Repair Rear Latch on Toyota Sequoia





Introduction: Repair Rear Latch on Toyota Sequoia

This instructable will show you how I saved a ton of money when trouble shooting the rear latch on my Toyota Sequoia. This is a great vehicle, but certain recurring problems with inside door handles and rear hatch handle assemblies constitute a safety hazard in my opinion. If one of these fail, you could be trapped inside your vehicle if the side door handle breaks or a kid could fall out of the vehicle if the rear hatch is not closing properly and remains stuck open when you think it is closed. This should be a passenger safety recall issue. I don't know why Toyota doesn't face up to this problem and fix it before somebody gets injured or killed. 

This instructable is meant to help you understand the underlying issues with the rear door latch. Please understand that you are responsible if you try to fix your vehicle and screw something up and someone is injured. You should take your vehicle to a serviceman who knows how to fix this problem, has the appropriate training and factory manuals and is insured by the dealer if he screws something up and you or  a passenger  or some other person get injured. Don't try to blame me if you try to do the repair yourself and somebody gets hurt! This is definitely a safety issue!

Step 1: Introduction

Toyota Sequoia Rear Hatch Issues:

I own a 2003 Sequoia that I bought new. A couple of months ago, I experienced a failure of the drivers side inside door handle. I took it to the Toyota repair shop and it cost almost $300 to fix the cheapo plastic lever that opens a very heavy driver's side door. I was in a hurry and we had company, so I did not have time to try to troubleshoot this problem myself at the time. So, I was at the mercy of the dreaded Toyota Service Department. 

I was moderately upset with the $200 in parts and $95 per hour labor fee. This apparently is a very common type of failure on this vehicle and is definitely a safety problem that should be a recall item. When this lever fails, you CANNOT get out of the vehicle on the drivers side. Very dangerous unsafe situation. I'm surprised that Toyota has not issued a recall to replace the poorly designed door handle.

Then without warning, a few days ago, the rear door latch quit working. I could NOT get the rear door latch to engage the "U" shaped connection on top of the rear bumper. Had to drive home with the rear door open, vibrating and clanging up and down with every bump and irregularity in the highway.    Choking on exhaust fumes.

Do not waste any time getting this fixed when it happens to you. And don't try to slam the rear door closed or you will break the latch or even bend the "U" shaped thing on the bumper below that engages this latch!  

Never sit in the car unless you are moving with all the windows and the moon roof open. Don't drive in this dangerous condition with passengers, especially young children of infants.  Carbon monoxide could fill the cabin and you will get a nice long dirt nap.

Turns out that this rear latch failure problem is ALSO a very big problem. Looking in the Sequoia owners forum, there are over 15,500 hits on a topic dealing with inoperable rear door latches on Sequoias. Another good reason for a recall on safety issues if you ask me.

A kid or the groceries could fall out of the back of the vehicle if the door can't be closed. Dangerous as hell. Plus, you cannot turn the alarm on when the rear hatch is not closed. Poor design and very poor materials. 

So, it was with some trepidation that I once again drove on over to the Toyota dealer for an estimate. The service guy told me that he never saw one of these latches broken before. In his next breath, he tells me  that when the door latch mechanism breaks, you usually have to replace the windshield wiper and rear window opening mechanisms as well... Must have had "STUPID" stamped on my forehead that day.

Sooooo,  he just said he never saw one of these break before... but he is sure that I will have to replace everything but the transmission to get my door to work again. The cost would be between $890 and $1150, so much for parts and so much for labor at a whopping $95 per hour.


I don't think so. 

Step 2: Stuff You Will Need

I looked over the situation with my buddy Joe and we decided to give it a college try. I figured that the worst that could happen is that we would ruin everything and I would have to pay the Toyotistas a ton of money to replace everything.

Joe is a mechanical guy with a good set of tools. If you decide to try to fix your Sequoia rear door latch in spite of the obvious risks to health and safety, please be careful. You could ruin everything, you could kill yourself. You could maim a curious neighbor kid.

Or, you could be successful in fixing this thing. If you somehow injure yourself or maim the neighbor, it is not my fault. If you have to think to breathe and blink your eyes, then you just may not be a redneck and you should simply go to the dealer and give him all your money.

This just shows how I managed to save a k buck or so without setting my Sequoia on fire or losing any fingers or toes or appendages in the process. 

To fix my rear latch, I used the following:

A genuine Crescent Wrench made in Meadville, PA. 

