The driver’s side door handle on our sexy, sexy base model 2001 Corolla broke. More accurately, the plastic surround that the handle sits in and pushes against when you open the door broke. The surround and handle are all one part, and replacing that part is very very easy on these cars.
All the things you need to do this repair are already on the Weebs, so I’m just going to tell you what I did, and include a couple of tips that might make life easier.
1) MOST IMPORTANT THING: If you ask your mechanic (or Car Nerd Friend) about this job, and that mechanic is not familiar with this particular car, you might get the impression that this job is scary and expensive. It is not.
In a lot of cases, replacing door handles requires removing the entire door panel, special tools, infinite care and patience, and the detached third finger of a blood relative. The average person would NOT want to do it.
For some reason however, Toyota made this job easy on 1998-2002 Corollas. If you can operate a screwdriver and open a plastic drink bottle, you can do this repair.
2) The parts are cheap. I bought replacements by Dorman. Driver’s side handle in grey is part number 79502, and passenger side is 79503. The front and back handles are the same on each side. I bought one for each side, because the shipping was almost as much as one handle, and spent less than $20. Make sure you match your color!
4) Howto videos are actually useful here. Do a search on your popular video site for the title of this post and you will see a few howto videos for this repair. They are all pretty much the same. I like the one with the kid in it the best. It will take about as long to watch two as it will take to do this repair IF you watch two howto videos.
5) Location location location. This repair is easiest to do with the door open, so you have some room to fiddle. I did it in the garage, parked so that the door was half-open (a pessimist might say “half-closed”) and against the wall (with a piece of foam between) and that worked well.
6) Use two screwdrivers when you are removing the clip inside the door handle. Hook the door activator (thick wire thing you clip the handle to) around one of the screwdrivers, so that it doesn’t drop into the door when you take off the old handle. It’s not too hard to fish the activator out if you drop it, but easier not to drop it in the first place.