By trial and error, I have found a good way to remove the door panel from a 2002 Ford Explorer (and other similar years).
The first two steps can be done in either order, but doing them in the order I have listed below will prevent damage and scratches to the paneling.
Step 1 Removing Panel #1
First, the small panel behind the door handle/lock needs to be removed. There are two clips located on the forward portion of the panel; wedge a flathead screwdriver behind this portion of the panel and pry it loose. Once it is loose, you can use your fingers to pull it the rest of the way out. Doing this step first makes removing the next piece a lot easier.
Step 2 Removing Panel #2
Secondly, the window mechanism. At this point, with the paneling behind the door handle removed, it should be easier to remove the window mechanism panel (Panel #1 was holding Panel #2 in place). Remove Panel #2 by grabbing it with your fingers and pulling up and forward. If it can't be pulled with your fingers, wedge a flathead screwdriver behind the panel and pry it outward and pull up and forward. The main clip that needs to be freed is on the middle inner portion of the panel. The other two clips are little clips on the outside of the panel.
- There is a piece of plastic on the back end of the panel that slides beneath the armrest—this is the reason you need to slide it forward instead of just lifting it up. Doing it in this way prevents damage to the paneling.
Step 3 Disconnecting the Wires
To disconnect the wires, simply place a flathead screwdriver just beneath the tab that holds the clips in place. Simply push in and pry up. The wire clips should pop free. Set the window mechanism panel off to the side.
Step 4 Removing the Entire Panel
To remove the entire panel and expose the speakers and door handle, there are three 7/16" hex screws that need to be removed (a 7/16" socket and extension worked just fine for me).
The first screw is behind the window mechanism panel (this is the one that requires the extension). Be sure to grab the screw with your fingers when it is almost out to avoid dropping it behind the panel. The last two screws are at the bottom of the door panel and are easy enough to remove. Once complete, lift upward on the door panel and pull outward. Now you are done.
- The stuff behind the paneling is acoustic shielding to prevent your door panelings from rattling at high speeds or with very larger speakers—try not to rip it. If you have to take it off to get to the widow motor, or if you've ripped it, you can pick up new stuff at any electronics store that sells car audio stuff.
Step 5 Reinstalling the Panel
Reverse all steps listed above to reinstall the panel. Refer to the pictures below if there is any confusion.
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