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Old 02-22-2010, 02:30 AM   #1
hholbein
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1997 SW2
1997
Default When your SW2 liftgate doesn't latch....

A common problem encountered on SWs is a liftgate that won't latch shut. This problem can happen anytime, but is more likely to happen during cold weather (<=5C/40F).

When this happens, neither the key nor the release lever will reliably get the latch to reset because it is stuck in the "open" or triggered position.

In this first post, I'll describe the problem; in the 2nd post, and how you can get it working in a manual mode (key only); the 3rd post will describe steps you can take to replace or repair the electrical actuator so you can use the driver's side remote release switch lever or the keyfob.

If your car is a 2nd-gen or 3rd gen wagon, the latch comes equipped with an electric-door-lock-style actuator made by Rockwell Controls that's remotely triggered. These stick/hang up after a modest amount of use and aren't available separately, to my knowledge. The most common failure is the actuator sticks or jams in the most extended position, and this prevents the latch from springing back to reset/relatching mode.

The 2nd and 3rd gen latches are similar and fully interchangeable; both use the same bolts, electrical connectors, and cable-to-lock cylinder cable. The 3rd gen latch has a small slider slot meant to support the actuator and prevent it from sticking when fully extended, but the idea was poorly executed by GM/supplier engineering and never corrected the problem.

Here are some pictures of the 2nd and 3rd gen latches for comparison:

The 1st and 4th pics are of the 3rd gen latch assy, the middle 2 pics are of the 2nd gen latch assy, with the actuator removed.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg dcp_2019.jpg (67.3 KB, 62 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2026.jpg (41.2 KB, 37 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2020.jpg (56.5 KB, 47 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2023.jpg (53.1 KB, 41 views)

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Old 02-22-2010, 02:48 AM   #2
hholbein
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1997 SW2
1997
Default Re: When your SW2 liftgate doesn't latch....

To get at the latch, you'll need:
- a small screwdriver
- a mini prybar or panel puller tool
- a 14mm socket or wrench
- a screwdriver with a small Torx bit
- a needlenose pliers is handy

To get at the latch, you have to remove 4 pieces of interior trim around the liftgate, starting at the top piece surrounding the high/middle stop light; then the two side trim pieces, and then the bottom piece that includes the speaker grille openings. Push in on the center of the pushpins to lessen their grip, then gently pry them out with the prybar.

There's a Torx screw hidden in the handle recess on the right hand side. The screw is held in place with a speed nut, make sure it doesn't get lost. Lifewise, the rubber bumpers on the sides of the liftgate sometimes pop off; make sure to keep track of them as well.

Once the trim is off, you can remove the 2 14mm latch bolted to the plastic resin hatch. Reach inside and disconnect a) the actuator connector (larger, blue tip); b) the small connector to the cargo light and liftgate ajar warning bulb on the dash; c) the cable release from the lock cylinder. The cable release requires gently prying apart and loose the tanged plastic clip that holds the cable ball end in its socket. Then the cable housing pries loose from its V-slot.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg dcp_2007.jpg (145.5 KB, 24 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2011.jpg (110.0 KB, 24 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2012.jpg (32.7 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2014.jpg (195.8 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2013.jpg (67.5 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2015.jpg (138.0 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2016.jpg (117.3 KB, 22 views)

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Old 02-22-2010, 03:03 AM   #3
hholbein
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1997 SW2
1997
Default Re: When your SW2 liftgate doesn't latch....

Once you have the latch exposed, check it to see if the electrical lock actuator is stuck or sticks in the extended position. If this is the case, the quick fix is to REMOVE THE ACTUATOR and see if that makes the latch reset properly.

To remove the actuator:

1) remove the two Phillips head screws holding the Rockwell actuator in place
2) rotate the actuator up and away from the latch until the white plastic loop unhooks from the black actuator arm
3) remove the black actuator arm itself by rotating it, clearing the two keyways, and then pushing it our of the socket

Make sure the key-to-cable link is properly attached and check the action with a key in the liftgate. If the latch reliably latches, reinstall the 14mm bolts and the trim.

Reattach the small connector to the light switch on the latch, and leave the actuator connector free.

You'll be able to use it reliably in manual mode until you find a replacement latch assembly, actuator, or make repairs and mods to the actuator.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg dcp_2018.jpg (43.2 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2022.jpg (140.4 KB, 31 views)

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Old 02-22-2010, 08:03 PM   #4
hholbein
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1997
Default Re: When your SW2 liftgate doesn't latch....

