Instructables

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!
 
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walesgrom3 years ago
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.
ronlevandoski (author)  darryl-33 years ago
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.
darryl-33 years ago
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.......
ronlevandoski (author)  darryl-33 years ago
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.
exreferman3 years ago
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.
dlichtsi3 years ago
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.
tcwinn4 years ago
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?

ronlevandoski (author)  tcwinn4 years ago
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.
tcwinn tcwinn4 years ago
The inside plastic panel is intimidating at first. Since my handle was broken, the lift gate was in a closed position so I couldn't get the putty knife or screw driver underneath the plastic to pry it open.

I had to roll down the rear windshield then use a pry bar to pry the plastic panel off from the top (after removing the window seal, of course). To my surprise, these plastic panels are attached to the car body with plastic buttons. They can be easily snap on and off. If I had known this, I could have just use the pliers and pull it off while attaching to where the pull down strap attaches.

Don't be fearful of damaging the plastic panel. Its very rugged.
curefan664 years ago
Single mom here trying to DIY. I'm going to try the WD40 first. If it doesn't work, then I'll go ahead and order the latch assembly, cross my fingers and hope I can fix this puppy. Thanks for taking the time to post the steps!
suhlee4 years ago
great instructions!
but having trouble detaching that male connector on the left off the plastic latch cover, therefore can't get to the next step which is removing that darn plastic cover on the solenoid/latch!
ronlevandoski (author)  suhlee4 years ago
 Suhlee:

I had to really wrestle that thing off of there. I put a screw driver between the male and female parts of the connector and slowly and carefully jiggled and pryed until the thing came apart. You gotta be careful you don't pull wires out of the connector (fatal error for sure) or crack the plastic (not so fatal, but a PITA to fix) or physically break the contacts. It can be done, I can't exactly explain it, but examine the connector carefully while prying on it and you will see how the thing works. Good luck and remember to not put this thing back together until you are sure everything is fixed. I don't think this connector was designed to be hacked open after it was assembled. Another Toyota gotcha!

My hack and repair still words exactly as shown in this instructable. Be careful, if you screw this up, you may not be able to open the rear hatch in an emergency and that would not be a good thing. Poor engineering and cheapo design if you ask me.

Anything you can't hack successfully, you should take it to your friendly Toyota dealer and prepare to empty your wallet!
I find the male connector comes out easily from the female. They are designed to snap in and press the latch in the middle while pulling out. What I did was pushing the middle latch with one hand while the other hand put the large flat screw driver in between the 2 connectors to lightly pry them apart. Takes 2 secs.
ronlevandoski (author)  tcwinn4 years ago
You explained this better than I could. That is what you gotta do, pretty easy once you can see how the thing looks down inside. 

I got this latch thing fixed with only the cost of my time, but I am really disappointed at the quality of things underneath the glitter of my Toyota Sequoia.

It is my opinion that this latch issue is a safety issue first and a quality issue second and the entire fleet should be recalled for replacement of this cheapo and poorly designed mechanism. Wonder how many litigations were settled over this same issue because it was cheaper to settle a serious injury or death claim rather than recall ten million vehicles. 

I recently had to visit the dreaded Toyota garage AGAIN (!) because the brake light, which has periodically gone on since this boat was brand new got stuck on permanently. I had this thing in the shop repeatedly since new and they could never figure out what the problem was. Now that it is out of warranty, it cost me $1200 to replace the computer and a stabilization sensor. Note that the Toyota news groups are now full of posts about this same exact problem. Where are the Feds on this when you need them?

Initially I really liked this vehicle, but never another Toyota for me! The Toyota service department really ripped me off. I could have legally gotten this thing declared a lemon because it had been in the shop with the same problem seven times the first year alone. I liked the vehicle and tried to be patient with Toyota while they figured out what was wrong. What a big mistake that was. 

I can feel for people who have the out of control braking problem. Toyota service is arrogant and they don't give a flying f%$K about anything once you drive that new vehicle off the lot. Toyota? Never again. 

Toyota advertising has falsely led a lot of people to think they don't have issues with their vehicles. They certainly do, deadly issues. 
Interesting, my break light comes on intermittently [VERY OFTEN while under warranty] even while I'm driving 80 mi/hr on the freeway. I hope you didn't shell out the 1,200. I would just drive it as is. This is definitely a defect which must be covered by Toyota whether it is under warranty or not. This is BS! I would ask for money back!

I don't take my sequoia back to the dealer, because the last time I took it in for maintenance, they called me to pick up the car without refilling my transmission oil [2 qts low]. Luckily they called me to bring the car back before I drove more than 5 miles in that condition.

I listened to a 911 call before the crash of one of the Lexus brand new rental vehicle. One of the passenger on the car was the chief of car safety inspection. His wife and son and another friend were killed in the crash.

