How to Lubricate a Power Liftgate and Fix a Non-Latching Tailgate

Updated: Aug. 13, 2023

When debris reaches the lock and latch mechanisms, the tailgate won’t open or won’t latch shut. You can fix it with a socket set and spray lithium grease.

How to Lubricate a Power Liftgate and Fix a Non-Latching TailgateFamily Handyman

Power liftgates have made our lives considerably easier, especially when our hands are full of groceries or when we’re dealing with harsh weather conditions. However, like every other part of your vehicle, the liftgate mechanism requires proper maintenance to ensure its longevity and functionality. Debris buildup can lead to a tailgate that either won’t open or won’t securely latch. So, how can you lubricate your power liftgate, and what can you do if your tailgate won’t latch? Let’s find out.

Lubricating the Tailgate Mechanism

Materials Needed:

  • Socket set
  • Spray lithium grease
  • Compressed air (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Access the Mechanism: Begin by removing the access panel located on the tailgate. If your vehicle has a bed liner, you’ll need to remove the tailgate section of the liner first to gain access to this panel.
  2. Clean the Lock Mechanism: Once you have gained access to the mechanism, it’s essential to ensure it’s clean before applying any lubrication. Use compressed air to blow off any debris from the lock mechanism. This step will ensure that the grease can be applied evenly and will effectively lubricate the moving parts.
  3. Apply Lithium Grease: Now, using your spray lithium grease, apply a generous coat to the cam/lever area. Ensure you also target all pivot points where movement occurs. The lithium grease not only lubricates the moving parts but also provides a protective layer against potential debris buildup in the future.
  4. Work in the Grease: After applying the grease, operate the tailgate handle several times. This action will help distribute the grease evenly across the mechanism. Once you feel the tailgate movement is smoother, apply another coat of the grease to ensure thorough coverage.
  5. Reassemble the Tailgate: Place back the access panel and, if removed, the bed liner’s tailgate section. Ensure all screws and fixtures are tightened appropriately.

Fixing a Tailgate That Won’t Latch

If your tailgate won’t latch after lubrication, the problem could still be due to debris buildup. Follow the lubrication steps mentioned above, ensuring you thoroughly clean and remove any debris present in the lock and latch mechanisms. If the problem persists after cleaning and lubrication, it might be a good idea to consult a professional as there could be a more severe issue with the tailgate mechanism.

How to Lubricate a Power Liftgate and Fix a Non-Latching TailgateFamily Handyman


Tailgates, despite their sturdy appearance, require regular maintenance to ensure they remain functional. By regularly checking, cleaning, and lubricating the mechanism, you can ensure that your tailgate continues to serve you reliably. If, after maintenance, you still encounter problems, always consult a professional mechanic to ensure your vehicle’s safety and longevity.