Duct Tape for whatever

Metric socket set

Phillips screw driver

needle nose pliers

Flat blade screw driver

Putty knife

Some electricians vinyl tape

WD-40 solvent

Shop rags and paper towels

Hand cleaner

A pocket or Stanley knife

Eye protection and gloves

Radio tuned in to your favorite polka station

Common sense and good medical insurance if you are a clumsy dope

Don't forget to send the wife with the pooch and kids to a fast food joint for a couple of hours, the language ain't gonna be suitable for mixed audiences!


Step 3: Unplug Connectors

Before any disassembly, I tried running the rear window up and down and ran the rear window wiper. If something is binding or stuck, now would be the time to troubleshoot and get new parts if necessary. Fortunately, I could find nothing wrong with the window motor and gear assembly or the wiper assembly. So far, so good. 

Next.   The first problem I noted was that the cheapo plastic outside door handle above the license plate was loose and did not seem to be pulling up the lower latch as it should. You can find a metal replacement for the latch handle on eBay. The dealer tried to sell me another cheap plastic replacement for way more than the metal handle I can buy online. If I had found that the plastic door handle was broken, I would definitely get the metal replacement. I don't want to do any more surgery on the rear door than is necessary in the future. 

Next I removed all the decorative plastic panel and trim around the inside of the rear door. I removed the hex head screws holding the stamped black metal plate that goes across the inside of the door carefully. I next removed all the electrical connectors and set the harness aside. 

I found that a rubber encased cable (kinda like a brake cable on a bike) was elongated,  It raises a lever like assembly on the lower solenoid/latch assembly. If the wire in the cable is elongated,  a person will NOT be able to open the door.  My cheapo plastic  handle was intact, the wire had stretched though. The dealer does NOT sell this item unless you buy the latch handle to go with it. Grrrrrrrrr.

I then listened carefully while pressing the open/close button on the key fob and noticed that the solenoid at the bottom of the door was making a kind of vibrating noise that didn't sound right at all.  
Also the part of the latch that opens and closes around the rear door to the lower bumper was stuck completely shut and could not be moved. I could hear the solenoid trying to work, but mostly it made grinding noises. 

I started this repair by first removing all the plastic decorative cover panels from the inside of the rear door. I did this with a screw driver and a putty knife slid under the edge of the plastic. Being careful to not scratch up the paint or distort the plastic. It is pretty fragile on the outer edges. Note that if the cheapo plastic snap retainers break, replacements are available at Lowe's in the nuts and bolts department or an auto store if necessary. I was careful and didn't break any.  

Next I went to the bottom  part of the door and removed the plastic shroud surrounding the lower door latch/solenoid and use a 10mm socket to remove the 10mm hex head screws.

After I got the plastic panels off, I could see some electrical connectors going into a black box on the driver's side of the rear hatch on a black stamped metal cover. I removed the male part of the connectors very carefully. Note:  I never pull connectors out by the wires because a person may get their very own personal fireworks display when reconnecting and powering up. I used a flat blade screwdriver to release the connector latches and gently jiggle the male part of the connector from the female base connector. 

Step 4: Remove Black Panel

There is a large black stamped metal cover held with several 10mm hex head screws and three plastic connectors which covers the rear windshield wiper assembly, the electric window assembly and the latch assembly. Remove the stamped black cover and carefully slide it out and around the plastic retainers. This may sound confusing, but once I had the first layer of plastic panels off, I couldn't miss it. 

Note:  I will found three plastic snap retainers I had to remove to get the stamped metal cover off of the main frame of the rear hatch. I had to be very carefully to tweek the black cover with a putty knife. without breaking any of the plastic retainers. Replacement retainers are available at any auto parts store where they will be a LOT less expesive than at the Toyota parts department. In fact, the cheapest place to buy replacements is the nuts and bolts dept at Lowe's.

I then carefully tied the wire harness out of the way and after removing the black stamped metal cover, put it someplace safe so I don't step on it or lose it or something. 

Step 5: Get the Latch Assembly Out of the Door Frame.

 Now, I carefully put on some cotton gloves and removed the door handle cable retainer clamps as shown. These clamps hold the cable in place and prevent the cable from rattling around inside the door. During reassembly, it's important to NOT just leave the cable floating around near all the gears and stuff that make the rear window go up and down. 

I carefully removed the male cable connectors from the latch assembly. I used a small screw driver to loosen the connectors. There are two brass screws on the plastic outer cover surrounding the lower latch assembly. I removed the screws and very carefully jiggled the whole latch assembly out of the plastic housing. I was careful to not bend anything and DID NOT damage the white wire connector. 

I am now holding the bare latch assembly. 

Step 6:

I now had the plastic housing off of the solenoid/latch assembly. 

