Town & Country Rear Hatch Won't Open

by Robert Moore

Chrysler’s Town & Country vans have been known to have a few common problems over the years. On models built for the 1996 to 2000 model years, one of those problems is an inoperative rear hatch. It could be a failure of the lock actuator solenoid, but in most cases, the problem involves the linkage between the latch mechanism and the exterior handle. To access the area and fix the problem, you’ll have to remove the trim panel on the hatch, which means you need to open the hatch first. Impossible? Not so much. Chrysler thought ahead on this one, and provided an access hole that will allow you to manually actuate the latch to open the door.

Items you will need

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • White lithium grease

  • Spray lubricant

  • Volt meter

Open the hatch.

Locate the plastic, circular plug on the hatch's trim panel. It is right above the latch mechanism. Pry this plug out of the trim panel with a flathead screwdriver. Slide the screwdriver into the hole, and maneuver it under the bend in the linkage going to the latch. Gently pry up on the linkage, hold it in place and push on the rear hatch to open it.

Remove the trim panel.

Remove the two plastic plugs on the hatch's interior handle. Remove the handle screws with a Phillips screwdriver. Locate all of the screws on the outer perimeter of the trim panel and remove those. Gently pry between the hatch and the trim panel, working your way all the way around it until it is free from the hatch. Disconnect the wiring harnesses from the lights in the trim panel, then set the trim panel aside.

Check the exterior lock and handle linkage.

Follow the linkage from right above the latch up to where it connects to the lock cylinder. If this rod is disconnected from the plastic clip on the lock cylinder and exterior handle, the door will not open. Replace the clip if necessary, then snap the linkage rod into place.

Tip

  • Linkage clips can be purchased from any Chrysler dealer, and are sometimes available most parts stores.

Lubricate the latch and lock cylinder and linkage.

Spray white lithium grease into the latch and move the linkage manually to lubricate the latch. Spray more grease onto the backside of the exterior handle to lubricate it. Spray a graphite lubricant into the lock cylinder. Move the rod that connects the latch to the solenoid back and forth. At this point, the rod should move gently and travel about 1 inch in either direction. Turn the lock cylinder multiple times with the key. Apply more lubrication and repeat this step until the linkage moves with minimal resistance.

Tip

  • Wheel bearing grease works fairly well for the latch and exterior handle.

Check the operation of the lock solenoid.

Operate the electric locks multiple times while observing the lock solenoid. The rod that connects to the solenoid should move back and forth as you operate the locks. If it doesn’t move, the lock solenoid may be at fault.

Check for power going to the lock solenoid.

Disconnect the wiring harness from the lock solenoid. Probe the violet and white wire with the positive lead of a volt meter. Direct the ground lead of the voltmeter to the ground screw on the door frame. Operate the electric locks and observe the meter. If you get voltage on this wire when locking or unlocking the electric locks, replace the solenoid. If you don’t see a voltage spike, or get less than 9 to 12 volts, there is a short in that wire between the lock solenoid and the fuse box. Trace the wire back to the fuse box and repair any damage to the wire.

Install the trim panel.

Plug the wiring harnesses into the interior lights on the hatch trim. Press fit the trim panel back onto the hatch and snug the retaining screws. Install the interior handle and screws. Snug the handle screws. Install the plug you removed into the trim panel.

Items you will need

About the Author

Robert Moore started writing professionally in 2002. His career started has head writer and Web designer for VFW post 1224 in Hamburg, Michigan. He has prepared business plans, proposals and grant requests. Moore is a state of Michigan-certified mechanic and is pursuing an Associate of Arts in automotive technology from Lansing Community College.