How To Guide Reinforce your interior door handles - Club4G Forum : Mitsubishi Eclipse 4G Forums - 2006-2012 Eclipse Authority
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Do It Yourself Guides (Howto) HowTos, Technical Data and Documentation for the 4G Eclipse


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Old April 18th, 2015, 07:34 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Lightbulb Reinforce your interior door handles

If you're reading this then you probably already know that the structural design of the 4G's interior door pull handle is crap. Mine broke off in my hand as I was leaving work a few weeks back. Truthfully, I had been expecting it to happen. When I installed my speakers a couple of years ago, a few of those little clips that run down the sides of the handles broke off. The problem is that those little clips are a vital part of the structural integrity of the handle. So my handles suddenly had a lot of flex to them, way more than before.

Over time, that flexing will create spider vein cracks around the screw mount points which attach the handle to the door panel. This is the passenger handle which had not yet broken. As a side note: notice the twisting of the screw mount tabs? A word on that later.



The driver's side, of course, saw way more action than the passenger door, and it was inevitable that it would break first. Luckily, Eclipse parts are pretty easy to get. So I ordered a brand new set of handles with the intent to reinforce them. I got them from Genuine Mitsubishi Parts Accessory Warehouse on Amazon for $34US plus shipping.

The idea I had was to reinforce the inside of the handle by adding a very rigid spine of some kind. After looking at some different materials, I settled on 1/2in steel flat bar. My plan was to epoxy a piece of steel into the handle sideways to completely prevent flexing along the length of the handle.

 
[tr]
[th]Tools Used[/th]
[th][/th]
[/tr]
[tr]
[td][/td]
[td]
  • Utility knife, hefty and sharp, not the snap off kind
  • Long-nose pliers
  • Chisel or something similar
  • A nail or other implement to rough of the plastic
  • Hacksaw
  • Sandpaper
  • Metal file/rasp
  • Some kind of brush (I used a toothbrush)
[/td]
[/tr]

 
[tr]
[th]Materials[/th]
[th][/th]
[/tr]
[tr]
[td][/td]
[td]
  • 1/2in x 1/8in steel flat bar (found mine at Lowe's)
  • JB Weld or some other epoxy that can bond ABS plastic and raw steel
  • Disposable surface for mixing and distributing the epoxy
  • Disposable implement for spreading the epoxy (I used a popsicle stick)
  • Rubber bands
[/td]
[/tr]


First thing, cut the metal bar to length, 7.75in (19.7cm). The hacksaw worked well for me. You will need two pieces, of course; one for each door handle. File the ends smooth with the metal file so they don't cut you (that'll get infected!). Now sand the surface of each bar so that it's very rough. That will remove any coating from the metal's surface and give the epoxy something to stick to.

Now to remove ribbing from inside of the handle. You want the steel bar to slot in sideways, and you want it to be close to the center of the handle. It may be possible to cut a line down the center of the handle, but you'll need other tools for that. I chose to run mine down the back side of the those circular columns in the middle. That way, I could make use of that center spine, and would need less epoxy. Note that those circular things don't run in a straight line. They follow the curve of the handle. So, your straight bar won't touch all of them. I cut my slot so it would touch the two in the center.

The technique was to slice out a tab from each rib and then break off the tab using the pliers. Then, clean out the slot with the chisel, going all the way to the bottom so that it's flat. This will make sure that the steel bar sits straight. Try to keep the slots narrow and make sure the bar does not sit at an angle. Drop the bar in periodically and remove plastic as needed to make it fit pretty.

Now you have to rough up the interior of the handle. I used a sharp nail for this. Then I went behind it and cut hatches with my utility knife. You need to rough it up to help the epoxy bond. Wherever you plan to put epoxy, that surface needs to be rough.

Here is what it looks like.



Notice here that the 1/2in steel bar is taller than the handle's interior.


That means that you have to trim the ribbing from the handle cover as well. Just make sure to do the matching side!


Now clean off any debris from the handle. I used an old toothbrush for this. A paintbrush or a shot of compressed air would probably also do the trick.

Mix your epoxy. JB Weld is what I used, but I realize that it may not available everywhere. Whatever you use must bond steel to plastic or you risk the two materials separating inside your handle (which you probably won't notice) and that will allow the handle to flex once again. Possible even more so since the ribbing has been removed! So be thorough in your epoxy selection.

