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Old 02-28-2010, 02:56 AM   #1
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How-To: Replace Exterior Door Handle (Full Steel Doors)

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.

Step 1

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.



Step 2

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.

Step 3

Remove the grab bar support bracket from the door



Step 4

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).



Step 5

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.



Step 6

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!).



Step 7

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.

Step 8

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.

Step 9

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.

Step 10

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!

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Old 02-28-2010, 02:56 AM   #2
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Step 11

Your new handle is fully installed!

At this point, temporarily tack up your door liner to the door and test your door a few times...make sure the handle works properly BEFORE you get it all reassembled.

Now it's time to reassemble everything!

To install your door glass, take the glass and insert the bottom in exactly how you removed it...remember where the bottom clips caught when you were removing it? They're going to catch again! Push on the cable/rod in order to let the clips past. Now line your window up and slowly lower it down into the door. Make sure it's inside the window channel on both sides (if you don't double-check, you'll regret it like I did when you get the entire door reassembled only to have to disassemble it again). Once it's most of the way down, line up the holes at the bottom where you removed the screws, and screw it back in. Don't overtighten these screws or you may crack the glass. Just snug em up good.


Now take the door sail you removed and reinsert it the same way you removed it...hold the top toward the outside of the door and fit the bottom into the groove lining up the window channels. Once you've got it in the right place, it'll slide right into place. Push the upper window channel you pulled out of the window frame back into place (it'll snap right in). Re-insert the two screws you removed holding the door sail on and snug them up good.

At this point, your window glass has been reinstalled... take the window crank handle and make sure your window rolls up and down properly, if it doesn't, reverse this step, remove the window and re-install it making sure you're in the window channel this time.

Step 12

Stick the door liner back to the door...try not to stretch it too far to the outside or you may end up with it sticking out of the door panel in places (which looks kinda tacky).

Reattach the grab handle bracket with the 4 philips head screws you removed.

Step 13

Re-install the door panel--

As I mentioned during the removal process, removal/installation is easiest by taking the top inside section and setting it into place on the door a little to the outside of where it needs to be...then slide it across the top and into place. If that does work for you, set the top into place and smack the top inside section into place while praying it doesn't crack. Take your time and it'll fall into place properly. Make sure all your holes line up for your clips and start snapping the clips back into the holes. Once everything is snapped in and looks good...reinstall the 5 T-15 screws in the door panel. Remember the longer screws are for the grab handle (it probably doesn't matter...but it's nice to put all the screws back where they were).

Step 14

Installation of the window crank handle

This is always the fun part... the part where either you finish the project or the clip goes shooting off into space, never to be seen again and you're stuck with a loose window crank until you get a chance to go pick up a new clip.

Take the clip and position it on the handle so that the sides of the clip will go into the notches cut in the sides of the window cracks. Slide it on as far as you can with your fingers (don't try to force it into place...it's tough and it may launch...just keep it straight and push it far enough that it stays there on its own. Now take a flat head screwdriver and push on the end of the clip to force it back on the handle. Keep your hand over it so if the clip flies, it'll bounce off your hand and have a chance of being found sometime today.

Once the clip is back on the handle, put the inside ring back onto the spindle with the foam padding facing away from you, note the position of the other handle (make sure both windows are in the same position--preferably either all the way up or all the way down), push the handle lightly on and rotate it back and forth in approximately the same position until it fits into the grooves of the spindle and starts to slide on and then give it a light smack (just enough to pop it on and pop the clip into position). Pull on the handle just enough and make sure the clip popped into position and locked the handle onto the spindle.

That's it! You're done!

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Old 02-28-2010, 08:12 AM   #3
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Thank you for that write up!!! I wanted to replace mine awhile ago, but just painted them. That lasted about 6 months. Now with this write up I may just buy new one's and replace it once and for all!
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Old 02-28-2010, 08:27 AM   #4
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one quick tip. that window crank clip can also be removed by wrapping a nylon stocking around the shaft, pulling tight to make sure the clip snags on the stocking and pulling away in the opposite direction. be careful to not lose the clip.
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Old 02-28-2010, 08:30 AM   #5
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Thanks for the write up. The paint on mine are starting to peel. Forget the handles, I want a shop/garage like yours!!
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Old 02-28-2010, 08:39 AM   #6
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Sweet write up, I plan to paint mine soon. With truck bed liner!
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Old 02-28-2010, 08:44 AM   #7
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I smell a sticky thread Good Job
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Old 02-28-2010, 11:26 AM   #8
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Thanks guys! My webhost is acting up so if you can't see the pics, don't worry...I didn't remove them. Just having server problems...I can't access my website either, but it'll all be back online once they get that fixed.

