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2001 Pathfinder hatch won't open


aedavis
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I've had a 2001 Pathfinder for a few years and for the most part (other than SES codes) it has been trouble free.  However, recently the hatch handle stopped working.  Ever since I bought it, I could unlock the hatch with the key in the driver's side door (two turns unlocked all doors and the hatch) but I never could get the hatch to open with the key in the hatch lock itself.  The rear lift window opens with the key, but not the hatch.

 

One day it opened normally with the key in the driver's door lock, and the next day it didn't.  Research on this site seems to indicate that there's a plastic part inside the hatch handle mechanism that has probably broken, and it sounds like people have had to cut the hatch open from the outside to get at this mechanism.  The result is usually that the hatch is destroyed and they get a new hatch from a junkyard and repaint.

 

I really don't want to chop up the hatch - one of the reasons I bought this Pathfinder is that it was exceptionally clean inside and out and tearing up the hatch doesn't sound fun, nor does finding a replacement and having my body/paint guy spray it.  Has anyone successfully accessed the hatch mechanism from inside the truck, with the liftgate/hatch shut?  

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I haven't dealt with this myself, but I'd climb into the back and see if I could get the plastic panel off of the hatch. It may just be held by pop clips. If you can get it free, or free enough to get your arm in behind it, you could disengage the lock or just open the latch mechanism directly, depending on what's crapped out. Worst case, cut the plastic trim panel rather than the hatch. I doubt it'll be fun, but with a little swearing (and possibly some blood) you should be able to get it open without cutting the sheet metal.

 

If you can't see what you're doing, try and find a picture of the rear hatch with the plastic removed so you've got a mental map of what you're up against. If you can't find a photo, there's a diagram in the service manual (which you can get here). I haven't downloaded the '01, but the body and trim section of the '03 shows the lock, latch, actuators, and associated linkage in a line drawing on BT-17.

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4 hours ago, aedavis said:

I've had a 2001 Pathfinder for a few years and for the most part (other than SES codes) it has been trouble free.  However, recently the hatch handle stopped working.  Ever since I bought it, I could unlock the hatch with the key in the driver's side door (two turns unlocked all doors and the hatch) but I never could get the hatch to open with the key in the hatch lock itself.  The rear lift window opens with the key, but not the hatch.

 

One day it opened normally with the key in the driver's door lock, and the next day it didn't.  Research on this site seems to indicate that there's a plastic part inside the hatch handle mechanism that has probably broken, and it sounds like people have had to cut the hatch open from the outside to get at this mechanism.  The result is usually that the hatch is destroyed and they get a new hatch from a junkyard and repaint.

 

I really don't want to chop up the hatch - one of the reasons I bought this Pathfinder is that it was exceptionally clean inside and out and tearing up the hatch doesn't sound fun, nor does finding a replacement and having my body/paint guy spray it.  Has anyone successfully accessed the hatch mechanism from inside the truck, with the liftgate/hatch shut?  

 

Follow these steps:

(1) Open hatch glass

(2) Crawl inside with a 10mm socket, ratchet,  plastic trim removal tool, flat screwdriver

(3) Use the trim tool to pop covers at the edges of handle

(4) Remove both 10mm bolts securing the grab handle on latch

(5) Grab a hold of plastic trim cover from anywhere possible at the bottom

(6) Pull out toward the front of car starting from bottom, then the edges and finally the top

(7) Hatch cover should come off once all clips are out and hatch cover is lifted upward

(8) Use the screwdriver to move the release mechanism while you push hatch open

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had this problem in my armada. the glass handle would work and the hatch handle would not. there is a little cable on the inside that goes to the handle mechanism that had slipped out of its hook. not 100% sure if the pathfinder is the same but it probably will be. and you can get to the latch from inside of the car you just have to crawl in and pull off the plastic panel. the steps are listed above by R50JR. 

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Thanks for the replies everyone - I'm going to see about removing the inside panel per R50JR's instructions above.  I have the service manual referrerd to and found the diagram on BT-17 (thanks Slartibartfast). 

 

I'll post up the results.  

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I took the hatch panel off per R50JR's instructions this morning (I was waiting for cooler weather, as my shop isn't air conditioned).  It came apart pretty easily with a minimum of broken panel clips, and I found that lock actuator isn't working.  When I removed the bar from the actuator (that goes from the actuator to the latch) and pushed over on it manually, the hatch opens normally. 

 

I priced the actuators thinking they'd be cheap, like a passenger door actuator.  Wrong - They're $250 or so.  I decided to do a little more looking online and found this thread:

 

 
I took apart the actuator and found the same broken gear tooth as Gcohen6 describes.  I removed the broken tooth, reassembled the actuator, and reinstalled in the the liftgate.  It works now - the broken tooth must have jammed up the actuator.  I don't know if it will work indefinitely, but for now it's functional and thanks to R50JR's instructions getting the panel off to get to the actuator isn't hard, so I'll replace the actuator if this one jams up again.
 
Thanks again for everyone's help.
Edited by aedavis
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  • 2 weeks later...

Update, in case anyone else has this problem.

 

The actuator failed again - I haven't disassembled it, but I'm assuming another gear tooth broke inside and jammed up the actuator.  I just removed the rear lift gate panel, removed the rod that connects the door lock actuator to the handle/latch/lock, and am using the key to lock/unlock the hatch.  I don't know that I'm willing to pay $200 or so for a new actuator (Nissan PN 90550-0W021), since I don't use the hatch too much.  As long as I can use it with a key, I can probably live with it as is.  

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Ugh! That’s terrible news. You can if course get one for cheaper at a JY - though it too will be older. Funny, I just stripped down an R50 and abandoned getting the door seals & didn’t think of the lock actuator - damn!

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