Tailgate Won’t Latch? Here’s How To Fix It!

A tailgate that won't latch can be a frustrating problem, especially when transporting items in the back of your vehicle. The good news is that this is often a relatively simple issue that can be fixed with a few basic tools. In this post, we will provide some tips and tricks to help you diagnose and fix the problem quickly and easily, so you can get back to using your vehicle as intended.

Here are some common reasons why a tailgate may not latch and the associated solutions:

  • Dirty latch mechanism: Clean the latch mechanism and check for any debris or corrosion. This may resolve the issue.
  • Loose hinges: Tighten the hinges that attach the tailgate to the vehicle.
  • Bent or damaged tailgate: If the tailgate is bent or damaged, it may prevent the latch from closing properly. You can have it repaired by a mechanic or DIY at home if you have the necessary skills and tools.
  • Worn or damaged latch mechanism: If the latch mechanism is worn or damaged, it may need to be replaced.
  • Misaligned tailgate: If the tailgate is misaligned, it may prevent the latch from closing properly. Have it inspected by a mechanic to do the necessary repairs.

If the problem persists, it's best to take your vehicle to a professional mechanic for a proper diagnosis and repairs.

Continue reading as we discuss additional related questions regarding a broken tailgate. We will be providing tips and tricks on properly caring for your tailgate to avoid this from happening to you and many more. We will also suggest other related topics at the end of this post that will surely be helpful. So make sure to stick around until the end.

How to take care of your truck's tailgate latch?

The tailgate of your truck is one of the most used parts of your truck bed and your truck in general. If you are using your truck as a work vehicle, your tailgate can sometimes even be an extension of the bed, especially if you are hauling long cargo. 

This could be a potential leading factor on why your tailgate latch can break. The constant closing and opening of the tailgate can also cause its latch to immediately wear out, particularly if you do not have tailgate assist. That is why in this section, we will give you some tips on how to properly maintain your truck's or your SUV's tailgate latch. 

Here are some steps to take care of your truck's tailgate latch:

Keep it clean

Dirt and debris can build up in the latch mechanism over time, making it more difficult to open and close. Clean the latch mechanism regularly with a soft cloth, mild soap, and water.

Lubricate the mechanism

A dry latch mechanism can cause friction and make it difficult to open and close. Apply a light coating of silicone spray or white lithium grease to keep the mechanism moving smoothly.

Check the hinges

Tighten the hinges that attach the tailgate to the vehicle if they start to feel loose. This will prevent misalignment and ensure a secure fit.

Avoid overloading

UAZ Patriot Pick up, car big trunk open view., Tailgate Won't Latch? Here's How To Fix It!

Overloading the tailgate and overloading, in general, can put extra stress on the latch mechanism and cause it to wear out more quickly. Be mindful of the weight you place in the back of your truck.

Inspect regularly

Regularly inspect the tailgate latch for any signs of damage or wear. If you notice anything unusual, have a trusted mechanic inspect and repair the tailgate as soon as possible. The same goes for all of your truck's parts, 

As soon as you notice that there is something wrong, like a weird or unusual sound coming from your truck, It is best to err on the side of caution and immediately have it serviced to avoid any further damage. 

By following these simple steps, you can help ensure that your truck's tailgate latch stays in good working condition for years to come. This will also ensure your safety and other road users, especially while hauling something in your truck bed. You can expect to spend around $100 to repair a broken tailgate latch.

How does a tailgate latch work?

Taillights and tailgate of a pickup truck dirty.

A tailgate latch is a mechanism used to secure the tailgate of a pickup truck or a similar vehicle. It typically consists of a latch mechanism that connects the tailgate to the vehicle's body and a locking mechanism that can be controlled by a key or a button.

When the tailgate is closed, the latch mechanism holds it in place. The locking mechanism can be engaged to prevent unauthorized access to the cargo area.

To open the tailgate, the latch mechanism must be released by either turning the key or pressing the button, depending on the truck's design.

While some trucks (especially newer and upper-class trims) will have what is called a tailgate assist or tailgate damper, a tailgate with a tailgate assist is a mechanism that helps the tailgate of a vehicle to open and close smoothly and easily.

