73-87 (91) Fleetside Tailgate Mechanism Repair

Discussion in 'Paint and Body' started by HotRodPC, Jun 6, 2016.

  1. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    For those whose tailgate latches and mechanisms that aren't working right or at all.

    First big tip is to bring your patience. Manipulating the main mechanism in and out of the tailgate will require you to hold your mouth just right and all that good stuff, as well as getting the rods connected. So muster up all the patience you can.

    This diagram from the LMC Truck part catalog is a great reference of what your dealing with.

    Just to note, If you're tailgate has a band, You DO NOT have to remove it to make these repairs.
     

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  2. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    First tool I'd suggest you have handy before you even start, that will save lots of frustration and stripping your big 3 phillips head screws is a hammer driven impact driver and a BFH. Luckily, I happen to have one that I've had for over 20 years and I think this is the 3rd time I've had to use it.

    You can find them for under $20 or a Sears Craftsman is just under $25 but they're almost a must to not strip the screws.

    http://www.sears.com/craftsman-impact-driver/p-00947641000P?prdNo=2&blockNo=2&blockType=G2
     

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  3. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    Once you've got the 3 Phillips head screw out, the mechanism is loose and should have the rods connected to it, unless that's the failure you're needing to repair. There may or may not be keepers on the rods. I had one, the other had rusted and broke or fell off. I used pliers to slip the one off the rod.

    I didn't have any issue getting the passenger ride unhooked. Because of the cam that the rods connects to, you will have to turn the assembly like pictured below to get access to the left side rod and disconnect it. Just turn the mechanism and slip it back up into the tailgate. Then you can easily get the left to cooperate. Then you can take the whole mechanism out and you should have just the 2 rods laying there as pictured.

    Notice I DID NOT have to remove the tailgate band to get access but if your struggling to manipulate the mechanism, it might make it a bit easier giving you a little more room, but really, the rod being connected, you don't get that much space to travel with anyway so it may not be any help anyway.
     

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  4. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    So here is my mechanism. The problem is quite evident. The handle catch had slid over the top of the cam and was not engaging. This is because the mechanism is all bent to hell.
     

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  5. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    So after a bit of bending with pliers and hammer, putting the cam back on the correct side of the handle catch so it can engage the cam that the rods connect to, I lucked out and although not perfect, I lubed the mechanism at all the moving joints and can use it again.
     

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  6. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    So what caused this mechanism to get all bent to hell? Lack of lubrication at the mechanism itself and the latches at the ends of the rods to where I had been having to be rough with it the last couple years to open and close the tailgate.

    My left side seem to be working OK, but the right side was very very tight, stiff and didn't really want to move to easy.

    To keep this easy to work on, I only did 1 side at a time, so the other side would hold the tailgate level for me and I didn't have to worry about it slamming down on the bumper and denting the tailgate, not to mention easier to work on.

    You will have to partially close the tailgate to take the tailgate support off. Then with a 1/2 socket remove the 2 bolts and you can pull the latch and rod that is connected to it out of the tailgate for cleaning, lubrication, connect the rod if that was your failure, or replace the latch if needed.
     

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  7. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    Here's the what the latch with rod connected will look like. It's pretty self explanatory.

    That black chunk of rubber like material may or may not be there. I do not believe it is a have to have, so don't let that be a deal breaker. It's purpose might even be just to keep the rod from rattling in the tailgate. Mine where there so I left them. It being there did seem to help feeding the rod back into the tailgate too, so if you have it, leave it there.
     

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  8. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    After reconnecting your rods, lubing and cleaning your latches, just reverse order and put them back in feeding the rod to the opening in the center of the tailgate. Also reverse order. Hook the left side first. Remember, this is the part where you have to hold your mouth right and put the latch mechanism in the tailgate as pictured so you can get access to the cam hole to connect the left rod. Do that first.

    Then keep a finger on the back side of the left rod to keep it hooked in the cam. Gently turn the mechanism as if your going to put it back in place, but connect the right rod into the cam first. I don't think you really need those keepers if you don't have them or they are broke. It's just that you will have to hold the rods in place so they don't slip out until you have pushed the mechanism all the way in to line up your 3 screws. Once the 3 screws are snugged up, the rods can't slip out of the cam if the rod ends aren't bent or the cam isn't bent.
     

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  9. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    That's pretty much it. Now that all your rods are connected, the mechanism and latches are clean and lubed, working freely, it should work like an almost new tailgate again. I'd suggest maybe some hand tool Loc-tite or Loc-tite blue on the 3 phillips screws when you tighten them.
     
  10. HotRodPC

    HotRodPC Administrator Staff Member

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    Here's one other thing you need to check on the bed sides. The catches where the latches hook. Notice my right side looks to be OK. Compare that to the left side and notice the stop on the left side is worn away. I will be replacing that left catch off of another truck bed I have that's in not such good shape. A 9/16 socket for the 2 bolts is all that's required to replace the catches.
     

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  11. DanMcG

    DanMcG Full Access Member

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    Thanks for the write up HRPC! This will come in handy when I do mine.
     
  12. Jarhead79

    Jarhead79 Full Access Member

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    It amazes me how weak the tailgate handles are, but seen to last for a long time. seems it doesn't take much at all to bend the handles, if I wasn't switching to the stepside bed bed I'd be relocating the handle to the inside and get the new handle in there then weld up the outside hole! Lol Great write up!
     
  13. Iowan

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    Thank you sir.
     
  14. JIMBO

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    Rebuilding Tail Gate Hinges on1985 K20 Silverado

    I am rebuilding the left and right hinge assembly's on my 1985 K20 Silverado Tailgate.
    LMC Truck shows a left and right hinge assembly, the right side having the slot for removing the tail gate.
    eBay shows a pair of trunnions for both Fleetside and Stepside?
    My Chilton manuel shows the Fleetside which I have with the two-part hinge assemblies the same as LMC.
    I bought the pair of trunnions from eBay and if my interpretation is right now I have a pair of trunnions to return to eBay.
    Is my understanding accurate?
    Thanks
     
  15. gmachinz

    gmachinz Full Access Member

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    The handle assembly should also have clips to secure the rods in place as well-don't forget to use them! I've got all NOS tailgate parts for mine when I'm ready-I did strip a spare gate for the rods tho-I wirebrushed them, painted them and then plasti-dipped the latch ends-GM did that originally too-that and the black foam square are for anti-rattling inside the tail gate.
     

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