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Thanks for the write up. The paint on mine are starting to peel. Forget the handles, I want a shop/garage like yours!!
lmao, that's one of my boss' barns...he owns a Chrysler dealership as well as an RV dealership so he has a little bit of money. We've got a lift in there as well as 6 "bays" in that barn (4 heated, 2 unheated).
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Old 02-28-2010, 12:53 PM   #9
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lucky....
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Old 02-28-2010, 08:06 PM   #10
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Thanks for the info. I have a set of handles on order from Quadratec so when they get in I will definitely be referring to this great write up!

Thanks again!
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Old 02-28-2010, 11:38 PM   #11
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Just did mine, wish this thread would have been available for me :P
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Old 02-28-2010, 11:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by holes View Post
Just did mine, wish this thread would have been available for me :P
I wish it would have been available for me too...LOL
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Old 07-12-2010, 12:50 PM   #13
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another thing that is good for removing the window handle clip is a paint can opener, like you get at ace or lowes. the part you open the can with fits pretty good under the clip to drag it out
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Old 07-12-2010, 01:27 PM   #14
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This guy's got a good write up on it that doesn't involve taking the entire door apart, and window out. Wish you would have asked Sentenced, this could have saved you some time.

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Old 08-02-2010, 08:03 PM   #15
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I actually used a similar write-up and while some say they have done this without removing the window, unless you have access to super long screwdrivers and your fingers are like Starvin' Marvin's, this is EXTREMELY difficult to do with the glass in place. The space in between the glass and the door handle is super tight. Once you understand the instructions I posted above...you can swap the door handles in about 15-20 min start to finish. Probably closer to an hour the first time as you familiarize yourself with the steps. Sorry for bumping this up...but since we reference this thread frequently, I wanted to make mention that IMO, it's MUCH faster and easier (and less risk of slipping and busting the window) to just remove the glass.
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Old 08-02-2010, 08:11 PM   #16
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1/2 doors are so much easier to replace parts in.
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Old 08-02-2010, 09:15 PM   #17
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1/2 doors are so much easier to replace parts in.
Definitely! If there wasn't a window in my door, I could have had mine done in no time flat...but at least I can see out of my windows in the rain/winter
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Old 08-03-2010, 06:18 AM   #18
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That's a very well done "How-To" for the door handle replacement. Thanks for taking all the effort to compose it and to share with others to make their life easier. I envy the work space you used.

Sometimes doing a little extra work, like taking the window out, will make the work go much faster and a better job can be done. On my Van, for example, taking the wiper tray out opens up a lot of space, making getting at spark plugs and rear heater lines (for examples), for replacement, a breeze compared to working in a much more confined space. Extra time, maybe 15 minutes, savings in time and use of profanity - lots.

The window handle removal tool you used is not that expensive. I keep one of those in my tool kit. It can also be used for prying off door panels. Here's a site showing one of those with prices ranging from $5.00 to $10.00. If pulling on the handle while using the tool, the clip can be raised enough to remove the handle without entirely removing the clip.

If anyone loses a clip or fastener, don't despair, some auto supply shops may have what you want on a display rack.
In Canada, Geno has a lot to choose from. In the US, take a look at Auveco.

There are some nice "How Tos" and "Installation" Threads on this Forum. A single Thread that references them all would sure be handy. One of the Moderators would have to keep the master Post#1 up to date as information rolled it. Could be called the "How To" Thread. Just a thought.
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Old 08-03-2010, 08:20 AM   #19
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damn that's involved. Mine are peeling. but I think they can stay like that for now.

well done on the write-up
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Old 10-16-2010, 11:11 AM   #20
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i started another thread about this recently, but luckily S3 saw it and referred me here. For those that are looking for new door handles, try
Amazon.com: 1987-2003 Black Outside Front Drivers and Passengers Side Pair for Full Door only Jeep Wrangler Left & Right Hand Exterior Handle for 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 LH Driver and RH Pa

only ~$30 total for BOTH. Don't know how durable the paint will be but even if it's only 3-4 years they're better than what I got. My old ones (OEM 2002) look like crap and they stick like hell. WD40 barely made a difference. These new ones are the way to go.
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Old 10-17-2010, 01:17 AM   #21
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Great write-up...wish I would have seen it too before I changed mine out. I did see somewhere the idea to take the window out, and I wouldn't do it any other way now. Only takes about 5 minutes to pull the window and makes the rest of the job much easier.

One inexpensive tool that I would mention as being a great help here though when I did mine is a pair of extended length needle nose pliers (around a foot long) . I bought a pair at O'Reilly for around $10 and they are extremely useful for pulling the pin from the latch rod and also for removing and inserting the "keepers".