It uses a hydraulic or a spring-loaded mechanism to assist with the weight of the tailgate, making it easier to lift and lower. When the tailgate is lifted, the assist mechanism engages and helps hold the tailgate in an open position. These are also used in the hood cover of vehicles.

To close the tailgate, the tailgate is pushed down, and the mechanism assists with the weight, making it easier to close and latch. The tailgate latch still operates the same way as in a traditional tailgate, locking the tailgate to the vehicle when closed.

The tailgate assist feature is designed to make it easier to use the tailgate, especially when it is heavy or when the vehicle is parked on an incline. It provides a smoother and more controlled tailgate operation, making it more convenient for loading and unloading cargo.

How do you adjust a tailgate latch?

Rear of a golden Volkswagen Amarok V6 Concept (German 4-door double cab pick-up truck) displayed in Volkswagen pavilion at 2018 Sao Paulo International Motor Show.

The adjustment procedure for a tailgate latch may vary depending on the specific make and model of the vehicle. However, the following steps can be followed as a general guide.

Locate the tailgate latch

The tailgate latch is typically located at the bottom of the tailgate or near the hinges.

Check the alignment

Open the tailgate and inspect the alignment of the latch mechanism and the striker (the metal piece on the body of the vehicle that the latch hooks onto). If the latch mechanism is not aligned with the striker, it may not close properly.

Adjust the striker

If the alignment is off, the striker may need to be adjusted. This can typically be done by loosening the bolts that secure the striker to the body of the vehicle and moving it slightly to align with the latch mechanism.

Tighten the bolts

Once the striker is in the correct position, tighten the bolts to secure it in place.

Test the latch

Close the tailgate and test the latch mechanism to ensure it works properly. If it still does not close properly, further adjustments may be necessary.

Remember, it is important to refer to the owner's manual for specific instructions for your make and model. In some cases, the adjustment may need to be performed by a professional mechanic.

Not all vehicles are built the same. It is still best to know what specific procedure works best for your truck or car. 

Toyota Hilux pick up truck 2019 2020 exterior interior center console dashboard steering wheel

A liftgate actuator is a motor-driven mechanism that is used to open and close the liftgate or tailgate of a vehicle. This is more common in minivans or crossover SUVs.

The liftgate actuator is typically located inside the tailgate and is connected to the latch mechanism that holds the tailgate in place. When the liftgate switch is activated, the liftgate actuator rotates to release the latch mechanism, allowing the tailgate to open. When the tailgate is closed, the liftgate actuator rotates in the opposite direction to engage the latch mechanism.

The liftgate actuator is an important component of the liftgate system. It helps to make it easier and more convenient to open and close the tailgate, especially when the tailgate is heavy or when the vehicle is parked on an incline. A faulty liftgate actuator can cause the tailgate to not open or close properly or to open or close slowly or unevenly.

Here are some common symptoms of a faulty liftgate actuator:

Tailgate won't open or close

If the liftgate actuator is not functioning properly, the tailgate may not open or close as it should.

Slow or uneven operation

A bad liftgate actuator may cause the tailgate to open or close slowly or unevenly.

No response from the switch

If the liftgate switch is pressed and there is no response, the liftgate actuator may be the problem.

Noisy operation

A bad liftgate actuator may make unusual noises, such as grinding or squeaking when opening or closing the tailgate.

Warning lights or messages: Some vehicles have warning lights or messages that appear on the dashboard if there is a problem with the liftgate actuator.

Here's A Quick Recap of What We've Learned

UAZ Patriot Pick up, car big trunk open view

Tailgate latch malfunctions are common, especially in vehicles that are used a lot, specifically work vehicles. These are usually easy to fix and cheap to have repaired. If you want to avoid any inconvenience regarding this, follow the tips we have listed above. 

We hope we have answered your question about your broken tailgate latch. Do you have any more tailgate-related queries that you want to be answered? Check out some of our previously written posts about them below!

How To Remove Ford Emblem From Tailgate [Step-By-Step Guide]

How To Open A Tailgate With A Broken Handle [Quickly & Easily]

Can I Tow With My Tailgate Down?

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