Do Not Sell My Personal Information Jump to content

Power Liftgate / Tailgate Problem And Fix. With Pics.

Recommended Posts

Well, by coincidence or not, my Mom was in town for a week and loves to grab a tailgate and manhandle it, likely a leftover habit from the good old days and the '86 Plymouth Voyageur we had growing up.... then the power feature on the tailgate stops working.

Every fix I came across is basically: My tailgate is broken - Ok, push the button in the glovebox and try again. - Oh that worked, thanks.

To be clear about the symptoms, the motor that grabs the door and pulls it tight still worked, but the one that raises and lowers the door was not doing anything. I'd get the 3 beeps sometimes, but that's it.

So I decided to dig in.

Here's what I'm looking at. Problem must be in here.


So you can see I pulled down the headliner. I just got a finger in there by the actuator arm and pulled at it. It's held up towards the right side by a couple of these.


Now when I looked in the mechanism, I saw that the arm that the motor drives had popped off of the pin for the door side arm.


Looking at this pic you can just barely see that there's a small bushing inside the end of the motor side arm. That was actually still sitting on the pin when I first got in there but I took it and pressed it into the motor side arm with a pair of pliers. Also note that the pin has a small groove at the top, you'll need to get a C-clip in there.


For reference, the C-clip I used.


I had to push the motor arm back into the mechanism a bit to make room to get it back onto the pin, then pull the door down a bit and massage it to get the arm on there. Then pop the C-clip on. Surprisingly, I managed to get it on first try.

Lubed up the struts on the tailgate for easy operation, opened and closed it a couple times manually ( I read somewhere this resets the system. Who knows. ) And viola! It works just like it's supposed to.

This is the motor arm on the pin.


Tools I used: I had to use the coathanger to pull the motor arm out from the very back of the mechanism when I started, it had pulled all the way in as if to close the door. Pliers to seat the bushing in the arm, and to seat the arm on the pin. Screwdriver to push the C-clip on.


I hope this helps someone. I was motivated by fear of dealership service departments.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Awesome write up. This will surely help someone down the road to avoid "stealership" prices. Now if you could just keep your mother away from the hatch, all will be good... :P

Oh, & LoL @ the coat hanger to "fix" a Lexus.....that's pure gold! :lol:

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Thanks for the props guys. Just picked up an MB R350 to replace the RX and it too has.....sigh....tailgate issues.

I am primarily a Duramax enthusiast and those guys have great DIY's for everything you could possibly think of. Just trying to help when I can.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great writeup....Thank you so much for your input, it will be referenced many times.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
  • 2 years later...

Excellent information, thank you!

It is very hard to see that area, never mind gaining access to it..

My lift-gate still works normally, but makes the occasional popping sound when opening/closing. Initially I thought the motor gear had a cracked tooth.

It turns out that the linkage pops upwards/downwards because it's missing the c-clip.

Off the top of your head, do you recall what size c-clip that you used?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Not the most scientific method but take an aluminum can as shown in the photo to the hardware store and place a variety of C-clip sizes on top of it until you find one that matches the relative size shown in the photo. You can always buy more one size if in doubt. They are likely very inexpensive but you could return the ones you don't use.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Good point. I missed the can for perspective, I guess that I was too excited to have found a solution.

I guess that I can spare $3 on extra c-clips, compared to many hundred for a new linkage. :)

Thanks again!

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I bought the RAV4 for my wife, the guy warned me NOT to manually pull the liftgate or it would be damaged. I asked why did they put a handle? He shrugged. Luckily, we don't let relatives near the car.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for the awesome writeup with pics. Had the same issue where the arm popped off, i found the C-clip next to the arm. Reattached the arm and the c-clip, but 2 days later it popped right back off with the arm... Am i missing something? Does the c-clip need to go a certain way? I noticed it is bent and I had it curving down i think.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the awesome writeup with pics. Had the same issue where the arm popped off, i found the C-clip next to the arm. Reattached the arm and the c-clip, but 2 days later it popped right back off with the arm... Am i missing something? Does the c-clip need to go a certain way? I noticed it is bent and I had it curving down i think.


The tolerances are tiny with these little clips - more like microns than millimeters. I suggest that you try a new C-clip.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks 1990LS400!

Went to Pepboys today to buy replacement clip. The replacement clip is actually a 7/16" E-Clip, cost about $1.59 for pack of 2 clips. Good thing pack comes with 2, I lost one while trying to install it! The service rep also told me that my original clip was bent, it should be flat. So if you find your old clip dont try to reuse it. Also, I spent an hour trying to push the clip on from the top, it won't go on that way, you need to slide and push it in from the side.

Hopefully it stays on now, I'll update the thread if it pops out again.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

I also had the same problem on a 2004 RX330.

