The Very Bad Door Handle


The driver side slider on my 2005 Sienna XLE sticks quite often. At first this problem only appeared if it was cold outside, first thing in the morning. Then it appeared if it was cold and rainy. Now it’s any given time but worse when it’s cold out. The remote works the door just fine but it can take multiple hard yanks on the door handle to get it to open. The mechanics at the dealership have greased the cables and done whatever they can do without removing the door. I’ve been arguing with this dealership over the fact that the door opens okay, when it opens. The problem is in the handle. If I pull on it and it does not open, and then I try to use the remote to lock the car, it senses that the door is not closed and won’t lock. Also the feel of the handle not quite engaging when pulled is obvious. Not, apparently, to the geniuses at the dealership, who don’t want to have to remove the door because, as it was put to me: “Ya figure there are a million little parts in there”. Brilliant.

Any ideas on what I can ask them to do to narrow down their “figurin’” on what the problem may be?


You spent a lot of money on this van, and this is clearly a manufacturer’s defect. It is the dealer’s duty to fix this problem under warranty, and bill the factory for the repair. If the dealer continues to stall, call the Regional Service Manager to light a fire under the dealer. The Toyota Customer Care number is 800-331-4331. Or, you can find more info at this website,


Without having the car in hand about all I can do is generalize. It could be one or two problems causing this.
One is that the outer handle has a rod with an adjustable plastic fitting on the end connecting it to a lever on the door latch assembly. If these get at least borderline out of adjustment it can cause an erratic latch operation. This can be made worse by the problem below.

The latch assemblies often have grease on them. Over time this grease ages, stiffens up, and becomes contaminated with dirt. This keeps several parts of the latch assembly from moving freely, one of them being the lever the rod mentioned above connects to.
Even sticking a little bit can cause your problem.

I have no idea why they can’t fix this. There are a number of parts in the door, but it’s not THAT bad. Remove door panel, moisture barrier, and with the window up, someone should be able to look at the latch and determine the problem. Sticking parts of the latch assembly can be often freed up with aerosol carburetor cleaner since this will loosen and wash away any gummy grease. It seems to me this should not be more than a 1 hour job at the maximum.

I’ve repaired countless latch problems of a similar nature and those 2 possibilities are often the cause 99% of the time. Never done a Sienna, but they all work on the same principles.
Hope that helps.


This web site has a posting for 2004 Sienna about the doors sticking when it gets cold. There are many responses, but overall the result is the same. The rubber gasket on the door freezes when the temp drops. Some say it is moisture from inside the car when the heat is on. When the car is parked and cools-off, the moisture freezes. Climb in thru any open door and run the heat for a while. The doors will magically work again. Our dealer sprayed the gasket with lubricant, but it really didn’t help much. We have manual doors, and other door problems. We have suffered with the gasket falling off the sliding door many times in the heat of the summer, even after being replaced and reglued. We also have a problem with the door not opening all the way or not locking when we are on an incline with the front pointing down. Toyota needs to hear from every owner with these problems, and I am sure they will address them.


I was at our dealership today (Northway Toyota in Latham, NY) and they looked at my doors, AGAIN. Great service this time. The two techs pointed out that water (or just moisture from the air) gets in the top of the door and the black strip installed there is ineffective- the doors freeze shut. Toyota has had many complaints, and now they are in the process of making a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) to replace the black strip (not the weatherstripping) at the top of the sliding door. They also coated my weatherstripping and door parts with white messy silicone, and within 1/2 hour of leaving the dealer, the door froze again! Will update you on doors when the replacement strips are installed. In the meantime,ask for a refund… you were misled. Toyota knows now that it has a problem with the doors freezing shut and the handle malfunctioning. Funny, to see the TSB’s for our vehicle, Toyota makes you subscribe to their service for $350 a year!