesn't fall over and break (because that would just make your day!).
Now it's time to get to work on that door handle!
First, remove the cotter pin holding the latch rod onto the handle...I've found that long screw drivers are your best friend on this job. The space inside the door is very narrow and it's dang near impossible to maneuver pliers or any other tools around in there. The cotter pin isn't too tight so once you get a good position on it, it'll slide right up out of the hole. I apologize for the lack of photos on this part...unfortunately, it's hard to take a picture through the small slit where the window goes. Once you look in there, you'll see where the latch rod attaches to the handle and the cotter pin holding it in. Once you pop the cotter pin off, the latch rod slides right off.
This is, in my opinion, the most difficult part...but once you get it figured out, even it's not super difficult.
There are a set of "keepers" locking the door handle in place. They are basically wedges with a saw tooth design and a locking clip that prevents them from backing out once they're in place. This is great for attaching the handle...not so great for removing it.
The photo below shows one of the keepers. The red arrow shows the clip that locks it into place. This is where things get interesting. What you want to do is take a long screwdriver and pry the end of the clip far enough back to allow you to push the keeper straight up. If the keeper isn't too tightly wedged in place, you can use the screwdriver to hold the clip away from the keeper and then use your free hand to reach up in there and push the keeper straight up. If it's too tight, you may just need to permanently bend the clip and then put the screwdriver on the bottom of the keeper and lightly hammer it straight up. Once it's loose, you're good.
Repeat this process for both sides.
Once the keepers are loose, reach up and push them straight up until they fall out. If you can't reach that far, push them as far as you can and use your other free hand to reach through the window slot in the top to grab them and pull them out.
Once they're removed, the door handle should pop right out of the door.
It's time to install your new door handle!
Insert your new door handle into the door...make sure the clips on each side are inserted the proper way and are bent inward enough to catch the teeth on the keepers when you reinstall them. If you didn't totally destroy the clips on the old door handles, you can probably straighten them back into the proper position to reuse them as I did.
Now to reinstall the keepers...this is where hand-eye coordination comes in handy. Make sure the teeth are facing you and from the top of the door, hold the keeper between two fingers and slip it down into position from the top. Basically you're just reversing the process of removing them...if you need to see exactly where you need to insert them, pull the handle out and you'll see they slide down right behind the clips on each side. Once you get them into place, they should fall right down where they need to be. Now take a flathead screwdriver and put it on the top of each keeper and lightly tap them straight down with a hammer. According to the factory service manual, you want to tap them down until the clip has caught on either the 2nd or 3rd to last tooth. Don't hammer these too far! Once you're down far enough, you may want to do the same thing on the underside and just lightly tap them up a hair until they catch on the clips (this will also ensure that your clips are bent enough to keep the keepers from backing out).
Sorry...I don't have any photos of this, but it'll look very similar to the last photo up above except inside your door.
Once your keepers are in position, connect the latch rod back on the latch lever on the new door handle and insert the cotter pin. You'll probably drop the cotter pin a few times, but if you stop cussing and concentrate, it shouldn't take too many attempts.
...ran out of space in my post...see response below for remaining steps!