Monday, July 22, 2024 Detailed Auto Topics
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When we have problems inside a door, we must remove the interior door panel.  This may be no small task.  Removal techniques are as plentiful as vehicles on the road. Service data for the vehicle is necessary for specific detail, but these guidelines may help us prevent damage.

Multiple methods of attaching door panels

They use many methods to attach the interior panels and trim to a vehicle’s door shell.  When we need to remove the panel for access, knowing about the various attachments helps prevent problems.  The most important thing we need is patience.  Because of the huge variation in attachment methods, we must patiently examine each door.

Expensive damage often results when pulling or prying, on the interior door-panel.  They use a variety of methods to secure most panels.  Manufacturers use a  combination of screws, plastic clips and tabs to attach the panel to the door.

How to remove a door panel 

Mirror and door lock trim are removed first

We first examine the door.  Next we remove the mirror trim panel, if they have one.  Often they attach this with a screw, but sometimes substitute push-in clips. If no screw is visible, try gently prying on the panel.  A plastic tool is most handy and least damaging.  When a tool is not available, we can sometime use a wooden paint-stirring stick.  Grinding the edge of the stick to a bevel may make it more usable.

Next we remove the door handle trim.  Vehicle makers will most commonly attach this with a screw.  On older vehicles, they often use a special clip to attach the door handle and sometimes the window crank.  An inexpensive tool is available to remove these.  On more modern vehicles we remove the door handle trim and the handle remains on the door. 

Vehicles with power windows will have a switch panel.  They may clip this in place or attach it with a screw.  Remove the screw, if present or gently pry the clip to remove the switch panel.  Wires attach to the back of the switches.  A close examination reveals the way to release these.  Often, a small screw driver releases a clip and allows us to disconnect the wires.

Ford Crown Vic and Marquis door panels

The Ford panel uses screws across the bottom

On the Ford Crown Vic and Mercury Marquis they use screws in the lower panel.  Remove these screws before preceding.

GM SUV and truck door panels

We start with removing the trim

Plastic clips attach the panel to the door shell

On a General Motors truck or SUV we pry the lower portion of the door free from the door shell.  Plastic clips push into holes in the door.  These clips slide into slots in the door panel.  We remove the clips from the door shell and leave them in the door panel.

Pull all clips free of door shell

Lift the panel to release the lip at the window opening

After we release the plastic clips, we lift the door panel.  A lip at the top of the panel laps into the window opening of the door.  Lifting the panel allows us to free the panel.  Be very careful, as many panels have cables attached to the lock.  Pulling on the panel, before releasing the cable, will cause it to break.  If we break this cable, we need to replace the panel.  Always be very careful and never use force when removing a door panel.

The plastic door panel retainers

Often the small plastic clips, holding the door panel to the door frame, will also break.  These are available at the vehicle maker’s part department.  Replace any broken clips to prevent rattles and squeaks.  The new clips slide into a slot in the door panel and we push them back into holes in the door frame when reinstalling the panel.

The door panel vapor barrier

The plastic vapor barrier needs to be replaced

When we have removed the panel, the plastic vapor barrier is visible.  This plastic film keeps moisture from getting into the passenger compartment.  Be careful not to damage the plastic when removing it.  Adhesive attaches the vapor barrier when they assemble the vehicle.  If the adhesive no longer holds it tightly, or if it tears, we can sometimes use tape to repair it.

After we repair the problems in the door, we reinstall the door panel in the reverse order that we remove it.  Properly attaching the vapor barrier and replacing any broken clips will prevent most problems.

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