I never got around to writing this one up at the time (perhaps hoping to forget the whole incident!), but you know this is the sort of information that really can benefit someone else…
A while back my car, a 1998 3-door Honda Civic was broken into. I had the misfortune of meeting the thief while he was still inside my car in the middle of stealing it. But that’s a story for another day.
He had gained entry via the passenger door. He’d taken a screwdriver and destroyed the lock barrel. He then pried whole handle out of the door skin to actuate the rods behind it. Essentially both the door handle assembly and the lock were completely destroyed. And the problem that I faced was that until I fixed it my car was openable by anyone who could spot the damage.
I did some ringing around and was not pleased with the news: Honda wanted in excess of $1000 to rebarrel the entire car and even a wrecker’s yard wanted $350 for a new handle and lock. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – $350 for a handle from a trashed car that won’t even have a matching key! And I certainly wasn’t going to pony up over a grand for a car that’s only worth four.
Having a look on the net I noted that the US spares market is not only significantly cheaper, but also unlike here in Australia where you have to ring everyone and inspire them to dig around out that back, the Americans have all their stock either placed on their website (complete with individual photographs) or thrown up on Ebay. Sure, I would be looking at a fair bit of postage, but even all that combined I would still have plenty of change from a $100 note (fully delivered to my door, no 2hr journeys to the middle of nowhere to find parts).
But I still wasn’t thrilled about not having a matching key. I figured that instead of carrying two keys I would just treat it like it didn’t have a lock (ie not externally unlockable). Wait a minute, I thought, what if I could fit a handle with no lock at all? So I started peering at rear passenger door handles for 4-door Civics in my year. They looked remarkably similar and worth having a punt – so I ordered one for $35 (+40&pp).
…and so the whole purpose of this post: they are entirely interchangeable. I needed to take off the interior door card for the passenger door and unbolt the broken handle assembly. The rod which connects the lock cylinder to the door latch is permanently removed (so no-one else can just stick their hand in there and tug it open, and also to prevent rattling or it all getting tangled). Naturally, the other rods (from the handle to the latch and the latch to the interior handle all stay as is. I have reproduced the appropriate page from the factory service manual, highlighting the rod to remove in red.
All in all this is about a 1hr job for the uninitiated, and having done it once I could probably do it again in half the time. When I saw the break-in I thought I’d be up for a massive bill, but this turns out to be a really cheap thing to fix. I’ll admit it takes a little bit of retraining to remember to open the door from the inside instead of from the kerb side. It can be a little annoying when loading something through that door. But it has never been $1000-worth of inconvenience. And, as you can see below, no-one would ever know that this is possibly the only Civic without a passenger keyhole – it looks like it has always been that way.