I'm still pretty new to jeeps, but since day one the direction of the outside door handles has annoyed me. Today I finally swapped them around so they faced the other direction and made them easier to open.
The modification needed to do it was actually fairly easy. Especially compared to the PIA it was to get the door handles out and then putting everything back together. A GREAT friend of mine, who happens to be an engineer, simply repositioned and bent the rod that connects the door handle to the locking mechanism. (THANKS JASON!!) I didn't take any great pics for a How-To, but here are the ones I have along with some from the Factory Service Manual and some from DailyDrivenTJ.com - Welcome
Roll the window down. Remove the two screws holding the door sail panel. (phillips screwdriver) Remove the panel by pulling up & out.
Here’s the link I used to remove the door panel: Remove Door Panels On A 2004 Jeep Wrangler
You don't need to remove the inner door handle.
There are 6 clips holding the door panel in place. Another interior removal tool would be nice to have here. I just pulled them out, but I broke a few.
Roll the window up. Pull back the splash shield to gain access to the handle.
Remove the pin holding the rod to the door handle. You’ll have to do this from the access hole in the door. The pic is taken from the top only so it’s easier to see. I used a small pair of right angle needle nose pliers.
Using a flat blade screwdriver, hold back or bend the RETAINER out of the way, then push up on the "gold" KEEPER. This was a huge PIA, and even harder to put back in. Once you swap the handles around the RETAINERS will be upside down so you’ll need to turn them over. Now just push out the handle. It’s a tight fit by the way.
You have to swap the handles around, not only to get them to face the correct way, but also to keep the “action” of the release mechanism still pushing down the rod that runs from the handle, down to the bottom of the door and back up to the door latch. I removed one of the rods and tried to modify it so in this pic, it’s actually squeezed together. Originally, it was more spread out in a “V” shape. As it turned out, you don’t actually need to remove the rod.
Now that everything on the handle is on the other side. (pointing to the rear of the jeep instead of the front) the rod has to be squeezed together, so it lines up with the release mechanism. Also, there is a slight bend at the top of the rod where it is flattened out. Bend it in the other direction until it lines up with the release mechanism and reinsert the pin.
That's it. Put everything back together. The actual changes we made to the jeep were so simple, (swap the handles and bend the rods) we wondered if it was originally intended to be this way, but some safety expert
decided they should be turned around.