When I did mine, the first handle took about 1 1/2 hours to change while I tried to figure the whole thing out. Second one took about a half hour from start to finish. The extended length pliers made all the difference in the world, and with the window removed, they fit inside the door just fine.
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Old 10-17-2010, 01:40 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigEZ View Post
i started another thread about this recently, but luckily S3 saw it and referred me here. For those that are looking for new door handles, try
Amazon.com: 1987-2003 Black Outside Front Drivers and Passengers Side Pair for Full Door only Jeep Wrangler Left & Right Hand Exterior Handle for 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 LH Driver and RH Pa

only ~$30 total for BOTH. Don't know how durable the paint will be but even if it's only 3-4 years they're better than what I got. My old ones (OEM 2002) look like crap and they stick like hell. WD40 barely made a difference. These new ones are the way to go.
Awesome...I'll have to order a couple from there. One of my "Onix Onada" aka "Rugged Ridge" handles broke within minutes of me installing it...and since I drive my Jeep daily, I was left with only two options. I could either deal with having no door handle until the supplier sent me a replacement or rig it myself...so I chose to rig it. But I'd like to have a fully functioning door handle rather than a rigged one which if you look close, you can tell.

Quote:
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Great write-up...wish I would have seen it too before I changed mine out. I did see somewhere the idea to take the window out, and I wouldn't do it any other way now. Only takes about 5 minutes to pull the window and makes the rest of the job much easier.

One inexpensive tool that I would mention as being a great help here though when I did mine is a pair of extended length needle nose pliers (around a foot long) . I bought a pair at O'Reilly for around $10 and they are extremely useful for pulling the pin from the latch rod and also for removing and inserting the "keepers".

When I did mine, the first handle took about 1 1/2 hours to change while I tried to figure the whole thing out. Second one took about a half hour from start to finish. The extended length pliers made all the difference in the world, and with the window removed, they fit inside the door just fine.
I'll have to keep the extended length pliers in mind...those do sound like they'd be a great help. Thanks for mentioning that!
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Old 10-17-2010, 04:56 PM   #23
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I'm so screwed

s3 -

so I followed your go by, and everything pretty much worked as you said. i tested the door multiple times, everything worked great. I put it all back together, the door still worked fine, opened and closed w/ no problems.

and then I shut the door and locked it.



and now it won't open. I've tried everything, but the lock will not disengage. just to be clear, I'm not faulting you on this at all.... I have run out of ideas, and I've never been this frustrated in my life. I just know a pro is going to charge me hundreds to get this fricking thing open.

anyone - please help!!!
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Old 10-17-2010, 06:53 PM   #24
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LOL... by the sounds of it, your lock rod may have popped off while you were reaching around in there. I'm not real familiar with how that works as I've never messed with it...but you're gonna need to figure out how to get into the door panel to pop that rod back into the unlocked position and then figure out what popped off, broke, etc. Have you tried both unlocking from the outside and the inside? Good luck on that one... I'm sure somebody will have some recommendations for you.
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Old 10-17-2010, 07:06 PM   #25
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thanks for the info! this helped me lots!
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Old 10-17-2010, 08:52 PM   #26
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Fantastic write up! Wish I had seen it before I went through all the effort of painting stuff :-/
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Old 10-17-2010, 09:13 PM   #27
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my lock issues aside, another tip is to put the interior handle strap back on the door panel and place the screw in the hole before fastening the door back into place. I had to unclip the bottom of the panel again to create a big enough gap.

a telescoping magnet is also a handy thing. that's how I put the little cotter pin back in, how I lined up the keepers, and helped me pick up about 13 dropped items (inc some repeats...)
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Old 10-17-2010, 11:09 PM   #28
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probably a stupid question

so, when putting in the new handle, I saw that the old one (upper) didn't come with a spring like the old one (lower.) I figured this would be a big deal but the thing functioned fine until I locked it. So, is this my problem?

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there is no way I can see to take the spring off the old handle. any ideas?
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Old 10-18-2010, 12:18 AM   #29
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That's not your problem... the handles only control the latching mechanism but have nothing to do with the locks as far as I'm aware.

Using the top picture...it appears the old handle uses a spring on the outside of the latch mechanism whereas the new handle has the spring underneath. Just a slight difference in design. Did they feel similar...as far as having some resistance to them both?
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:11 AM   #30
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Good thread... I had mine replaced by the dealer a number of years ago... and they lost paint just like the originals. May be better of re-painting your old ones than buying new ones unless other aftermarket suppliers have improved on the OEM

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