Driver’s-side back door won’t open on a 97 Honda Civic – inside handle

Ever since I’ve known Cami, the driver’s side back door of her Civic has been out of commission. It wouldn’t open from the outside or the inside. Access to the back seat was always from the passenger side, and it was getting tedious to not have use of that door. Finally I took a look to see if I could figure out what was wrong.

Cami told me that once, when opening the door from the outside, she heard a sound inside the door, and the handle went slack. My guess was, something that linked the handle to the latch was broken. That would explain the lack of access from the outside, but not the inside.

I tried the inside handle, and it felt right – like it was connected, but the door wouldn’t open. The lock had normal motion too, but didn’t make any difference. I wanted to look inside the door to gather more information.

I first removed the single screw that secures the inside latch handle. Then I slid the handle mechanism forward to pop it out of the door. The handle was still attached by the connecting rod to the lock. I pulled on the rod, and… the door clicked open! Like an idiot I wanted to see if I could do it again, so I closed the door (not smart). This time it would not open. After a lot of wiggling and tugging back and forth on the rod (firmly, but not enough to bend or break anything) to finally get the door to pop open again.

With the door open I could see the child lock switch that is next to the latch that holds the door closed. It was in the locked position. I unlocked the switch. Sliding a screwdriver through the slot on the latch will set the latch to the closed position – as though the door were closed. After doing this I pulled on the rod and watched the latch open – a good sign. I repeated this action several times to give me confidence. Then I closed the door and pulled on the rod. It opened.

So, the problem with opening the door from the inside was solved by changing the position of the child lock switch. Normally, that lock keeps someone from opening the door from the inside. That’s great, as long as you can open the door from the outside. If the outside handle is broken, it presents a big problem. We were relieved that we could now use the door, even if we did have to open it from the inside.

Next on the agenda was to fix the outside handle.