Adding a sliding door grab handle

It’s a big step up in to the van. The one place you’d want a grab handle in the sliding door area is covered with flimsy plastic, so it took some extra work to add something strong. 

The B pillar (between the cab passenger door and the sliding door) is covered with a plastic panel. The panel is offset from the metal pillar by 3/4″. The panel is not firmly enough attached to bolt a handle to.

We used 3/4″ long, 3/4″ outer diameter reducer bushings to bridge the gap between the plastic panel and the metal pillar. This meant we could drill holes for rivnuts in the metal pillar, and then bolt the handle on to the rivnuts with the bushings in between to act as stand-off spacers.

Stand-off spacer inserted into plastic B pillar cover

The parts we used are the Attwood Vinyl Grab Handle – $11 on Amazon, Allstar ALL 18567 3/4″ to 1/2″ reducer bushings (pair) – $5.50 on Amazon, and two 50mm M6 bolts and rivnuts (1/4″-20 size bolts/rivnuts would work just the same). You’ll also need a 3/4″ holesaw, step drill, or Forstner bit to cut the correct size hole through the plastic cover, and a rivnut tool and the correct size drill bits to mount the rivnuts.

Grab handle parts for Sprinter sliding door

There are several holes in the metal pillar already so you have to be careful to line your handle up well before you start drilling. Our top hole was at 36-3/4″ measured from the base of the plastic cover at floor level in the van. If you’re using a handle with a different spacing, you may need to choose a different height.

My suggestion is to pull the plastic cover away from the pillar, find a suitable location, put the plastic back in place, drill pilot holes through the plastic and metal, enlarge the holes in the plastic to 3/4″, remove the plastic again, drill the pilot holes in the metal out large enough to insert rivnuts, clean up the metal shavings, and then finally reinstall the plastic for the last time before inserting the reducer bushings and bolting the handle in place.

If you’ve never removed the plastic cover before, it’s not too hard.

  • First, move the seat belt height adjuster to the lowest position. You’ll see why when you have to re-install.
  • Undo the bolt holding the cargo ring on at the bottom of the pillar (optional for this install).
  • Pry the rubbery cover off the coat hook at the top of the pillar. It comes off up-and-outwards. Use a plastic trim removal tool to make this job easier.
  • Once the rubber cover is off, you can undo the T25 Torx screw holding the metal hook innards in place.
  • Now, all you have to do is pull the plastic cover sharply towards the center of the van and the metal tabs holding the plastic cover in place will pop out of their holes.

Removing plastic cover from B pillar - coat hook

Reinstalling the cover is just a question of lining it up and giving it a sharp tap with your palm at points down its length to re-seat the metal tabs.

  • Try and make sure the rubber door seals are not tangled up in the edge of the plastic cover before you put it back in place. Running a trim removal tool up the edge of the seal helps to re-seat it.
  • Also, make sure that the seat belt adjuster is positioned correctly. The sliding plastic part of the adjuster has to fit over the metal bolt on the seat belt mechanism that has a long head on it. The plastic seat belt adjuster clip (the bit you squeeze to allow the seat belt to change positions) has to seat over the black plastic catch about one and a half inches above this metal bolt. Having the seat belt height adjuster in its lowest position should mean this all lines up automatically.
  • Now you can re-bolt the cargo ring at the bottom and the coat hook at the top.

We’re happy with how the handle turned out, although we wish we’d bought the black one rather than the light grey one.

Update: After adding the handle, we found out that Sprinter World makes kits to do this. If you don’t want to buy your own components, or if you don’t have a rivnut tool already, you can just get their kit. We prefer our handle design to theirs though.

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