The image below shows the latch assembly after I cleaned off all the hard dried grease/dirt that was jamming it and making it impossible to use the door handle to open the latch. I used a steamer to blast off all the dirt and caked hard grime. This made it possible to cycle the levers by hand, but the latch itself was stuck solid. 

I next looked at the latch assembly which was stuck in the closed position. I sprayed it with WD-40 and then cleaned it with a steam machine several times until the latch assembly was as clean as new. I then was able to move the latch after pressing the open button on the key fob. I then cleaned it again several times in the open position until the water from the steam was coming out clean. I then sprayed it with WD-40 and let it sit over night. Had to eat supper ya know. 

The next day, the latch worked good as new. No grinding noises and a very strong metallic click when the latch is cycled open and closed with the key fob. This is good!

Step 7: Fix the Elongated Cable

The outside door handle above the license plate is super cheapo plastic. Shame, shame  on you Toyota! This handle cable assembly looks like some crap off of a Pinto or a Yugo or something.

And for your financial amusement, you cannot buy the cable without the door handle. What a rip!
Soooooo, I had to improvise. I looked over the assembly and decided to bend the tab that supports the cable rubber/metal endpiece. 

I simply used a crescent wrench and placed it as shown and bent the tab to take up the slack in the cable. I bent mine about 3/16" as this seemed to be the right amount. If I bent it much more, I won't be able to get the solenoid/latch assembly back into the protective plastic cover and the outside door handle will hardly want to move. I measured two points on the cable and carefully monitored how much I was bending.

The lever system is made of cheapo cadmium plated metal and if you bend or force, something is gonna break!

This would require a trip to the dealer resulting in a big frown on my checking account...

I hate to think how many folks pay big money for replacement parts that probably were completely serviceable but for a little cleaning. If this thing gets stuck again, I would probably first try to just shoot the WD-40 up into the solenoid/latch assembly without taking everything all apart. Wonder if this is a trick that the repair guys know about.

Step 8: Record the Steps in Disassembly...

I recorded the steps during disassembly and then just did everything in reverse to get the latch back into the bottom of the door.  Replace the stamped metal cover with the 10mm hex screws.

I made sure that I reconnected all of the electric connectors. Then I carefully cycled the key fob and watch the latch open and close on the solenoid/latch assembly. Note that I had to carefully squeeze the rear door handle to open and close the solenoid/latch. Do NOT close the door until you do all of this or you risk locking the door  in the shut position because you forgot to replace something or failed to insert a connector. If this happens, the owner would have to get inside the vehicle and move the cadmium plated levers by hand and hopefully without losing a finger or something, the door will open. 

I made sure that the solenoid/latch assembly is in working order before closing the door. I carefully checked all myfingers/toes and major and minor appendages and made sure they are all intact. If not, better call 911 right away. 

I then went ahead and closed the door, took a deep breath and locked and opened the door using the key fob. Worked perfectly the first time. 

Next look at any parts I might have left over. Important parts will be bigger and probably necessary for optimal operation. There should be NO left over parts when done.

Also, the window and the wiper assemblies worked with no problems.

You didn't take them out by mistake, did you? You just don't listen, to you!

I then replaced the stamped black metal plate  and screwed in all the hex head screws and attached the harnesses with red electrical tape to the stamped black metal plate.

I left the outer plastic door panel off for several days just in case something went wrong. Nothing happened, so I reinstalled the plastic panel covering the door. 

If I had to do this again, it would probably take no more than 45 minutes; less if I was just gonna swap out with new parts. Two hours labor for this job if done at the dealer is ridiculous if the mechanic remotely knows what he is doing. Somebody might get lucky after a few squirts of WD-40 into the lower hatch assembly and won't have to disassemble anything. 

I didn't put any grease or lube in the latching levers or the solenoid/latch assembly. I live in the desert and the dirt that is attracted to grease would probably promote much more wear than if the parts are just left bare. if I lived in an area with a lot of moisture or icy conditions, then I may decide that to apply some lube. Call the dealer and ask them what to use to lube this part (good luck).

Hope this helped save you some time, or at least educated you so that you can discuss the repair with the dealer intelligently.  

You can call the wifey and tell her is it OK to bring the kids and the pooch back home.

You worked hard on this; go out and buy yourself something nice with the cash you saved!!!

This is my first instructable, so be kind with comments!



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    BTW......Like how you all bash Toyota..... But being a Mfg Engineer of Automotive parts, I will let you all know, we use the same materials on Ford, Gov Motors and BMW, that we use on Toyota..... And most all of the MFG's use the same testing for evaluation....... so its all in the abuse or the user or the design.......

