Question about 2003 Nissan Altima

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2002 Nissan Altima Exterior Door Handle

How would I go about removing and replacing the Exterior door handle of a 2002 Nissan Altima. I have removed the trim and speaker already. I can't get to the bolts to remove the handle. The Haynes book shows a "large" access hole in the door for this procedure. Mine is a 2003 model. Is there a special tool, hole saw cut needed, or some other solution. It should not be this hard.

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Look at the inside of the door directly behind the door handle. There should be a hole about 15 mm wide.
Just enough to get a small socket through.
Make sure the window is up.

Posted on Feb 03, 2009

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I had the same problem (broken driver's exterior door handle) that I finally got around to tackling today. I found this thread because, like you guys, I assumed the bolt I couldn't get to was attached to the door frame because the handle wouldn't move after removing the two bolts I could gain access to. Well, I gave up trying, but a neighbor came over and helped. He assumed correctly that the third bolt is *not* attached to the door frame and is only used to fasten the locking mechanism!
It's difficult to remove the handle after removing the two frame bolts because the two metal rods and, separately, rubber "grips" at the top of the assembly provide enough force to fool you into thinking this.
To the best of my memory, he was somehow able to pop the bottom piece out. After CAREFUL wiggling, we first pried the pink latch off one of the rods with a flathead from the interior of the door. That was easy enough, but the red latch on the other rod was a bit more difficult. My memory has already faded as to the best method for disengaging this particular latch.
In any case, once the two rods are free from their plastic latches, you can wiggle the assembly down and out the exterior side enough to gain access to the "mystery bolt". Remove the third bolt holding the lock in place, then reverse the process using the new assembly!
My biggest problem after this was the dang window regulator! The trick here was to LOOSELY attach no other bolts but the lower regulator bolts (they have a silver "cup" washer with them on my 2003 Altima). I think we had to lower the window a bit with the electric switch to accomplish this feat. Once we grabbed a hold of the lower part of the regulator, we were then able to finagle LOOSELY attaching the upper counterparts. After that, we proceeded to re-attach the rest of the bolts, but had to raise the window again to line it all up evenly.
After we finally got it all on and the celebratory cheers died down, my neighbor left... but then I realized the plastic guard with the two interior handle cable rods didn't stay UNDER the black metal wall we just finished bolting back into place!!! NOOO!!! Fortunately, I was able to loosen enough bolts and PRY the plastic guard's flange back under the wall and re-tighten the bolts.
Phew! I surely hope this helps someone else!! --Matt

Posted on Aug 29, 2011

  • fede_gonz Aug 31, 2011

    Thanks Matt, I also accidentaly figured out that the 3rd bolt, only holds the locking mechanisim/key hole. You just need to push the handle out for it to pop out. What i did is removed the rod attached to the handle (the one w the pink plastic latch) i left the red one still attached to its rod and just used a closed end ratcheting wrench and slowly was able to get the 3rd bolt out.

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How do you get the third bolt (upper left) off? What tool can be used for it?

Posted on Mar 21, 2010

  • fede_gonz Aug 02, 2011

    I have the same problem. I see you posted this a year ago. how did you solve this? did you have to drill a third hole?

  • Matt Wilson Aug 29, 2011

    I had the same problem (broken driver's exterior door handle) that I finally got around to tackling today. I found this thread because, like you guys, I assumed the bolt I couldn't get to was attached to the door frame because the handle wouldn't move after removing the two bolts I could gain access to. Well, I gave up trying, but a neighbor came over and helped. He assumed correctly that the third bolt is *not* attached to the door frame and is only used to fasten the locking mechanism!

    It's difficult to remove the handle after removing the two frame bolts because the two metal rods and, separately, rubber "grips" at the top of the assembly provide enough force to fool you into thinking this.

    To the best of my memory, he was somehow able to pop the bottom piece out. After CAREFUL wiggling, we first pried the pink latch off one of the rods with a flathead from the interior of the door. That was easy enough, but the red latch on the other rod was a bit more difficult. My memory has already faded as to the best method for disengaging this particular latch.

    In any case, once the two rods are free from their plastic latches, you can wiggle the assembly down and out the exterior side enough to gain access to the "mystery bolt". Remove the third bolt holding the lock in place, then reverse the process using the new assembly!

    My biggest problem after this was the dang window regulator! The trick here was to LOOSELY attach no other bolts but the lower regulator bolts (they have a silver "cup" washer with them on my 2003 Altima). I think we had to lower the window a bit with the electric switch to accomplish this feat. Once we grabbed a hold of the lower part of the regulator, we were then able to finagle LOOSELY attaching the upper counterparts. After that, we proceeded to re-attach the rest of the bolts, but had to raise the window again to line it all up evenly.

    After we finally got it all on and the celebratory cheers died down, my neighbor left... but then I realized the plastic guard with the two interior handle cable rods didn't stay UNDER the black metal wall we just finished bolting back into place!!! NOOO!!! Fortunately, I was able to loosen enough bolts and PRY the plastic guard's flange back under the wall and re-tighten the bolts.

    Phew! I surely hope this helps someone else!! --Matt

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4 Answers

2002 Nissan Altima Exterior Door Handle


I seriously doubt that supergluing or even epoxying a handle back will hold at all, or hold for more then few days.
I would only suggest doing the replacement yourself if you familiar with this type of work, or has the aptitude to figure out how to do it, and have the right tools because it is NOT trivial and a number of things can be done wrong, broken or scratched.
The handle itself cannot be replaced. The outside door handle assembly (which includes the handle, the bezel with all associated springs, plastic and metal hardware) has to be replaced. Besides junkyards, which is a long shot for number of reasons, the only place where the handle assembly can be bought is the dealer. And these handle assemblies are not cheap ether. The driver side handle on my 2002 Altima broke first. I paid $60.23+tax, and they had to order it. BEFORE anyone goes to the dealer I suggest to call first, and ask them if they have it in stock. Since door handles are sold painted they will ask you for your car's VIN number so that they match the paint color.
After you pick it up, the replacement will take about an hour (if you know what you doing). The inside door panel has to be removed, it is held in place by the inside door handle and the panel is attached by a number of clips, the handle assembly is attached to the door by three bolts, to remove which you will need a socket with extension. You will also need a good flashlight so you see what you are doing.
If you are familiar how to do this type of work and plan to keep the car for a while I strongly suggest buying a factory service manual on a CD (I bought mine on eBay for under $10). It is worth its price 1000s of times over, and makes almost ALL repair work SOOO much easier.751424a.jpg73e3811.jpgd240851.jpg

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Remove the door panel and inspect this cable. You will see 2 cables (one is for the door lock). If the plastic is broken, you will need a new interior handle assembly.

Hope this is helpful!!



Nissan Scope Technician- 10+ years experience in Nissan dealership

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