Replacement of the exterior door handle is a common repair for the Toyota Corolla, especially for eighth generation models that were made between 1995 and 2000. This repair is simple and inexpensive to do yourself, but a number of precautions must be taken to prevent damage to some of the smaller plastic parts that are included in the door panel assembly. Since these door handles are typically made of plastic, damage to the handle is very common. However, replacement door handles for the Toyota Corolla can be found for very little cost. Actual replacement of the door handle takes very little time, but the interior door panel must be removed in order to access the handle from the inside.
Remove the window crank on the inside door panel. Use an adjustable crescent wrench to hold the washer on the crank in place and pull the window crank towards you. With a flathead screwdriver or clip removal tool, pry the metal safety clip holding the crank in place loose.
Lift off the arm rest and pull the interior door panel from the door. Pry the arm rest up with a flathead screwdriver. Use the putty knife to work the outer edges of the door panel loose and then pull hard to remove the panel. The interior door handle does not come off with the door panel.
Pull back just enough of the plastic vapour barrier to access the back side of the door handle. Removing more of the plastic than necessary makes it harder to get back in place. There is a sticky film on the backside of the vapour barrier so that you can replace it whenever you are finished.
Unbolt the existing door handle using a 10mm socket and ratchet to work the nuts on the back side loose. There are three bolts holding this handle in place. All three of these bolts are visible from the interior side of the door once the door panel has been removed.
Push the broken door handle out from the door and work it loose from the door handle rod. The metal rod goes through the centre of the door and holds the handle in place. Leave the metal locking mechanism in place.
Install the new door handle and work backwards to put the door panel back in place. The handle slides over the metal door handle rod and the lock slides through the hole. Reattach the three bolts that held the old door handle in place, and you are ready to put the plastic vapour barrier back and reattach the door panel.
Check salvage yards, CraigsList, and auction sites like eBay before buying a replacement door handle at a parts store. These can often be found for less than fifteen dollars. Place hardware that you have removed like nuts, bolts, and plastic clips in your pocket so that you do not lose them before you go to put the new handle on. For Toyota Corollas that have power windows and locks, there is no window crank to remove.
When pulling the door panel loose, be careful not to damage the plastic clips that hold the panel in place.