The Fox Body Mustang has long-lasting appeal, but some of its original parts are less durable. On the Fox Body, broken door handles are an unfortunately common problem. If you own a 1979-1993 Mustang, it’s likely you’ll need to swap out your broken Fox Body door handle for a new one at some point.
Replacing your Fox Mustang’s door handle is surprisingly simple. Especially when compared to the inconvenience of opening a door with a broken handle.
Fox Body Mustang Door Handle Replacements
The first decision you’ll need to make when swapping out your handles is if you want to use a factory set or an aftermarket handle. The Ford OEM replacement door handle is a great option. It’s a direct fit replacement, so it will require less work to install.
There’s also a Ford OEM replacement for the chrome door handle. This handle was stock on 1982-1989 Mustangs, but it will fit any Fox Body.
There are less expensive options for door handle replacements as well. Aftermarket sets look nearly identical. Some aftermarket door handles are made out of metal, which improves durability. These are also an easy installation.
It’s recommended that you buy both the driver side and passenger side door handles at the same time. Even the Ford replacements look strange compared to your factory door. One has several decades of wear-and-tear after all. If you want matching door handles, you should buy in pairs.
Of course, there’s no reason you can’t stray far outside of factory and check out all the exterior door handle options for Mustangs.
Exterior Handle Installation Tips and Suggestions
It’s recommended that you get a door panel removal tool. This tool is especially valuable for a larger Fox Body restoration project. With a door panel removal tool you can easily remove your interior panel without breaking the door panel clips.
A standard pry bar is also an option for removing interior door panels. Pry bars have sharper edges, so you’ll need to be careful not to break the clips.
If you have access to riveting tools, then use a rivet gun to re-secure the door handle. Though nuts and bolts work fine, rivets offer the most professional-looking installation. If you don’t have riveting equipment, bolts will still work well. Very few people will even notice.
Because door panel clips break easily, it’s good to have replacement door clips on hand. Door panel clips aren’t something you want to have to wait for. You can even get a door panel removal tool and replacement clips together for a complete package.
Fox Body Door Handle Installation Instructions
Once you have your exterior door handle replacements, it’s time to complete your install. You should be able to finish this install in two hours or less.
- Small Phillips Head Screwdriver
- Door Panel Removal Tool (or Pry Bar)
- A Rivet Gun
- Center Punch
- Painter’s Tape
Step One: Remove Factory Rivets
Underneath the handle, you’ll notice the factory rivets securing the door handle in place.
Use a center punch to remove the factory rivets. If you don’t have a center punch, you can use a screwdriver and hammer.
Once the rivets are removed, the door will still be attached to the door lock rod.
Tech Tip: Though we didn’t, it’s a good idea to put a few strips of painter’s tape around the door handle. A slip here could cause a paint chip. Painter’s tape is inexpensive, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Step Two: Disconnect Inner Door Cup
To access the door lock rod, we’ll need to remove the door panel. The first thing we’ll disconnect is the interior door cup.
The door cup is where your inner door handle is, and it’s connected by a single screw. This can be removed with a standard Phillips screwdriver.
Step Three: Disconnect Arm Rest
Both ends of the arm rest should be connected by a Phillips head screw. Once these are removed, pry out the arm rest plugs and remove the 10 mm bolts as well. Then swing the arm rest down.
This should expose the electrical connections. Disconnect these and remove the arm rest.
Step Four: Disconnect Trim
A triangular-shaped black trim piece is located behind the sideview mirror. This trim piece and the speaker grille are both held in place by single Phillips screws that need to be removed.
Step Five: Pry Loose Door Panel
Use the door panel tool or pry bar to work along the bottom edge of the door panel. Once it comes loose, you can remove the entire door panel.
You should see the water barrier inside the door.
Tech Tip: If you’re using a flat head screwdriver or pry bar, wrap the end in masking tape. This will help avoid paint damage.
Step Six: Remove Water Barrier
In order to see the inner mechanics of the door, you need to remove the water barrier. Once you do, you’ll see the inside of the exterior door handle and the door lock rod.
Step Seven: Remove Old Handle
Gently pry the door lock rod down and then remove the old handle.
Step Eight: Connect Rod to Handle
Put the new handle in position and slide the door lock rod through.
The 90-degree bend in the rod should rest on the bottom of the door handle.
Step Nine: Secure Door Handle
If you have a rivet gun, use the included rivets for a factory-finished look.
If you need to use bolts, there are many options. The ones most Fox Body enthusiasts swear by are ¼” hex head bolts with locking washers. The bolts will need to be about 1.5” long to fit.
Step Ten: Open and Close Door
Before reinstalling your door panel, test your door handle. Open and close your door a few times. Try locking and unlocking it as well.
Step Eleven: Replace Interior Door Panel
Replace the interior door panel by reversing the steps above. Replace any broken panel clips with new ones.
Don't Forget the Other Side!
To install a door handle on the passenger side, you’ll follow the exact same steps as above. It’s recommended that you do one side at a time. This decreases the odds of mixing up the pieces.
Fox Body door handle replacement is so easy you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Enjoy your new handle every time you open your door.