Removing Inside Door Handles


I have a 1951 Pontiac Chieftain Torpedo and I have a problem. I want to remove the handles and window cranks from the doors so that I can remove the door panel to get access to the inside of the door. The problem is that I can’t get any of the handles or cranks to come off. I do have the appropriate tool that a friend lent me, but the tool never seems to do anything. I made sure I am between the handle and the little metal disc, but nothing works. Do you guys have any tips or tricks? Thanks!


I understand your frustration with the clips on these inside door handles—on occasion I have wrestled with them as well, and then other times they come right off.
Removal Tool lead They actually make a few different tools to remove these. The most common looks like a long slot in a piece of sheet metal. The idea is to insert this release tool between the handle and the escutcheon plate. The tool is generally inserted in the direction where the tool is beneath the lever part of the actual handle (assuming the C-clips were put in right, if they were ever apart). The tool fits into a groove in the inside door handle, and as it is pushed further onto the door handle shaft, it releases the C-clip and the door handle simply pulls off. Sometimes the clips have been installed backwards, in which case, insert the tool with the lever part of the door handle facing away from the tool. Another common tool for releasing the C-clips that hold the door handles in place looks more like pliers, but rather than having a pliers-type end, it has flat, hook-shaped blades on the end. Simply insert the tool behind the handle, press in to grab the C-clip, and pull out.
Removal Tool Box Do an internet search for “Door Handle removal tool” and you’ll see both of these types available. In some cases they are a real pain, and it helps to get a friend to push in on the inner door panel while you negotiate the tool into position. Have a nice bright flashlight available too, as once you get everything pushed back, often you can see the clip itself.
Removal Tool Process copy I have used both types of these tools to remove inside door handles, but find the pliers type to be the only one that works well for me on GM cars of the ’30s. I have used both with success on ’40s and newer cars. Take your time and be patient with it; once you get one, I assure you the rest will come easier. If that clip pops off to places unknown, they do reproduce them and they’re relatively inexpensive. Let me know how this works out for you!
Wrench Safe, Mark
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18 Responses to “Removing Inside Door Handles”

  1. Dean E Kochmann

    A good old fashioned wire coat hanger cut into a nice length and then bend the end in such a way that it looks like a small hook. It will work to pull the clip off and may even hold onto it before it flies away.

    • Dean E Kochmann

      A good old fashioned wire coat hanger cut into a nice length and then bend the end in such a way that it looks like

  2. Doug Brand

    I use a piece of wire with a small hook bent into one end. Push the door panel in for access and hook the closed side of the c-clip and pull it out. Bend and make a loop big enough for your finger on the other end of the wire to help with pulling. Good Luck.

  3. George Sfiridis

    I have used a piece of long flexible wire and put it thru the back end (loop side) of the clip and out to a point where I could hold both ends of the wire and pull the clip out. You will have to push in on the door panel in order to thread the wire thru the clip end. Clip never got lost doing it this way.

  4. Patrick

    I successfully removed the clips with the plier type tool!! With some patience, I was finally able to remove them. After the first one, the others came off easily! Thanks so much for the help!

    • David

      Here’s a trick I’ve used.
      Just use a shop rag to
      pull and slide between the
      handle and door panel. It
      should catch the hook end of the clip and come right off. As a bonus the
      clip should be captured by
      the rag and not not go
      flying off and there’s no
      chance of damaging the
      door panel with a metal

  5. Yady

    Either something is jaemmd in the door, the door handle linkage is broken or the door flexed (or the frame flexed) such that the door itself wedged against the body of the car. My old camaro did the same thing. Took it to a shop and they had to pry it open. Nothing else for them to do and it worked fine after that and still works to this day. If you are confident that the door linkage is working properly, the only real option is to pull the handle and try to force the door open.Hope this helps.

    • Oscar

      Take a shop rag and slide it between the handle and plastic washer where the clip is and pull it around the handle. The rag will hook the clip and pull the clip off.

  6. Glenn

    While the answer provided may be true in most cases, the real problem in some cases is that the cutout in the tool is simply the wrong size (too large). I struggled for hours to get the handles off my Edsel, even buying a second tool designed for FOMOCO cars. I finally realized the tool cutout was sliding right past the clip since the cutout was too wide. I took a piece of sheet metal and made my own tool with a smaller cutout. In seconds, the clip was out. Not all cars use the same size groove on the door handle!!!!

    • Tayo

      I have a car with almost the same porelbm. Actually, it had the same porelbm till I decided one day to give it a good kick. Sat sideways and, pulling up the door handle, I put my feet on the door and just thumped it with both feet. Now it works sometimes, and when it doesn’t I bang my palm and thigh against it at the same time. If that doesn’t work, both feet does like above.Good luck!

  7. Gary Spreng

    I’ve hassled with removing these in times past, often losing the clip. To get new ones, just go the the parts counter and ask for a Jesus clip–as in “Jesus…where did that fly off to…?” The countermen always know exactly what you want.

    • Olaifa

      Ha this happened to me once in the mildde of a snowstorm. I had to call a locksmith and he was able to use a clothes hanger and get it in through the window somehow(the windows were up all the way) and open my door. If you have a hatchback you could open the hatchback and crawl in, same with if you have a trunk and if your back seats fold down you could crawl in as well. Other than that I think you’re going to have to break out a window.

        • Fred

          Before I knew there were special clip removing tools, I made my own. I took an old flat blade screwdriver, heated the tip with a torch, and bent the tip 90 degrees in a vise.
          To use this tool find the loop end of the clip by pressing in on the door panel using a light in the gap. Slide the bent tip of the screwdriver under the loop. Then you can slide the clip out by pulling it with the screwdriver. I still use that homemade tool to this day 30-some years later.