This article gives detailed instructions on replacing a melted passenger side door handle in a BMW E90 3 series vehicle. Even though we used a 2011 335i to perform this repair, this article can be applied to any 2007-2013 3 series vehicle with minor modifications to the repair steps.
A melted BMW E90 door handle on the passenger side of the vehicle is a factory defective part that can be inexpensively replaced.
One of the more annoying issues owners of 2007-2013 BMW 3 series are encountering is a “melted’ passenger side door handle. If you have ever attempted to grab the passenger side door handle on your BMW E90 to only find a slick blob of mushy plastic, you are not alone. This is a notorious defective part on the E90 3 series that has left many an owner with a nasty sticky mess on their hands and clothes.
The most common cause for a melted E90 door handle is degradation from using interior cleaning solutions. Unfortunately, the coating used on the factory BMW E90 door handle does not react well with many popular detailing sprays. Over time the chemicals in the spray will cause the vinyl coating on the door handle to break down into a soft mass. It has also been reported that certain chemicals in hand lotions and sunscreens can also cause door handle degradation. Whatever the culprit is, it causes a big mess that must be repaired.
If you’d like to read more on BMW leather treatment, pop on over to our incredibly informative article on how to properly clean your BMW’s leather seats. We cover all 6 types of leather seats BMW uses in their cars and recommend the safest most effective cleaning supplies.
The good news is a BMW E90 door handle replacement is relatively simple for the home mechanic with average ability and can save a tremendous amount of money by avoiding the dealership. Aftermarket replacement door handles are readily available on Amazon for under $30 and can be installed in about an hour.
It is important to note that the BMW E90 passenger door handle is actually two parts; the cover and the actual door pull. Together these parts snap together to form the handle. When ordering a new door handle for your 2007-2013 3 series, make sure you order both parts (not just the cover). Also, it is strongly suggested that you purchase some spare door panel clips. You will most likely break a few when removing the door panel, so it is nice to be prepared. Remember that it is perfectly normal to break trim clips when doing these types of repairs. For more information dealing with broken parts while doing your own repairs, please see our article Break something while repairing your BMW? Get over it.
1. Door handle (required) – Replacement door handles are readily available and are inexpensive. Always order both the door pull and the cover.
2. Door panel clips (optional) – It is perfectly normal to break door panel clips
The first step in replacing the melted door handle on your BMW E90 3 series is removing the interior door panel. Care should be taken when removing the panel, especially while disconnecting the speaker wires. Never allow the door panel to drop to the floor until all of the electronics are unplugged. This will prevent wires from breaking.
- Using a plastic trim removal tool, pry the edge of the armrest trim loose as shown below. Use your hands to carefully pull the armrest trim free from the door panel.
- Locate and remove the three T15 torx screws anchoring the door panel to the door frame.
- Use a plastic trim removal tool to pry the door handle cover off.
- using a T15 torx bit, remove the screw anchoring the door handle to the door frame.
- The door panel is now free to be pried loose from the door frame. The door panel is held in place with plastic clips. It is completely acceptable (and normal) to break the clips during door panel removal! The cheap plastic clips are intended to break to prevent damage to expensive door panel parts. To reorder new clips see our parts section above or click here.
- Grasp the door panel and carefully pull it loose from the door frame. Be careful not to let it fall to the ground until after the electronics are unplugged! You will end up breaking wires if you do.
- Reach behind the door panel and carefully unplug the door speaker and the door courtesy light.
- Disconnect the door latch cable from the back of the door panel.
- The door panel is now free to be removed from the vehicle.
Installing the new door handle is a straightforward procedure that requires drilling out the factory fasteners and replacing them with screws supplied with the new replacement part.
- Place the door panel on a clean table or workbench. Identify the four fasteners securing the old factory door handle to the door panel…there are two on the top and two on the bottom. These fasteners will have to be drilled out.
- Starting with the top, carefully drill the plastic fasteners until they fall apart.
- Locate the upper handle fasteners. Drill these out like in step 2 above.
- The old factory door handle can now be removed. Carefully pull it loose from the door panel.
- Position the new handle on the door panel. Use the new replacement screws and washers to anchor the handle to the panel.
Reinstalling the door panel is simply the above steps in reverse without any special procedures. Take your time reinstalling the panel. Getting frustrated and attempting to “force” the panel back on will only end up breaking clips and causing a mess. Reinstalling door panels challenges the patience of even professional mechanics, so if you get upset walk away until you cool off. We have supplied a handy reinstallation checklist below for your convenience.
BMW E90 Door Handle Replacement Reinstallation Checklist
***The following steps were performed on a 2011 335i…other models may vary.
- If you broke any door panel clips during disassembly, replace them now. If you need to quickly reorder new clips, please see our parts section above or order them here.
- Reconnect the door latch cable, the front speaker and the courtesy light.
- Position the door panel in place and carefully press the clips into the door frame. DO NOT force the panel back on.
- Install the door handle T15 screw.
- Snap the new door handle cover on.
- Install the three armrest T15 screws.
- Reinstall the armrest trim.