SUVs come in a range of shapes and sizes, but almost all of them have one thing in common – they have a rear tailgate. You might call it a hatch, or the rear door, but it boils down to the same thing. Trucks also have tailgates, although they’re only secure if there’s an accompanying camper shell or tonneau cover that secures. Like the other doors to your vehicle, the tailgate is protected with a lock, which means that it has a lock cylinder. This is where you slot the key in to manually unlock the tailgate.

There are two parts to any lock. These are the key, and the lock cylinder. Both play an integral role in locking and unlocking the mechanism, and a problem with either could render the lock unable to be opened.

Your vehicle’s tailgate lock cylinder doesn’t do a lot of work, and it’s only used when you manually lock or unlock the tailgate. With that being said, it’s located outside the vehicle and is exposed to the elements. It’s possible for rain to get into the cylinder through the keyhole, and freezing temperatures and dust can also cause problems with the mechanism’s operation.

In theory, the tailgate lock cylinder should last for the life of your truck, and it can if you’re vigilant about maintaining it – regular cleanings with WD-40 can help prevent rust from forming, and clean out dust that would otherwise accumulate on the inner workings. With that being said, problems can occur with the lock.

For instance, if the rear tangs on the lock are broken, the cylinder will just spin in place when you try to open the tailgate. If the cylinder is seized, you might not be able to insert the key into the lock in order to unlock it. However, damage to the key can also keep you from working the lock. Here are a few symptoms to look for that indicate the lock on your tailgate needs to be replaced:

  • Key won’t insert all the way
  • Cylinder only turns partially
  • Cylinder turns around completely (spins freely)
  • Rattling from the lock cylinder while driving

If you’re struggling to unlock your tailgate, a certified mechanic can help to inspect the tailgate lock cylinder and replace it if necessary.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Long Does a Tailgate Lock Cylinder Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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