A power lift gate is a feature on some vehicles, especially vans, that allows wheelchairs or other heavy devices or passengers to be loaded into the vehicle with ease using an electric motor. Because some passengers or drivers require this lift gate to enter the vehicle, it is a major inconvenience if the gate stops working. Occasional problems with lift gates have been covered by recalls, while others are simple mechanical or electrical failures. An auto repairman may be required to diagnose which problem you have.
Gate Control Module Recalls
Some power lift gates have malfunctioned in a serious way because of a control module problem. This was seen in 2003 on the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Town and Country minivans. The problem could result in the lift gate opening while driving is in progress. This is obviously a major concern, as unbuckled passengers or items could be ejected from the vehicle when this happens. A safety recall on these two vehicles was issued by DaimlerChrysler to fix the problem free of charge. While you may not have one of these particular vehicles, if you have a power lift gate that is opening on its own during vehicle operation, you should not drive it before having it repaired. There is a good chance the problem is similar to this recall.
The power lift gate raises and lowers on a set of gas struts. Eventually these struts can wear out and may not be able to hold the weight of the gate open. This can cause the gate to close on its own unexpectedly, which can cause injury to those in the way. The 2005 Honda Odyssey had this problem as the struts wore out prematurely. It was covered by a recall. But any lift gate struts will wear out eventually and the gate's inability to remain open or closed on its own could be caused by these worn gas struts.
A switch on the vehicle is set up to control the movement of the power lift gate. The switch turns on the motor and uses its power to open and close the gate. Like any motor, it is vulnerable to breakdown at some point. If the gate will simply not move, makes no noise or makes an unusual noise coming from the motor, there is a good chance that bearings are shot or there is another internal problem inside the motor. Motor replacement is likely to be the only remedy.
A series of fuses installed in the car prevent the electrical overload of the components throughout the car. Sometimes these fuses blow out and the associated electronics will not work. Your vehicle should have a fuse that controls the power to the lift gate. If the gate suddenly stops working entirely, it is possible you have a blown fuse. Simply replacing the fuse in question will restore normal power.