Adjusting tension on a 1998 VW Passat door handle cable

Our old family car, a 1998 VW Passat (B5) is still running great, but having lots of problems with trim pieces and misc non-drivetrain parts. For example, if you lock the car and then unlock it, it would take 10-15 pulls on the passenger door handle (inside or outside) before the door would unlatch.


This is time consuming if you are trying to let somebody into the car, and potentially unsafe as it could trap somebody inside the car in an emergency. (Usually whoever isn’t driving is riding in the back to keep our son company, but it needed to be addressed.)

I believe that the root cause is a mechanism inside the latch that gets pushed up when the door is locked, but does not fall back into place when it is unlocked. It is supposed to fall back in place anytime the door handle is released, but apparently our door handle isn’t letting it fall back. One solution I’ve seen discussed online involves removing a spring that sometimes rubs on the part, but this requires you to remove the entire interior door panel, which is a relatively involved procedure.

I decided to try the easy fix first, which is to adjust the tension of the cable that goes from the latch mechanism to the door handle. The tension can be adjusted relatively easy from outside the door if you have the right German security bit to remove the lock cylinder. (Having fixed the drivers side lock cylinder a few years ago, I happened to have this on hand. It is a 12 point star driver/bit (aka triple-square or spline bit): XZN-M4. If you don’t have one, you MAY be able to get a Torx-20 to turn the screw, but you risk stripping it out, so I’d suggest you order one and wait for it.)


You simply pop the plastic cover off, hold the door handle out, and unscrew the security screw until the lock cylinder (and surrounding cover) can be pulled out (12 full rotations in my case, don’t remove it all the way!). After this, it is an easy procedure to pry out a plug attached to the cable and move it to the left or right before snapping it back into place in the handle. I found that I had to move it just slightly to the right (adding tension) to (mostly) fix the problem.


It still takes two pulls to open the door. The first pull allows something inside to “reset” and the second pull actually opens the door. However, two pulls is reasonable and much safer than 10-15 pulls on the handle.


One thought on “Adjusting tension on a 1998 VW Passat door handle cable

  1. How do you adjust tension for inside door cable? Mine keeps loosing tension then doesn’t work. Is there way to push cable further in then anchor it?

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