It can be extremely frustrating when your pickup truck's tailgate latch starts to fail. It's such a small part of the vehicle, and yet a latch that keeps sticking, won't open at all or won't reliably stay closed can impact your ability to carry cargo and ultimately make the vehicle less safe to drive.
However, a mechanic will be able to diagnose the underlying problem, and it's usually a relatively quick and easy fix. With that in mind, here are just five common reasons why your pickup truck's tailgate latch may have developed problems.
1. Loose Hinges
When the hinges that allow your tailgate to open and close become loose, added pressure will be placed on the latching mechanism as the tailgate shifts back and forth. If you suspect this may be the problem, simply grab the top of your tailgate and steadily move it back and forth, then repeat this at the bottom of the tailgate. If you feel it moving, the hinges probably need to be tightened or replaced.
2. Damaged Striker
Your tailgate latch's rubber bushing connects to the truck body's striker to prevent the latch from moving around. The striker is simply a bolt that holds the latch. However, it may become bent or worn. If it has a rubber coating, that coating may wear away. If this happens, your latch will not be held as securely and may not work as it should.
3. Damaged Tailgate
If your tailgate is badly bent or otherwise damaged, the latch may not be able to be closed at all. However, even relatively minor structural damage to the tailgate can mean the latch is placed under added pressure when closed. Over time, it is likely to become faulty, which is just one reason it's important to have a bent or damaged tailgate fixed by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.
Everything from knocks against the back of your pickup to incorrect loading of the truck bed can cause the tailgate to become misaligned. When this happens, the latch will not line up properly. Even if it still works at first, misalignment will place added stress on the latching mechanism and cause it to fail over time.
5. Dirty Mechanism
Finally, it may simply be that the latch mechanism itself needs to be cleaned. If dirt or any other debris is allowed to develop, the latch will not be able to function properly. As well as dirt, you might also notice corrosion that needs to be removed. When this is the root cause of a faulty tailgate latch, the problem will usually be minor at first but grow worse over time.
Contact a company that offers truck repairs to learn more.