Inspecting/repairing the actuator

The following posts describe how to repair the actuator, since a new latch assembly costs $95+ and the Rockwell actuator isn't available separately (to my knowledge, anyway!)

Attached are two labeled photos of the inside of the Rockwell latch actuator. The unit primarily consists of an electric motor, a clutch, a screwshaft, and a white nylon slider. There's a vent and a sealed rubber bellows to keep dirt out of the interior.

Overall, you're trying to ID and fix things that prevent the mechanism from sliding easily in and out. The most common situation is the actuator binds in the fully-extended position.

There are a few things that go wrong with this component:

1) The vent can clog up with dust, increasing the air pressure inside the unit when it contracts, making it harder to retract. Clean it out with compressed air.

2) The plastic gear on the overrunning clutch breaks off a tooth and makes the mechanism jam. Replace the gear from another salvaged/JY unit. (Don't toss out old actuators, parts can be scrounged from them to fix other units so you end up with 1 or more working ones.)

3) The slider that mates with the screwshaft gets worn in the grooves and the screwshaft area. Clean and lightly lube the moving components with a high-quality silicone lubricant. Try flipping the slider 180 degrees and see if that changes the wear pattern/binding characteristics.

4) The white lithium grease in the journals gums up. Clean and lube with a silicone lube as above.

When you're done cleaning and lubing, reassemble the unit and 4 small Phillips screws. The rubber bellows slips over a collar, and there's a metal sleeve inside the bellows to hold the neck assembly together. Make sure the sleeve is pressed in all the way.

Test out the actuator repairs by quickly moving the white actuator in and out many times by hand, checking closely for any signs of binding. If there is still binding evident, it could mean your white plastic slider is too far worn. Try installing another from a donor JY unit.

Next, try reinstalling the repaired actuator on the metal latch body, attaching it with 2 large Phillips head screws. The black plastic actuator arm should be reattached to the actuator and latch first, however.

Reset and test fire the latch 25 to 35 times checking for any signs of binding. (You reset the latch by moving the catch in the striker groover upward 2 clicks.)

If things still look good, try the ultimate test! Stick the unit in the freezer for a 30-60 minutes until it gets to 0F/-18C. Then take it out and test fire it 15-20 times. If it still doesn't stick, you're probably ready to install the rehabbed unit in your SW. If not, continue on to the next post.....
Attached Images
File Type: jpg dcp_2027.jpg (53.5 KB, 33 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2028.jpg (82.3 KB, 23 views)

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Old 02-23-2010, 07:17 PM   #5
hholbein
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1997 SW2
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Default Re: When your SW2 liftgate doesn't latch....

The last straw, fixing the remote latching mechanism....

If you scrounge one of the later 3rd gen latches from a junkyard SW, and the actuator still occasionally hangs up in the extended position, try this modification.

The 3rd gen latch adds a slider guide to the actuator arm that rides in a metal track. It seems that GM engineering ID'd downward strain on the actuator arm as the source of the binding. HOWEVER, there's a lot of slop in the track-to-slider guideway, so the metal track doesn't adequately support the actuator arm and it continues to hang up.

Try narrowing the gap 2mm or so by bending in the L-shaped guide. I did this by hitting it on a flat metal surface with a hammer. I then smoothed out the metal raceway with a Dremel motor tool cutting disk. The Finished up with a light coating of synthetic grease to the track and slider pin/guide.

Reassemble the latch with the actuator and retest several times to see if there's any binding. Try the freezer test (above) to make sure it's working well. Then reinstall.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg dcp_2032.jpg (119.6 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2033.jpg (90.3 KB, 19 views)
File Type: jpg dcp_2034.jpg (94.5 KB, 18 views)

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Old 09-02-2013, 03:32 PM   #6
1996SW2
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Default Re: When your SW2 liftgate doesn't latch....

Removing the actuator was a nice, easy, redneck fix for a very annoying problem. I can actually use the back hatch area now. Im perfectly content with using the key but i may just open up the actuator and tinker with it. Thank you for taking the time on this post. My only word of caution is, with all clipped interior panels, be patient and don't force it or you will break something.

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Old 09-04-2013, 01:01 AM   #7
hholbein
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1997 SW2
1997
Default Re: When your SW2 liftgate doesn't latch....

Glad you found this old post of use. I've got several years now on the modded Gen3 latch I installed in my SW2, with no problems -- except dirty keyfob contacts, in which case the key works just fine.

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