I took apart the fabric panels and actually took out the whole motor unit to see what was wrong.

It turns out the screws that sandwich the two pieces togther were loose and allowed the gears to slip a tooth.

I tore it out and put blue loctite on the screw to make sure they won't come loose again.

The 4 bolts holding the whole housing to the roof are loctite'd in, so you need a little more effort to break those loose. I was afraid i was breaking the threaded inserts.

You will also have to disconnect the arm from the actual liftgate.

There is also a chunk of foam that will come out, its held in with velcro.

You can also see the side curtain airbag bundled up in there.

While you have it out, change the e-clip. The e-clip gets bent out of shape because of the downward forces. The downward forces also cause the two plates to start separating, so be sure to pick up some blue loctite (gunsmith stores have them).

I don't monitor this account much, but you can find me on

as trakker.






Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 6 months later...
  • 2 years later...
  • 1 year later...

Speaking of manually lifting the tailgate: I've been doing this every Sunday (to remove groceries without having the liftgate door touch the garage door while auto-opening) for the last 15.5 years and we've never had an issue with the door mechanism. Occasionally the gaskets get a bit sticky on very warm days but a light coating of silicone takes care of that.

Now I don't know what would happen if someone tried to manually open the door as it is under auto-opening power.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Similar Content

    • By galtom
      Hi All,
      I got (in Europe) US 2003 1st gen Rx300.
      About a year ago i have managed to change stereo from us (no navi) to UK version (with navi) and all was fine (bit os soldering was needed as plugs on both radios are different.
      However now my radio sometimes has no sound for few hours/days and after that plays fine for few hours/days.
      When I loose audio, under sound control I am missing  MID range control and although i can see Bass/Treble + Left/Right & Front/Back controls they don't work - no level visible.
      From what I understand it is an amplifier issue. I already got a new -second hand - one, but from UK market.
      Now, I can not find info what is the difference between:
      86100-48050 - US version and 86100-48040 UK version
      Also, (before I get to my amplifier) would any of you have pictures of sockets/plugs in US amplifier? 
      I could make sure my plugs will fit into UK amplifier before I unscrew everything.
      I attached pictures of UK amplifier

    • By driver6
      what can i do to make my car stop doing this.... i have great tires and i dont wanna use aftermarket shocks cause i love the confort of oem... so under this parameters what do you people suggest? thanks 

      i was thinking maybe wider tires could help but im afraid the handling would not be as crisp specially in the front...

    • By Charles Wong
      Hi Does anyone experience the audio problem with the GS350? Mine is 2013 GS350 F-Sport. Yesterday when I started my car and turn on my radio. It was fine at the beginning, suddenly the voice went off, the volume button (both panel and the steering wheel) not response, the navigation voice went off too but still functioning, hands free still work but no voice too. (You still can dial and receive the call).  When go to the SOUND option on the muti-media page, you can't choose the option like Left, right, front and rear. Suddenly the radio comes up again. Then keep going on and off!  Anyone has suggestions and advice??
      Today I bring the car to the Lexus Dealer and they request to do a diagnostic test ($168.37).  After the test, they found Amplifier Malfunction and recommend replacing the amplifier first (Around $2500) and then checking for other possible malfunctions.  That makes me disappointed and !Removed! off.  How come for a 3 years old car will have is kind of problem without warranty. The test fee is fine for me (no matter) but the solution is pay $2500 to buy the amplifier for them to test and not 100% guarantee that problem will be fixed.  Is anyone can help me for solving that kind of worry!
      Thanks, Charles.
      Lexus test invoice.pdf
    • By Yondaime
      I need help figuring out what is wrong with my gauge cluster. My speedo wasn't working so I took apart and tried getting it recalibrated. I put it back in and now none of the gauges or back lighting work. I had another cluster available and I installed it just to find out that it does the same thing as well. Only things that work are the high beam symbol, air bag, door ajar, and turn signals. Any ideas on how to find the problem and fix it?
    • By clozzzer
      I purchased my lx in 2011 new. Since then the dealership has had to replaced the wood trim 4 separate times. The drivers door is the easiest to spot, right around the seat memory buttons. The dealership has now refused to replace the panels any more. The say that it is not a known problem, and it has to do with something i am doing. I asked them what I am doing, and they said "we don't know, just something causing the wood trim to separate. Lol. Crazy!!!
      Please look at your memory seat controls and let me know if it appears to be separating. You will notice a wavy appearance and a sharp edge above the memory buttons.
      Other panels that separated; above glove box, passenger door, and around ash tray.
      Please me know.
      Also, in the pictures I have attached, this happening again in less than 40 days. This is the beginning stages.
  • Create New...