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5000 drivers side door problems

I have been having problems with my driver's side door since I got my 
car.  At first, the outside door handle was the main problem -- it took a 
tremendous amount of force on the handle to get the door to open.  
Leaning on the door helped a lot.  Eventually, I guess because of the 
increased strain on the handle, the dreaded thing broke (like most of 
them do, it seems).  I replaced the outside door handle with an 
aftermarket  one from Clair.  The handle is still in good shape, but even 
after replacement, it was difficult to open the door.  It an attempt to 
make it "stiffer", I unscrewed the ball-joint on the connecting rod about 
halfway and then reattached it to the handle so that there was less 
"travel" on the mechanism.  I haven't been able to see what's going on in 
there since...

Last weekend I replaced the inner door handle with a salvaged one.  The 
old one had cracked plastic and thus the metal handle part was loose.  I 
simply  hooked the cable onto the new one and screwed it in.  Things 
seemed to work relatively well for awhile, but then it got to be worse.  
Sometimes, it would take two tries to open the door.  The outside door 
handle got bad again too.  Sometimes I REALLY had to lean HARD to get it 
to open.

On my 1500 mile round-trip this weekend from CT to my beach house in NC, 
everything stopped.  I think that some of the connecting rods/ball joints 
either broke or fell off the outside handle, because (A) the lock doesn't 
work from the outside right now and (b) I can't open the door, no matter 
how hard I try.  I can lock/unlock the door from the inside (at least, 
the actuator makes all the other door locks lock/unlock) but the inside 
handle isn't opening the door either.  I had to get in/out of the 
frigging car from the passenger side for the whole drive.  Needless to 
say, this doesn't feel esp. safe.  I want to fix this problem myself if 
possible.  Does anyone have suggestions?

Preston Brown      Yale Economics Dept. System Admin     pbrown@econ.yale.edu
      If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice -- RUSH