Toyota Tacoma: Why Won't Rear Cargo Hatch Open?

A faulty rear cargo door doesn't have to put a damper on your plans. Read on to find out what likely culprits are causing the rear cargo door of your Toyota Tacoma to not open properly.

By Charlie Gaston - January 20, 2016

This article applies to the Toyota Tacoma (1996-2015).

There are a number of reasons why the rear cargo door to your Toyota Tacoma won't open. Many of these problems are easily fixable and will not require you to seek outside professional assistance, which is always great to hear. As long as you are relatively familiar with your rear cargo door (e.g., components), you should be able to fix whatever the problem is in about an hour or less (and, in some cases, well under an hour). Before getting started, it's strongly recommended that you check the rear cargo door lock fuse to ensure it isn't the culprit. Once you're sure it's not, you're ready to get started!

Toyota Tacoma Why Won't Rear Cargo Hatch Open

Materials Needed

  • WD-40
  • Rag

Step 1 – Check for dirt, old grease, sludge and rust

Contaminants could be preventing your rear cargo door from opening.

It's highly common for the (1996-2015) Toyota Tacoma to accumulate dirt, dust, rust or debris on the door handle and latch mechanism. The area will need to be cleaned to resolve the problem.

  • Spray a liberal amount of WD-40 on the door handle and latch mechanism.
  • Allow the product to work in.
  • Tap the door handle and latch mechanism as needed to loosen any particles that may have become lodged inside.
  • Wipe away the product, including any sludge that you find.
  • Open your door and continue to clean any contaminated areas.
  • Be sure to check for broken or rusted cables, which are also likely to prevent your lock from opening when pulled.
  • Other culprits are a bad actuator and broken locking mechanism. Check both. Your rear cargo door will not open if either of these internal parts are damaged.
Broken Toyota Tacoma rear cargo hatch actuator
Figure 1. This is a broken actuator.

Pro Tip

It's always a good idea to clean the rear cargo door handle and latch mechanism on your rear cargo door after any off-road adventure, as they are most likely to become dirty and cause problems for you at this time.

As well, try engaging the latch handle (exerting force as needed) to activate the actual latch. Wait one second, and then try opening the latch. Many Tacoma owners swear by this simple DIY trick!

Step 2 – Check your latch motor gears

They might be in distress.

If your rear window was previously broken and then replaced, glass shards could have gotten into your latch motor gears.

  • The only way to fix this problem is to remove the actual debris from your latch motor gears by hand.
  • Depending on the damage, the latch assembly could be fine, or it might need to be replaced (at a cost of around $275).
  • There are a lot of nooks and crannies in your tailgate, so you might want to leave this repair to the pros.

Step 3 – Remove the panel

It might be beyond repair.

If the rear cargo door just won't open, and none of the above-mentioned repairs work, you'll need to remove the door panel and work from there.

  • Enter your truck and head to the back.
  • Using a screwdriver, remove the square panel around the strap.
  • Using a 10 or 12mm socket, remove the surrounding bolt and strap.
  • Place your screwdriver inside the opening and using a firm grip, pry the door panel toward you.
  • Placing your hand between the panel and metal, remove all snaps.
  • Remove the panel by pulling vertically.
  • Install your replacement panel once you're done.

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