How to Replace a Camry Exterior Front Door Handle

Do It Yourself and Save on This Repair

1993 Toyota Camry
 1993 Toyota Camry By James Benjamin Bleeker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

This is DIY job sent in by a reader. It shows, step by step, how to remove the door panel from a Toyota Camry and then the outside door handle for replacement. Since all door panels come off in a similar fashion, it will be of help to anyone removing a door panel. This procedure could also be helpful if you need to get the handle off to get at a window repair. 

Before You Start

  • Follow these instructions carefully. Read and be sure you understand them before you begin.
  • Gather together all of your tools and supplies before you begin.
  • Allow plenty of time to do the job so you don't have to hurry.
  • Remember that these are general instructions. For more detailed instructions pertaining to your specific vehicle, consult an appropriate repair manual.
  • Beware of hot objects, sharp instruments, and hazardous materials.
  • Don't substitute tools unless you're sure you won't compromise either your safety or the performance of your vehicle.
  • Never work on a vehicle that is only supported by a jack. Use jack stands to support the vehicle while you work. Work on a solid, level surface. Never jack a car up on dirt or grass. 

Removing the Door Panel

The first step is to remove the door panel. Start with the window fully up. There are five screws and two pins that have to be removed in addition to the interior door handle trim, which is the hardest. The location of the Phillips head screws to be removed is as follows:

  • 2 under caps which can be easily pried off on the inside edge of the door.
  • 2 screws in the door handle: one underneath the light (which is easily pried out) and another one which has no cover. Once you get the light out, unplug the wires and let them dangle.
  • One screw underneath the mesh cover in the middle of the door. The cover is easily pried off. 

The trim around the interior door handle must now be removed and is tricky. We managed to crack ours and was vindicated to see that our repair shop had cracked the trim on the other door! However, there is a bit of a trick to it that helps some.

Insert a flat edge screwdriver (just the regular kind) between the pull handle and the trim in the location shown and press down. Yes, this is counter-intuitive. There is sort of a secret clasp there. (HINT: Electrical tape the screwdriver tip before use).

At the same time, pull with your fingers or another screwdriver around the outside edge of the trim at the same end. It should come loose at that end. It is hard. Work gently at first and apply increasing pressure till something gives a little.

Once that end is free, keep prying toward the other end until the whole thing is loose. You will have to pull the door handle, as to open the door, once you are ready to slide the trim off. This is one of the hardest parts of the whole job. Don't worry if you crack the trim!

Now slide the screwdriver around the bottom edge of the door panel until you can get your fingers in there and pull. The door panel is held on by plastic clips inside which will pop loose.

At the top edge of the door, however, the panel fits into the window groove, so once everything else is loose, the panel lifts up and off. This is also a tricky step and should be done gently, using a rocking motion. The panel will remain connected to the car by a few wires. Set it down.

Removing the Door Handle

Now you will turn your attention to removing the exterior door handle. Pull the plastic liner off the whole left side of the door, and leave it hanging. Ours was stuck on with some annoying tar-like adhesive that, while dirty, was easy to replace later.

If this plastic protector gets torn beyond use, you can use a plastic garbage bag or a piece of vinyl drop cloth as a replacement. Don't put the door panel back on without the plastic protector.

You may be dismayed at this point to realize that you can hardly see the exterior door handle and have very little room to work on it. That is very true. You need one of these ratchet set handles (we don't know what it's called, but it looked like a screwdriver handle to us) with about a 10mm attachment for unscrewing bolts.

We found that with the exception of one bolt which was easily reached, we had to loosen the bolts with this tool and then stick our hand in there to finish taking them off. There are three bolts that have to be removed, the one that is easily seen and reached, and two more inside the hole.

Once those bolts are loose, the door handle should move around. It is now held on by one more bolt and a rod.

The Door Key Lock and Unlock Switch are still held on by that last bolt. You can probably remove both the last bolt and the rod from the outside by wiggling the door handle around a bit. Before you remove the last bolt, however, take a really good look at how it is attached to the handle, Better yet, take a photo with your phone or camera to refer to later.

To remove the rod, flip the plastic piece into the "up" position. Then the rod should just slide out of the handle.

Installing the Door Handle

You should now have managed to remove the old door handle. Fit the new door handle into place. We were not able to attach any of the pieces to it until we had it in place, but if you can attach the rod and the "what is it" from the outside, go for it.

Then we attached the two lock bolts first by using a bit of that tar stuff to stick them onto the ratchet tool, chewing gum would work also! We had to work bolt #1 with our fingers to get it threaded correctly. We then attached to bolt #4 which was easiest to get to and tightened all 3 as well as we could using the ratchet tool.

If you couldn't do so from the outside, you now need to put the rod into place, reversing the procedure so that you flip the plastic clip down over it once it is in its hole. Finally, re-attach the Door Key Lock and Unlock Switch we were only able to hand-tighten that screw (try using a dime) which is why we recommended trying to put it in place from the outside. We just couldn't reach it well.

Putting It Back Together

Test out your new handle by using a screwdriver to mimic the bar which engages the closed door

When the door handle is pulled, the screwdriver should be released. Also, test the locking mechanism using your key to be sure it is working. You didn't do anything that should harm it, but if you knocked a wire or a rod lose somewhere, better to find out now!

Assuming all is working well, set the door panel back in place over the window sill. Then turn the key in the ignition and test your window. If you hear any scratching or other funny sounds, stop and put the window back up! Something is in the way. Did you put the "what is it" back correctly?

Once all is copasetic, start replacing the door screws, pins, and clips. Be sure that the wires for the light are sticking through the door. You need them! The pins on the side of the door need to be telescoped back together, remember, you pushed on the center before removing them, and insert until flush.

The five screws go back in their places with any covers over them. Remember to plug the light back in as you re-insert it after fastening that screw. The clips inside the door along the edges engage by being pounded with a fist from the outside—as long as they are properly aligned.

The very last trick is getting that darn door handle trim back on. Pull the handle to slide the trim into place over it. Push in the far end first, not the end with the secret clasp. Then push down on the clasp with the screwdriver, like you did to remove it, and jimmy it back into place as best you can. We had to pop ours hard at the end—and did we mention that we cracked it?

Pat yourself on the back, show your neighbor what you did and grab a glass of iced tea. You deserve it.

For All Non-Power Windows

If you have manual windows, you will need to remove the window crank handle. Behind the window handle is a clip. To remove this clip, make a small hook from a piece of coat hanger or any stiff wire. Hook the tool onto the clip and pull it out. Wrap a rag around the handle and tool because that clip will fly out and immediately blend in with the floor making it almost impossible to find. When you have it out, put it back on the window crank so it doesn't get lost.

To reinstall the window crank, position it over the splinded shaft of the window regulator and hit it sharply to snap it in place.

Contributed by Louise Holzhauer