Projects & Repairs --> Mechanical --> Tailgate --> 2004 Jeep Wrangler

Fixing a stuck Jeep Wrangler tailgate.

Fixing Stiff, Hard-To-Open Jeep Tailgate Hinges

Jeep Wrangler Tailgate and Cargo Doors On Vans And SUV's

In This Article:

Penetrating oil is applied to seized tailgate hinge pins while the area is warmed with a heat gun. The tailgate is worked back and forth until the oil gets worked into the hinge and the door moves freely.

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Skill Level: 2-3 (Basic to Intermediate)

Time Taken: About 90 Minutes

By Jim Wilk, Licensed Auto Body Technician

Start:

Some SUV's and vans have doors with hinges that are located on the outside of the vehicle, fully exposed to the weather. The Jeep Wrangler tailgate also has exposed hinges.

The trouble with exposed hinges is that they get wet and dirty and the lubrication dries up, and eventually the door becomes difficult to open and close. Proper maintenance for these hinges requires lubricating them twice a year or more.

Maintenance Notes:

It's easy to forget about lubricating hinge pins. A couple of decades ago, before these quick-lube oil change places became so common, everybody got their oil changed at a car dealership or local garage. When those shops do an oil change they usually take a minute to lubricate the door latches and hinges. But the Quickie-lube shops don't do that, so these days there are lots of cars around that don't have regularly lubricated doors, latches and tailgates.

If you change your own oil, it's worth getting into the habit of spending a few minutes to spray some lithium grease on all those extra moving parts. If you patronize the Insty-lube shops, then maybe you should remember to lubricate all those hinges yourself. OR... you could nag the Zippy-lube guys to lubricate those hinges. If they want to charge you extra, ask why the regular shops do it for free and they won't.

 

With these stuck tailgate hinges, I figured there were four possible courses of action I could follow, each more time-consuming than the previous. So I started with the easiest option, ready to try more serious fixes if necessary.

Option One - Penetrating Oil:

This 2004 Jeep Wrangler has exposed hinges on the tailgate. The owner Karen had to use both hands and some body weight to swing this tailgate opened and closed.

The hinge pins are encased, so I started by spraying penetrating oil into the opening at the top of the enclosed pin.

Jeep Wrangler with tailgate that is hard too open.

 

Rust and corrosion penetrating oil, by Rubber Seal.

I used Rubber-Seal brand of penetrating oil. The aerosol with spray straw works the best.

The green arrow shows the best point to access the encased pin. 

I started by spraying the oil liberally into the upper ends of each hinge pin. I also sprayed the pin at the bottom.

Notice the dirty-white stuff behind the hinge pin? This is overspray from white lithium grease that was not applied carefully enough to get into the hinge. These types of hinges are not easy to lubricate with white lithium grease

 

After lubricating the hinge pins, I swung the tailgate back and forth to work the oil into the encased pins.

I repeated this process at least five times and realized it wasn't working.

Then I decided to upgrade my attack to Option Two.

Swinging the sticky tailgate to work the lubricant into the hinges.

 

Option Two - Penetrating Oil With Heat:

Using a heat gun to warm up the hinge pin so penetrating oil soaks in. After applying penetrating oil, the hinge pins were still stiff. So I used a electric heat gun to warm up the metal.

I found that I can use an electric heat gun to heat the encased pins carefully and not cause damage to the paint. A torch would definitely ruin the paint... and it might catch the penetrating oil on fire.

I kept applying penetrating oil while heating the area.

 

Heat will cause the metal to expand, and this makes the hinge absorb the oil.

I sprayed both sides of the hinge.

Spraying penetrating oil on Jeep Wrangler tailgate hinges.

 

Swinging the tailgate to work the oil into the hinge. Then I swung the tailgate again to work the oil in. After swinging the tailgate a few times, I noticed that it was getting easier to move.

After repeating the heating and lubricating process at least twenty times, the tailgate finally started working freely.

 

In total I spent about an hour and a half getting this hinge to turn freely. This job requires some patience. I'm guessing that it just takes some time for the lubricant to work its way into the tiny spaces between the hinge pin and the tailgate arm.

Karen was able to open and close her tailgate with one hand.

Luckily, I didn't have to use Options Three and Four.

The Jeep tailgate was easy to turn after the lubricant got worked into the hinge.

Option Three: I would drill a one-eighth inch hole on the back side of the pin encasement near the top, until I hit the pin.  Then I would spray the penetrating oil into the hole.

Option Four: Replace the hinge or pins.

While this doesn't help this Jeep's problem, I'll note that General Motors sells a replacement hinge pin with a grease fitting at the bottom of the pin. If you can get the old pins out they can be replaced with the grease-able kind. Maybe the people at Jeep will smarten up and design something similar for the Wrangler.

This repair was done at R-Tech Auto Body in Traverse City, Michigan.

More Info:

Tools Used:

  • Electric Heat Gun

Materials Used:

  • Penetrating Oil, Aerosol Can

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Written November 19, 2008