Projects & Repairs --> Body Mechanical --> Tailgate --> GM Pickup Truck

GM truck tailgate won't open.

Truck Tailgate Won't Open:

Fixing A Disconnected Release Linkage On A GM Pickup Tailgate

(Covers Model Years 1988 to 2002)

In This Article:

The plastic trim ring is carefully pried off. A new plastic clip is installed on the link rod and the rod is inserted in the hole on the handle.

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Skill Level: 2-3 (Basic to Intermediate)

Time Taken: About 20 Minutes

By Bruce W. Maki, Editor


The tailgate on this GM truck would not open.

We could feel that the right side would release, but the left side was jammed.

GMC or Chevy pickup tailgate.


Removing The Plastic Trim Around The
Tailgate Latch Release Handle:

Removing the trim ring around the Chevy or GMC tailgate handle is a tricky job. There are 4 catch tabs molded into the plastic, and these tabs are easy to break. This trim ring is only available at the dealer, so it's not cheap!

Removing trim ring around tailgate handle, GMC / Chevy truck.

Removing the plastic trim ring around the tailgate release handle was the trickiest part of this repair job.

I slipped a plastic putty knife under the edge of the plastic trim ring. I pushed upward on the plastic putty knife to release the catch tab.

Then I inserted a regular metal putty knife under the trim ring, at the corner. (I wrapped masking tape around the putty knife to prevent scratches.) I carefully twisted the metal putty knife until the corner of the trim ring popped out.


After I released both bottom tabs, I pulled the lower edge of the trim away from the metal.

Then I pried on the top tabs.

Removing trim ring, GM truck.


Clasp tabs on trim ring, GM truck. Note that the plastic trim has two catch tabs (red arrows) on the top as well as the bottom.


Note the distance between the catch tab and the edge of the plastic trim. Distance between tab and edge of trim ring, GM truck tailgate.


Catch tabs on tailgate trim ring. A close-up view of the catch tabs on the trim ring. There's not much material here... it's easy to break these tabs.


GM Truck Tailgate Release Handle:

Tailgate release mechanism on GM pickup, showing disconnected rod.
When the handle is lifted up, there are two black metal "ears" that get pulled together.

Each ear is connected to a long metal rod, which operates the latch at the side of the tailgate. A small plastic "clip" secures the rod in a hole in the ear. On this truck, one of the plastic clips had broken off, and the rod just fell out of the hole.


This is the small plastic clip that holds the rod in the hole. This part cost about $1.40 at our local GM dealer.

There is a small ridge of plastic (red arrow) that keeps this part in the hole. If that ridge gets worn down, then the rod could fall out of the hole.

If this part is kept lubricated (with white lithium grease, for example), then there should not be any problems with wear and tear.

Plastic clip to secure rod in hole, GM truck.


Plastic clip on end of tailgate latch rod. I placed the plastic clip over the end of the rod...


...then I rotated the clip until it grabbed onto the rod. Plastic clip on latch rod, GM truck tailgate.


Inserting rod into hole in handle. I inserted the end of the rod into the hole in the metal ear.

This wasn't easy. There's not much room behind the "ear". I used a pair of bent needle-nose Vise-Grip pliers to hold the rod while I positioned it behind the hole.


To get the rod fully seated in the hole, I used a long pair of needle-nose pliers to squeeze the plastic clip against the metal "ear". Securing rod in handle, GM pickup tailgate.


Replacing tailgate trim, GM truck. Then I replaced the plastic trim ring. I hooked the top in first, then I snapped the bottom into place.


More Info:

Tools Used:

  • Basic Mechanic's Tools
  • Putty Knives
  • Needle-Nose Vise-Grip Pliers
  • Needle-Nose Pliers

Materials Used:

  • Plastic Tailgate Rod Clip

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Written November 12, 2009