Remove the bezel( trim peice around handle) flat screwdriver,pry carfully from bottom,as these bezels are easy to break. once this is removed,you;ll be able to see the rods connected to the handle. It also helps to remove the 2 screws on each side of the tailgate,and remove the latches. Hope this helps.
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Disconnected or broken mechanism within the tailgate hardware itself.
On the inside of the gate, opposite the handle, is a removable panel.
You can remove that and inspect to locate what broke.
once you have identified, you should be able to go to any auto parts store or even a junkyard, and replace it.
I had the same problem with my 02 Sequoia. To get the tailgate open and replace the broken handle you will have to remove the tailgate's panel cover.
The panel is affixed to the tailgate with about six to eight plastic stays on the back side of the panel.
You will need a "L"-shaped tool (The tool looks like a screw driver with its tip bent one-to-two inches.) that can be inserted under the panel's edge. Start @ the right, or left bottom corner.
After you pull the panel's second plastic stay away from the tailgate you will be able to use your hand to pull the rest of the stays away from the tailgate then push up on the panel to remove it.
After the panel is removed you will be able to see where the cable feeds into the broken handle. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull the cable and open the tailgate. Toyota charges $100.00 for a new handle.
I had the same problem. I used a flat screwdriver to pry the fiberglass piece out which created just enough room to wiggle the latch mechanism out the top. Getting the new latch in was a little more difficult, but 5 minutes of prying and wiggling and I got that in the same way it came out.
YES I THINK IF YOU LOWER TAILGATE YOU WILL SEE BOLTS REMOVE AND TAILGATE RELEASE HANDLE WILL COME OUT TWO PLASTIC CLIPS HOLD RODS ON LEVER REMOVE FOR EASE OF ACCESS TAKE OFF BEZEL INSTALL NEW AND RE-INSTALL HANDLE JOB WELL DONE NO PROBLEM
There should be an access panel on the bed side of the tail gate. If you have a liner installed on the tail gate you will need to remove it to gain access to the panel. Panel is probably held on with torx screws but you may get lucky and have regular bolts. just remove panel and the lock rods are held to the handle with little clips, just pop them off and remove the nuts that hold the handle assembly onto the tailgate, install is just the revers order.
there are little metal rods that connect to the handle of the tailgate, just like the rods that connect your door handles to the door hinges and lock mechanism. just pop off the plastic cover over the tailgate handle and check and see if the rods are still connected to the handle.
Mine just did the exact same thing. The latch may be moving freely because it is not hooked to the latching mechanism anymore. In my case, the handle had broken where the handle hooks to the rod that operates the mechanism. Go to the Ford dealer and buy a new handle. Here in S.C. it was $24. You can't get this at the parts houses. Start by removing the plastic "Ford" cover that is over the liscense plate lights. You then have to remove the aluminum rivets that hold the handle to the tailgate from the outside and remove the broken latch. Remove the pull handle loop on the interior side of the tailgate (2 screws), unsnap the inside plastic tailgate interior panel, and pull down the black plastic sheeting that is underneath the panel to make access to the mechanism inside of the tailgate. There is also a hard plastic cover that you will see that needs to be pulled loose to open another access hole. Install the new tailgate latch handle by sliding back into the mounting holes and attach with two 10-32 screws and nuts. The new handle will come with a new yellow rod attachment piece on the handle. You will see inside of the tailgate a small rod hanging down, most likeky it will have the same rod attachment piece as the one on the new handle. Note the position of the yellow piece on the rod, as you will connect the new piece in the same place. Once the rod is hooked up, relubricate the metal mechanism with a light machine oil, replace the black plastic cover, replace the black plastic sheeting, (secure with a small amount of duct tape), replace the tailgate interior panel, replace the pull handle loop, shut tailgate, replace "Ford" cover over lights, and you're done!
You will need to remove the trim piece the is under the release handle. Be carefull those things tend to break the little tabs that hold them on. Anyway pop (pry) it off with a screwdriver. Once it is off you can see that the little clips that hold the rods to the handle assy are broke. These clips are color coded. Most likely yellow or green. You might be able to get them at say Pep Boys or some place like that but they might make you buy an assortment package , then you get clips you will never use. Good luck, hope this is helpfull.
I just finished replacing mine. It took about an hour. Here's my step by step.
1. take off the two outside bolts on the inside of the tailgate behind the handle.
2. Now gently pull off the cladding around the latch. It is still held on by two christmas tree style holders.
3. Tie some long ropes to each of the two rods that the handle pulls together. You don't want them getting away from you.
4. Now free the rods from the plastic clamps. This is the point of no return. Mine would not go back together. A small screw driver shoved in from the end along the seam will pop them easily.
5. Now remove the remaining 3 T40 bolts on the back of the tailgate.
6. The handle assembly is now free to come out. Hold on to it as you lift the tailgate back up. Don't shut the tailgate all the way.
7. Work the old handle out. I did not take any of the cladding off. It took about five minutes of gentle manipulations to get it out. I did have to pull on the metal tongue that comes up right in front of it.
8. Pop the replacement plastic clamps into their corrent places in the new handle. Hinge side down. Don't fasten them.
9. Put the new handle in the same way you took the old one out.
10. Attach with the 3 T40 bolts. Dont fully tighten, just snug. I would recommend some blue loctite as well.
11. Now shut the tailgate so that it latches. Place the pull rods in the plastic clamps and fasten them. Don't pull on the rods, just put them in the clamps.
12. Your door should work now. Try it a couple of times. Pull on both sides of the tailgate to make sure each is held tight. If so, tighten up all the bolts, put the cladding on, and your done.
13. If your door won't latch, the rods are being pulled together too much. Undue the plastic clamps, push the rods apart and reset them in the clamps.