How to Replace a Tailgate Lock Cylinder

picture of a new tailgate lock cylinder outside of vehicle

A tailgate lock cylinder is the actual device that accepts the proper key, and allows the cylinder to unlock the unit inside that is securing the tailgate handle. Signs of a broken tailgate lock cylinder include the lock not turning, an object stuck inside of it, or the lock turning endlessly when the key is inserted.

Part 1 of 1: Replacing the tailgate lock cylinder

Materials Needed

  • Pliers
  • Replacement tailgate lock cylinder (use your car’s VIN to obtain a cylinder that will take the same key as the lock cylinder you are replacing)
  • Socket set and ratchet (depending on make and model)
  • Star bit screwdrivers

  • Note: Pay attention to the key for the replacement cylinder you are purchasing. You may be able to find a cylinder that will match your key if you purchase the cylinder based on your VIN. If not, you will have to use a separate key for the tailgate.

back of tailgate showing the access panel and the screws holding the panel in place

Step 1: Remove the access panel. Lower the tailgate and locate the access panel on the inside of the gate. The screws holding the access panel are around the tailgate handle area.

  • Note: The exact size and number of screws will vary by make and model.

Remove the star bit screws holding the panel in place. The panel will lift out.

lock cylinder housed in the handle unit which will show the alternative location and step involved with this type of

  • Note: Some models require that you remove the tailgate handle in order to access the lock cylinder. Although it seems like an extra step to remove the handle, it is much simpler to replace the cylinder on a bench where you have the ability to manipulate the cylinder with ease. The handle will become free from the outside of the gate once the retaining screws and linkages have been removed from within the access panel.

diagram or picture of the mechanisms behind the access panel highlighting the cylinder

Step 2: Locate and remove the old cylinder. The lock cylinder will be held in a handle housing or retained with a clip behind the panel. To release the cylinder, pull out the retaining clip with pliers and the unit should be free to pull out.

  • Note: Make sure to remove any old gaskets along with the cylinder.

Pay attention to the order in which the cylinder’s gaskets, spacers, or washers are removed. You want to ensure that these go back in the same order. The replacement will likely come with instructions or a diagram of how it should be installed.

If the cylinder is within a handle housing unit, the handle unit will need to be removed as a whole before you can remove the cylinder from it.

  • Note: If you are working with an electrically controlled locking mechanism, you will need to look to another article relating to servicing electronic actuators.

picture of a lock cylinder and the retaining clip in different styles for references on what other brands look like

Step 3: Install the new lock cylinder. Insert the new lock cylinder and move the retaining clip back into place to secure the cylinder.

Ensure that all washers and gaskets are installed in the correct order.

If installing the cylinder into the handle housing unit, reinstall the unit into the tailgate and secure the handle’s retaining bolts and linkages.

Step 4: Test the lock cylinder. With the lock cylinder in place and secured (and the handle installed if applicable), you can now test the cylinder’s function.

Insert the key and turn. Check the handle and ensure it is locked, and then that the handle can be unlocked.

If the lock does not function as it should, remove the cylinder again and confirm that all necessary washers and spacers are in the correct places.

Stubborn and failing locks can cause a variety of issues. Changing them can be done in a short amount of time and with relative ease. Not up to the task? Schedule a tailgate lock cylinder replacement appointment with a certified technician from YourMechanic for help at your home or office.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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