So after my OEM handle broke on my 2004 Sequoia, I went in search of a replacement. I was shocked at the dealer cost of a new OEM handle, so I researched on the web and saw that it was half plastic anyway. For $30 I ordered a full metal one online and installed it.
1. Lower the rear window and push off the plastic L shaped pieces on the sides of the rear glass. Pop the little plastic cover off the nylon loop handle and unscrew the 13mm screw holding it on. Then use a tool or strong hands to pull off the interior plastic cover at the top corners where the last two pieces were just removed.
2. Remove the 13mm screws holding the sheet metal cover on and then carefully pull off by removing the three white plastic barbs. If your door is stuck closed, reach in and unhook the black cable housing and end ball from the handle. With two hands, hold the cable housing and pull on the ball to open the lift gate. If the lock actuator is broken, the lift gate will stay locked and not open.
3. Remove your license plate because those two screws hold the plastic piece it is mounted to onto the lift gate.
4. Go back to the other side of the door and push the small white and black plastic barbs through to the outside. Take off the one nut next to the key lock mechanism. Remove the lower two quarter sized black rubber plugs on the inside of the lift gate and use a 13mm socket with extension to remove the two nuts holding the handle ears. Now this should allow the outside plastic piece to hang free on the wires that light the license plate area.
5. Remove the small screws that hold the handle in place.
So, everything is perfect right? No. My lift gate wouldn't lock. Two days later it locked and wouldn't unlock. The actuator had gone bad just like many who post have also experienced. Here's the rub..... Everywhere I look, I see videos and advice for replacing the broken handle or the lock actuator. Often the real cause of the problem is the latch mechanism at the base of the lift gate under the plastic cover. This mechanism is exposed to grit, salt, and moisture so it loses lubrication and corrodes. As it does, it increases tension on both the handle and actuator. We don't notice over the years because we just squeeze the handle harder. Currently, this part, that includes a new cable, is $135 from a dealer. I found a genuine Toyota rear lift gate latch with cable for $80 from Amazon. I replaced all three for $190 and everything works great now. That's probably a $900 job at the dealer.
People report handles and actuators failing again a year or so after replacement. Well, that's because the real problem was never fixed and those new parts receive the same stress as the old ones did. Know that if you replace the actuator because your door stays locked, you will need to get the black plastic cover off the latch mechanism inside the door. No, you do not need to cut it. Use a mirror or feel for the two small screws on the top opposite side of the black cover. Remove them with a very short phillips head screwdriver or one of those small cheap ratcheting handles for driver bits. Once you pull it up slightly you can reach under with one finger and trip the lock actuator open.
I had the same problem. Latch broke what a pain to fix but i got it. Thanks to some you tube videos. But 1 week later went to open guess what wont open new handle works fine. I think its locked. Saw some videos that shows i need to cut it to get it to open. Dont like that, any ideas how to get it unlocked.
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