I used an entire package of JB Weld. Half for the driver side and half for the passenger. At least that was the intention. One side actually has way more than the other. But, anyway.

Spread the epoxy along the slot you've cut out. Make sure to put enough to cover the length of the steel bar. I didn't do this on the first one, but did on the second one. It's definitely the way to go.

Drop the bar into the slot. Push it down to seat it firmly into the epoxy.

Now take the rubber bands and secure each end of the bar. This is to keep it from moving around while you fill in with the rest of the epoxy. I did not use rubber bands on one of the handles and didn't have any problem, but it's better to make sure.


Fill along the metal bar with epoxy. I also filled in around the ends of the handle to (hopefully) prevent the spider vein cracks from forming in the future.




Now it's time to let the epoxy cure. Set the handles out of the way to make sure they aren't disturbed. JB Weld cures better with heat (so I've heard) so keep them in a warm, dry place free of floating debris. Make sure that the handles sit so that the metal bar is straight up and that the epoxy settles evenly without running to one side. Let the epoxy cure completely before installation. Since it's applied so thick, it'll take a while to cure. I waited 3 whole days and it was rock solid.

Install the handles.



Give them a firm tug. Nothing serious, but maybe a little more firm than they might see normally. Don't break off those little tabs. Pop the handle covers back on.



Step back a little. Grab your chin between your thumb and your forefinger. Squint slightly. Nod approvingly. Admire your own handiwork in a solemn moment of contemplative silence.

Some warnings
  • Do not cut yourself or anyone else during the process.
  • Do not get epoxy on your face. Trust me.
  • Do not epoxy the handle cover to the handle itself.

Some thoughts
Using a heat gun to soften the plastic a little to make it easier to cut may be worth a try. Another thought is that using a heat gun to quickly firm up the top layer of the epoxy may help to prevent running. Do not melt the plastic with the heat gun. Do not deform your handles with the heat gun. There's a serious risk of deformation here, so be careful.

Last thing up for discussion. I had mentioned at the top that the screw mount tabs were twisted and probably should not be. This indicates a problem. The mount posts/tabs are just slightly too long! They are meant to stick through the door panel, but they are just a tiny bit longer than the cumulative thickness of the material that they go through. I didn't do this, and I wish I had tried it, but it might be a good idea to shorten those screw mount posts. Or, as an alternative, put a washer on there to offset the extra height required. What I think is happening is the screw is being over-tightened and that is actually damaging the plastic of the handle. That may even be the cause of the spider veins that radiate outward from the posts! It could be creating tiny microscopic cracks which deepen over time from twisting and flexing until the thing finally just snaps off in your hand. That's my hypothesis anyway.

Take it easy!
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Old April 18th, 2015, 08:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Great write up.

On the same note, you could also do the same thing while supporting a fellow 4g'er who goes out of his way to make door handle supports specifically because he wanted to help our community, and he sells them pretty cheaply too, about the cost of a new door handle.
FS Body braces & Door pull supports
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Old April 19th, 2015, 12:06 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Yea, props for doing it a different way, but Rob has some phenomenal door pull supports. If you check his out, he figured out a way to attach bolts to the bar that make the door pulls how they should be. You could put a tow strap on my door pulls now, and have a pickup drag my car sideways using them While that sounds like exaggeration, it isn't. I have nothing to gain, other than to give credit where credit is due.
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Old April 20th, 2015, 07:04 PM   #4 (permalink)
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So should I not have bothered posting this, guys? I mean, this forum has helped me out on several occasions, and I just wanted to add my own support to the community.
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Old April 20th, 2015, 07:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Well, you can do whatever you want. Its great that you thought of it this way, and is nice to give back, hopefully it helps someone in a bind.
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Old May 25th, 2015, 10:57 PM   #6 (permalink)
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wow good job man. This happened to my drivers side door a year ago, ever since i have been using the lower part of the door to close my door. Lol
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Old June 7th, 2015, 11:47 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks, kam009! Whether you plan to keep your car or sell it, you should consider fixing your handles with whatever method you choose. Now, when I get into my car, it feels good. Like it's back to normal and I can just get back to enjoying my ride. Peace of mind is worth a lot to me.

The next things on my list are restoring the headlights and fixing the windshield washer system.
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