    This is not "bashing Toyota. I paid a premium for this Sequoia because I believed the advertising about their better build quality. And subsequently I was repeatedly LIED to by the dealer concerning the brake computer until the vehicle was out of warranty.

    If I had to go thru this all again, I would certainly have flied a complaint under the Lemon Law. If something does not work on your vehicle, no matter what brand, insist that it is fixed completely and immediately. Make sure that you write a personal letter to the head of the dealer service department and also the warranty department at Toyota headquarters or whatever, and carefully outline the exact problem you are/were having and also what the dealer has done or not done to remedy the situation. Carefully record everything the dealer service dept tells you.

    Get a copy of the Lemon Law in your state and make sure you send that with your letters. And of course, keep copies of all correspondence for your records. Be as complete as possible and if there is no solution, get an attorney on it before the warranty ends.

    I never abused this vehicle in any way. I live in the desert with no snow or heavy rain. My Sequoia is always garaged and NEVER driven off road. It is regularly serviced. I am most certainly NOT an aggressive driver and I take very good care of my vehicles.

    I paid a premium because I believed the advertising from Toyota. I never anticipated the incredibly crooked types at the dealership however. They look you straight in the face and LIE about repairs under warranty. They keep the vehicle for several days and return it to you with the same problem. Don't be a dummy, do what I didn't do. I trusted them to do the right thing. Don't do that!

    If the rear latch and the driver's side door handle had been "tested for evaluation" as you state, then it would have been overwhelmingly obvious that these are early failure points and in need of further engineering to prevent a very expensive repair shortly after the warranty has ended.

    A proper design would probably cost just a few pennies to execute for a much better product given the economy of scale you get with mass production. This is either incompetence, greed or just plain negligence. Or likely, all of these.

    How would YOU like to be in an accident and find that the driver's side door latch has broken, you are hanging in your vehicle is upside down with fuel leaking into the cabin and you can't open the door. Or your vehicle is on fire and you can't get the rear latch open to get the grandkids out of the back seat.

    The facts are that you get punished with ridiculous repair bills while trying to keep your vehicle running beyond the warranty period. Now that's really Green, huh? Cute. Very cute.

    I know this is an old post, but a question for you. What was your brake computer issue? We have a 2004 and almost from the time we got it, maybe a little less than a year, the brake light kept coming in. They said it was low on fluid (wasn't), then said it wasn't on when they had it, but wold come on later. They eventually said everything was good yet the light stays on. Was that your issue?

    This is great information, I have one problem that is that my latch is locked and I can open the door. I have removed the inside plastic panel and check the cable and all is good. I there any way to unlock to door when its closed? Thanks Dan

    There should be a metal rod that slides for the lock.
    To release the latch, pull the wire inside the cable, may need to remove the handle for that.

    You are completely correct about the metal rod. The thin wire inside the cable will eventually fail due to stretching. As it fails, you have to pull harder on the cheap plastic handle until that too fails. Now you have a nice little profit point for the repair dept of your Toyota dealer. Unless you try to hack it yourself.

    This is definitely a safety issue that should trigger a recall.

    An old fashioned rod would solve the problem and would not be subject of elongation failures.

    Ron, My sons car latch froze up in the closed and locked position. We had to use a sawsall with a 12" metal cutting blade to cut the bottom latch. This was done as a last straw measure. We first cut away the plastic upper lock protector cover to see if something else like not unlocking was causing the problem. We then went thru your instructable to remove and replace. Your comments were very valuable in aiding our repair. Thanks so much.

    I tried the "WD-40 method", and it works great for me. I had the rear latch replaced at a dealership shortly after I bought it (with a known bad latch), and it cost about $1000. 3 years and 30,000 miles later, the latch suddenly became difficult to open. All I did to fix it was pull off the black plastic cover from the bottom of the door, poke my flashlight in there, to see what might need lubrication, and then squirted some WD-40 at it. I noticed that my issue was not in the handle, as it freely moved some lever near the latch, so it must have been in the latch mechanism itself. Once I lubed it up, I could feel that the handle wanted to work without feeling like I was going to break it.

    Excellent detailed, accurate (and humorous) instructions when I need it the most. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share these valuable info.

    My rear latch handle just broke. I hear it snapped while trying to open it during our last ski trip on the mountain. I found the metal handle you mentioned on ebay [just search for sequoia metal liftgate handle]. Do I still need to disassemble the rear inside panel to replace the handle?

    sorry for the late reply. Yes you DO have to disassemble the rear door inside panel to replace the original equipment handle which is complete cheap junk.