Tailgate Latch Modification
- Dremel rotary tool.
- No. 425 Polishing Wheel.
- No. 429 Felt Polishing Wheel and No. 421 Polishing compound.
- Grinding stone such as No. 85422 may be needed to bevel Handle Levers.
- 7/16" socket.
- Phillips screwdriver.
*Note: Handle Levers, and Latch Rod Arms are names I made up because I did
not know what to call these parts. They are labeled in the photos so you can see
what I'm talking about. I wouldn't go to the parts counter at the dealer and say "I
need a new Handle Lever" the guy won't have a clue what you're talking about.
The following information and procedure applies to '87 - '96 Dakotas, as mine is
a '93 and I don't think the design of the tailgate latch changed until the '97
makeover. Even so you could probably apply the procedure to 2nd generation
Daks without much difficulty. This is a very simple procedure and anyone can
do it. Even if the latch is working fine, this procedure should give you the
ultimate in smooth operation of the latch. I had noticed on mine that the latch
was getting hard to open. When the handle was pulled out, there was a grinding
feeling behind it. I wasn't sure if it was rusted or what so I popped the cover off
the tailgate and had a look. I immediately saw what was causing the problem.
The design has two metal-to-metal contact areas which grind against each other
when the latch is used. On mine the Handle Levers had developed a sharp outer
edge and were cutting into the Latch Rod Arms. This was producing the rough
feel and was starting to create some small metal shavings. NOT GOOD. Here
is what I did.
Take the four Philips head screws out of the cover on the inside of the
tailgate and remove the cover. If you look closely at the inner
mechanism [fig.1] you will see two steel rods that lead off to each latch on the
side of the gate. You can remove these by rotating the plastic clip and
slipping the rod up (when you look at it you'll know what I'm talking
about). Now work the latch a few times and see where the parts rub
together. Pretty simple huh? These metal-to-metal areas are the ones you want
to polish. Take a 7/16" socket and remove the two nuts holding the handle
assembly in. This comes apart into two pieces: the tailgate handle and Handle
Levers, and the internal mechanism, Latch Rod Arm assembly. The tailgate
handle rotates forward and comes out of the gate and the mechanism you just lift
--Grinding and polishing.--
Now the fun part. The metal you will be polishing isn't very hard, so no Tim
Allen stuff! First grind the square contact areas on the Latch Rod Arm assembly.
Use the No. 425 Polishing Wheel and VERY lightly grind the metal just enough
to smooth out the surface, remove any oxidation, and give it a little shine.
Surfacing is what we're after, not metal removal. After this use a felt wheel and
polishing compound to make it a mirror finish. Next grind the Handle Lever
ends with the No. 425 wheel. Finish up with the felt wheel and polishing
compound. At this point I recommend beveling the outside edge of the Handle
Levers [fig. 2] to insure the sharp edges do not score your pretty finish on the
Latch Rod Arms the first time you work the latch. A grinding stone may be
needed for this step. Polish the newly beveled area to mirror finish also. Re-
assemble and spread on some white lithium grease to the areas that you polished.
With the cover off work the latch a few times and make sure everything is nice
Just like disassembly, only in reverse. Imagine that!
Michael Clark firstname.lastname@example.org
93 Mark III 4X2 reg. cab SWB
V8 auto MP SBEC K&N FIPK
Smooth opening tailgate
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Jon N. Steiger / email@example.com