Really hate to see a good company turned horrible due to greed and arrogance. It took them a long time to build up, and just blew it in a very short time. Pride goes before the fall, like the good book says.
abeall3 months ago
If you are replacing the hatch, don't forget to replace the cheap plastic handle with a metal one which are now available. That way if the new latch mechanism ever sticks, the handle will still pull it open rather than breaking and having an unopenable door that will have to be disassembled from inside the vehicle and require hours and hours more work.
mactaper9 months ago
I just attempted this fix on a 2007 sequoia. I managed to fix the latch issue with minimal work (the cable was simply over-extended). However after reconnecting the plugs I am unable to lock the gate and the window does not operate with the fob (only using the switch on the panel). I'm worried that I somehow damaged the circuit board. However nothing seems to be off. Do you have any suggestions before I succumb to the financial pain associated with the Toyota service dept?
mtpirate1 year ago
I have replaced several latch handles on our 2001 sequoia. Those plastic buggers are junk. I made some enhancements to my mechanism though. For one, the semi-v shaped "rocker" bends open over time. I drilled a small hole at each end of the rocker and used some stiff wire like that used for making fake flowers between the holes to lock the v shape of the rocker in place. I also installed a piece of bicycle cable to the end of the rocker and strung it outside the door just above the license plate. It will always open the door if the plastic handle breaks. We just yank on it like a rip cord. With the metal handle, you can still have the rocker lose its shape and it wont pull the latch cable far enough so the "rip cord" will remain on ours.
ronlevandoski (author)  mtpirate1 year ago
Thank you for your comment. You should take some photos of your hack and post it here on Instructables.

The problem with all of this is that any hack of this door latch constitues a exceedingly common safety issue. If the kids are stuck behind the back hatch and the vehicle is on fire and your wire hack fails... This is primarily a safety issue and should be grounds for a recall. These latch handles have failed at an alarming rate. When you pay this much for a vehicle, you don't expect Yugo hatch technology. Where's the Ministry of Product Safety when you need them?
Same issue still exists with 2006 Sequoia. The first time the handle broke the dealer replaced it with the same plastic handle. I was not previously aware of this weakness nor how prevalent failure was occurring. I was under the extended 100,000 warranty yet they would not cover this repair. Within a year it broke again. This time and with help from searching the net I learned of a metal replacement handle and that solved the design flaw. However, not the lock mechanism has broken and the read hatch will not stay closed. I will repair this myself given the good documentation. I did call Toyota and was at a loss given the lack of concern. This should have been a recall and given the high volume of multi-year breakage, the lack of corporate concern, it only adds to brand damage in my opinion. You expect more from a $40,000+ purchase.

With this underwhelming experience and lack of corporate concern I won't choose Toyota again when investing this much in a vehicle.
pams2622 years ago
I recently replace the latch handle. All good. Until today. The locking piece that locks around the u shaped bar on the bummer will not engage to lock the hatch down. Took it apart per your instruction but the cable does not look stretched out.
I can manually make the piece go into the locking position and unlock with the latch handle but it will not engage into the locked position just by closing the hatch.
What do you think?
lawlady2 years ago
So my latch is broken and shut. This did not become such an inconvenience until I found out the hatch has to be open to get to the spare tire. The latch and the plastic piece are broken. I can't see a cable. Does this entire piece of plastic come off with the screwdriver and putty knife.

BTW: MY 2003, the brake light has been going on and off since I bought the thing new. I have had it repaired three times and the entire electronic system rebooted. A friend has a 2004 and the entire warning system keeps going out on her Toyota.

The electric mirrors have also gone out. The motor is $750. I can live without them unless there is a less expensive alternative
Your instructable was VERY helpful and now I am going through again and it makes even MORE sense! Yeah! Thank you for having a sense of humor, cuz I sure didn't have one while I was struggling. I have an extra part left over (rather large one, actually) and am going to cruise through the pics and see if I can see where it came from. Again, thanks!!!!!
jopolo2 years ago
I found a metal replacement handle on Ebay for about $30 delivered and after replacing the handle still had a problem. The lock worked a few times but quickly failed again. I suspect the lock mechanism was on the way out and that's why the plastic handle broke. Using a sturdier metal handle spared me from replacing the handle twice.

Your pictures and advice helped immensely and I had the whole thing replaced in about an hour. I initially lowered the rear window and did everything from outside the car. I finally had to climb in the back to tug on the cable and release the latch for the door to open but then I was back outside the car and working from the rear with the tailgate open.

It wasn't tough at all and with a $30 handle and $115 part from the toyota dealer, my 2002 Sequoia is working again.

Thanks.
jaytho3 years ago
Excellent instructable thanks!

I've had to do replace this latch twice already (250K miles) another trick is to compensate for stretching is small washers epoxied on the ball end the cable that fits into the latch. Or, if your in a hurry, squeeze a small lead fishing weight if it truly stretched 3/16". Mine wasn't stretched.
lianeb3 years ago
OK the fact that this site on how to fix Toyota Sequoia door handles has 9,000 hits pretty much says it all. Unfortuantely, I am not even going to attempt to fix on my own. I will be fixing the sixth handle on my 2002 Sequoia....yes they are breaking for the second time now. Every time I have paid over $500 for the repair.
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