Dear Car Talk:
I have a 2016 Toyota RAV4 hybrid. Over the past year, the motorized rear lift gate has not been functioning properly. It would not close when you pushed the button, or it would close a couple inches and stop. It would take several attempts at button pushing before it would lower, or I would have to close it manually (which is hard to do).
My dealership has provided me good service since I bought the car, so I took it there three times over the past six months. The first time, they said it was working fine (the problem is intermittent). The second time, the mechanic said he lubed the lift pistons, and it was working again. It did, for a day. The third time the mechanic said they checked it with their computer sensor, whatever that means, and “it is working great now.” It worked for a day or so. Now it is not opening fully and is even harder to push manually.
I hate taking it back in, because it’ll either work perfectly for them or it will malfunction once, they’ll do something and declare it fixed when it’s not.
Any idea what it is? — Charlotte
I think you have a problem with the motorized tailgate, Charlotte. How’s that for blazing insight? I’m not sure what it is, but I know that Toyota had problems with the computer that controls the power back door.
And yes, Charlotte, there’s an actual computer that controls your power back door. What a time to be alive, huh? Toyota even offered to replace the computer (called the PBD ECU or the Multiplex Network Door Computer) for free for customers who had malfunctioning rear doors.
The primary complaint from customers was that they loaded something that was too big for the rear compartment and then closed the rear liftgate. The door closed and stopped when it got to the obstruction, as it’s supposed to do, but then it wouldn’t function after that.
Your problem sounds a little different, but we’ve seen another service bulletin that said when a certain trouble code comes up in a scan (that’s what your dealer did when he “checked it with their computer”), the solution is also to replace that back door computer.
I would guess the part itself costs about $150, and there’s not much labor involved. It’s two bolts and a couple of plugs. But if you first complained about this while the car was under warranty, they owe it to you for free.
And even if your warranty had expired before this problem surfaced, it hadn’t expired by much. So ask them if they’d show you some goodwill and fix it, since it clearly should last a lot longer than it did.
It’s always possible that it could be a bad motorized piston (the motor that actually opens the door, and you have two of them) or the sensor that lets the computer know when an object is in the way. But since we’ve seen many complaints about the PBD ECU, and we know Toyota’s had to replace a bunch of them for free, that’s where I’d start.
Plus, those other parts cost a fortune, so we hope the computer fixes it. Good luck, Charlotte.
Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.
© 2021 by Ray Magliozzi
and Doug Berman