CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Replacing a door -- try to do it myself?

Hi there! I have a pretty big dent in the front passenger door of my Toyota Echo and I was thinking of avoiding the body shop and just ordering the door & parts and trying to put in on myself. It doesn’t have power locks or windows, so I was thinking it might be an easyish repair. Any thoughts?

You might have some issues installing hinge springs. And getting the door lined up properly might be tricky. A few years ago, knowing nothing about it, I replaced a hinge on the front door of my '84 Chevy wagon. I hope my Mother, rest her soul, never found out how I compressed the spring, and I don’t think I ever got it lined up right.

Of course, the Chevy door probably weighed as much as your whole Echo.

But if you try it and can’t get the job done, you could then take it to a body shop. You might have to drive without a door, with the replacement in the back seat.

I say, what’s life without a little (mis)adventure - go for it. FYI: you can find recommended procedures for things like this a shop manual and might be able to find it in Autozone’s online manuals.

As art1966 said - the worst you can really do is fail and end up at the body shop anyway (but without paying the parts markup).

Depending on the dent you might actually start with some DIY dent repair research too (and skip the new door altogether). You’re relatively unlikely to get body shop results, but see my first point.

I think that I would take the inside panel off the door and pound the dent out first, then take a look at things and see how much (if any) body work remains to be done. Replacing a car door isn’t all that hard . . . but it might be better to just repair the original one. Rocketman

Normally you only replace the sheet metal skin and not the whole door, unless the inner door is also damaged. The door still has to come off to replace the skin but its not that bad of a job. The problem will be trying to get it properly adjusted and also getting it painted.

Have you gotten any estimates on it yet? If it’s just a dent, they can probably pull it out for far cheaper than buying a door.

Door hinges can be a real bear to loosen.The replacement and alignment is also tough. Have a helper, it is not impossible to replace.

So wrong! The Echo weighs at least six pounds more than the Chevy door.

See if you can find a complete replacement door at a salvage yard. Sometimes you can even find the correct color! Search online too. Google “used Toyota parts” and you will be amazed…Usually, to replace a door, you must first remove the front fender that blocks access to the bolts that secure the hinges.

You could also locate your door and then have a body shop install it and paint it if necessary. It might be cheaper just to have them re-skin it if the damage is not to great. The outer skin (sheet metal) of a door is the cheapest part…

I Hung A Used Rear Door On My Dodge.

Granted, my car was a dozen+ years old when a drunk backed into it, but I found one (totally rust-free and near perfect) locally, that was the same color and trim (manual windows) for $90 plus tax.

It took less than an hour to install. There were no springs that were a problem. There wasn’t much aligning, either. However, I think front door hinge access can be tougher than a rear door. As Caddyman points out, access to the hinges can be one of the biggest obstacles.

Take a good look at it. I wonder if you can unpin the check-strap so the door opens wider, to help you, but be careful that the door doesn’t swing into the fender. The screws are sometimes #3 or #4 phillips and an impact driver is handy. Since your hinges aren’t damaged, take a look or practice at the salvage yard if possible, and see if it’s possible to remove just the hinge “pins” on that particular model and leave the hinge “halves” in place and be able to get them back in.

Stare at it for a while and see if it looks like you can get tools on it!

Good luck!

P.S. This project can be a good reason to buy an impact driver and the appropriate bit. It is a good tool to own, especially if you don’t use air tools.

P.P.S. You know, if you can locate and buy a door, this is child’s-play for a body shop. Call a couple and see what they’d charge. I’d bet it’s not much. A used door would be the way to go, price-wise and labor-wise.

Now I have to know. How did you compress the spring?

Bing-o!!
Actually, the door does not always have to come off to replace a skin. My first choice is to fix what you have, if at all possible. Almost all damage is repairable and if done correctly will be unnoticeable and last the rest of the life of the car. It’s the easiest and most economical solution. The skin swap would be the next choice and I’d only dismount the door if I absolutely had to.

How about paint?

I would get an estimate from two places to repair it first. A door does not include any of the manual locks or windows or speakers. You have to dismantle all or that and then reinstall if possible. Manual manual windows have parts glued/fused to together making it more difficult without experience.

Andrew, This Is Why I suggested A Used Door. One In Excellent Condition IS …
“Complete” And Of Superior Durability Compared With A Repaired Door. (The difference is factory welds, paint, etc.) Please reread my previous post.

Since you are not worried about the paint matching I believe it would look nicer to leave the dented door on even with a dent. A dentless door that is the wrong color will look worse.
Don’t buy a can of touch up paint and expect it to match, it won’t.

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Replacing an entire door for a dented door skin? Factory welds? It’s a door skin, not a structural element. Most door skins are simply crimped around the door with panel adhesive anyway, there’s no need to weld anything. How many people have actually replaced a door skin that are giving out advice?

The Shop I Managed Replaced Some Skins, Some Door Shells, And Many Complete Used Doors.
This isn’t rocket science, you’re right. I’ll put my money on a complete, excellent condition used door, and sometimes one can be had in the correct color. They’re better and the total bill is smaller.
As to whether or not this door can be skinned remains to be seen. Also, for a DIY’er a door replacement (used, same color) is easier or cheaper if a shop does it. We don’t even know what year this thing is.

Well spoken

Very good point.

Go for it! The Haynes Manual even tells you step-by-step how to do this. Even how to USE YOUR CAR JACK to hold the door up at the correct level for you. It is easier with another person. Any special tools you may need you might find at the AutoZone or Kragen under their “Loan-A-Tool” program.