How to remove or replace the door handle or exterior door skin on 2005.5-2010 VW Jetta or Golf (and probably newer)

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This shows a DIY how to remove the exterior door skin procedure for a VW Jetta, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, and sportwagen.  The VW Golf was revised in 2010 but DIY removal of the door panel is similar.  Also shown is door handle removal.

The exterior door skin is separate from the door frame and can be removed for maintenance on the door wiring harness, door lock module, or replacement of a broken window regulator.  Replacing it with a used piece can also be much cheaper than repairing minor dents or serious scratches.

For some reason, there have been a few cases where the door skin bolts have loosened by themselves.  The correct torque at the bottom.

Also shown is how to remove or replace the door handle or lock.  It's possible for the handle to break.  If you wish to re-key and replace the door lock, note that the ignition cylinder lock, trunk lock, and glove box lock would also have to be replaced.  All new keys also require immobilizer reprogramming.  See 1000q: mk5 key replacement and 1000q: immobilizer FAQ for more details.

related links: 1000q: door wiring harness repair or 1000q: interior door panel removal.


T20, T30 torx bits

Procedure for DIY removal of the exterior door skin or door handle repair and replacement on a VW Jetta or Golf

Before opening the door, put some painter's tape or other weak tape along the front edge of the exterior door skin near the hinge and along the rear of the fender gap.  This will prevent scratches when the door panel is being removed.  Refer to the below pics and look at your car for an idea of where to put the tape.

Roll the window up and use something to make sure the door cannot shut on your fingers in case someone bumps it or a strong gust of wind tilts it.

Open the door and pull off the plastic trim strip.  It has a bunch of plastic clips holding it in place.  A few of these will still be on the door (white arrows in below pic).  Pull them out and put them on the plastic trim strip so they don't get lost.  There's a plastic sticker over a hole in the door.  Peel it to the side and loosen the T20 torx bolt inside as much as possible.  It shouldn't fall out.  There are a bunch of torx bolts along the edge.  Remove them later.

Pull the door handle open and you should be able to pull the lock cylinder straight out after the bolt is loosened.

Release the door handle and look inside.  There's a plastic clip at the end of a cable (white arrow below).  Pry the clip out and let it hang (red arrow below).  Also remove the torx screw (green arrow).  Going off memory, I think it's a T10 torx.

Here is another picture from a similar car showing how the cable connects to the handle.  The clip is outlined for emphasis.  Unhook the door handle (see the previous picture).  There's a little flexible trim flap that goes inside the door skin.  Note it during installation.

Remove the T30 torx bolts along the edge of the door skin.  There are a bunch along the left and right edges and 4 or 5 along the bottom of the door.  Here are the bolts along the door hinge area.  There are 3 types of bolts so keep them in order while you remove them.  You can lay them on the ground or put them in boxes and take notes to make sure the correct bolt goes back in place.

The door skin will now come off.  The exterior window trim (the chrome strip) will come off with it.

Here is the door panel.  Here you can see the area of interference on the left side of the picture where you should tape to avoid scratches.  You can also see the door handle module (the white box on right side).  If your car doesn't seem to know when the door was opened (interior lights don't come on, alarm goes off, or doors relock after 30 seconds), the door module switch is probably bad.  The door wiring harness could also be cracked.

Another view.  FYI, the mk5 and mk6 VW Jetta, Sportwagen (JSW or GSW), and Golf (Rabbit) are rated for 5 star side impact in the US.  They all have standard front+rear head curtain and front side airbags.  Some have optional rear side airbags.  These braces, the door frame, and the pillar between the doors are designed to be stiffer than the crumple zone steel and are supposed to stop a side impact and cabin intrusion.  Drive defensively because your car is not a tank!

Installation is the reverse of removal.  When installing the door handle cable, make sure there's no slack or else there will be excess play when you open the door.  The door should almost open itself after you feel the handle release the door latch.

Torque specs:
pointy tipped door skin bolts: 7 ft-lb
flat tipped door skin bolts: 10 ft-lb
door handle T10 torx bolt: 40 INCH-lbs (about 3.5 ft-lb)

If you need more information about how to remove the door panel, door module, or  more questions about VCDS mods or vag com mods on your 2005, 2006, 2009 2010 or 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, Golf, or sportwagen TDI, please ask in the forums  or search the site below: