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I'm not sure if repair/maintenance questions for rust prevention/slowdown are all right. Anyhow, here it goes. I'm sure you'll tell me.

My '03 Pontiac Vibe is showing the first signs of rust ('03! I'm doing well; aren't I!?)

Both rear doors (not the back door; I have two rear doors but one back door) have rust dripping out of the door handles. Reports on the net say that GM used a bolt that rusts with time (yes, yes, whereas Toyota didn't). Said reports say that the metal panel may still be fine. Replacing the bolt is all that it takes.

I see youtube videos showing how to remove the inside panel. It seems easy, until I'll face the plastic sheathing (which is either hard or impossible to remove without ripping).

And so I'm wondering.

Rather than attempt to reach the rusty bolt through the inside panel, is it possible to remove the rear door handle from the outside?

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    Any method to do so would also help someone steal you car. I doubt they would intentionally design it that way. – jpaugh Apr 16 at 19:25
  • @jpaugh Thank you. You just clarified the1k views. Normally a good question might get 30 views / day (and then fizzle). Now I understand that all those viewing it have thought "This question must be from someone who is either entirely clueless about car mechanics, by an inept burglar who's moving on to cars, or by someone who's both. Let find out which it is." Clearly a bolt on the opening device from the outside would only facilitate entering a car, and would require a major invention to make sure that replacing the handle from the outside also disables entry from that door. – Sam Apr 16 at 21:17
  • I only assumed that you were thinking as a mechanic, not a software developer. My background makes me more paranoid than most! (Edit: I can see from your profile that assumption was also wrong.) But, I can't speak to why I saw your question, any more than I can explain why the Kardashians are famous. – jpaugh Apr 17 at 18:24
  • @Sam - We've had questions before which could be thrown into the arena of "If I were to do this, it would make it easy to steal a car." We've turned them away. I get where jpaugh was going with it, so believe their statement was meant above board. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 18 at 12:44
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oh, I took no offense at all from jpaugh's comment. I see that the question wouldn't still be here if there were a way to enter a car by simply removing a door handle from the outside. This is a slippery slope though. Someone asking "I lost the password for my backup disk; how do I recover the data?" would be turned away based on whether they were trying to read their own or someone else's disk. If one day someone posts here saying "I locked my keys inside; how do I get in?" will, understandably, be treated with suspicion. – Sam Apr 18 at 16:16
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No. You have to remove the panel to get to the bolt. It is completely within the door structure.

Realistically, don't be so afraid of the weather sheathing. I think most people's problem with it is they try to take it off too fast. The goo which holds it to the door is meant to be pulled apart, then you can re-stick it when you put it back together. You should only have to pull open one corner of it to get to the bolt ... just enough to stick your hand up in there to gain access. Just take your time with it and it will come off there without ripping or deforming. When you are done replacing the bolt (or screw), just reattach the sheathing to the door using the original glue.

If for some reason you happen to rip the plastic in the process of removal, just stick it back up there as well as you can, then repair the plastic by using some duct tape ... this will all be behind the door panel, so any ugliness will be hidden :o)

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    Dirty hack - park the car so the inside panel of the open door is in full sunlight with the door-card removed. After an hour or so, the black mastic will be soft, and peel much easier. Don't use a hot air gun cos the plastic won't like that. If its winter, do this work inside a warm heated garage. – Criggie Apr 16 at 2:05
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No, you cannot change that bolt without taking the panel off, you'll have to bite the bullet on that one. Don't worry about the plastic, go slow and use a paint scraper or butter knife to help pry it off. If it tears duct tape is your friend.

If rust prevention is your aim you'll want that panel off in any case so you can inspect the inside of the door for damage and prevent it from spreading. At the least you'll want to clean the rust off, get it out of the threads for the new bolt.

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