All power door locks on a vehicle, including the liftgate on a car or SUV or the tailgate on a truck , allow a user to unlock the doors remotely. Whether triggered by a switch inside the vehicle, by a key code on an exterior panel, or with a key fob (or even a key), each door lock is activated, or “actuated”, by a door lock actuator.
The lock actuator is an electric motor that responds to a signal sent from a relay when you trigger the doors to lock or unlock. The actuator moves a lever inside the door lock/latch assembly and places the latch in the locked or unlocked position.
One such component is the liftgate lock actuator located inside of the liftgate or “hatch” of a hatchback car, van, or SUV. The term “tailgate” is often used interchangeably with “liftgate” or “hatch”, although the tailgate refers to the rear panel of a pickup truck box that folds down. In any case, the function of the lock actuator is the same.
If you unlock the doors on your vehicle, and yet, the liftgate latch does not unlock, there could be a problem with the liftgate lock actuator. The actuator responds to a signal from the Body Control Module (or BCM, a computer that controls most vehicle body and safety systems), and either locks or unlocks the latch on the liftgate. If the actuator ceases to respond, the lock will not operate remotely. It might still be possible to use a key in the lock cylinder, provided your vehicle is equipped with such.
Symptoms related to a failing liftgate lock actuator - lock is inoperative, lock is slow to respond or sluggish, the lock works intermittently - can also be attributed to a dirty or damaged lock/latch assembly, an electrical wire in poor condition, a bad switch, or even a problem with the BCM. It is important to get a proper diagnosis in order to determine if the lock actuator is the culprit.
If the liftgate lock actuator is found to be defective, a technician will take the following general steps to replace the device:
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