A while back, I received a nasty bonk on the head from the hatch of our station wagon as I pulled my son’s hockey gear out of the back—a not-so-subtle indicator that the hatch lift support struts had finally failed.
The good news is, for many applications, fixing a failed lift support or tailgate strut is a relatively cheap and easy job, but it does help to have a little bit of know-how beforehand to ensure you select the best replacement lift struts and then install them properly.
So to help you out, we put together this handy lift support replacement walkthrough.
How to Tell if Your Tailgate or Hatch Lift Support Struts Are Bad
First things first: Before you go buying new parts, there are a few easy signs that your lift supports are failing—and a few subtle ones too.
We’ll run down a list of signs that you can watch out for and it may help avoid a nasty bonk on the head from a failed hatch support.
Hatch is difficult to open (raise) or close
Hatch no longer “pops” open when you release the lock
Hatch won’t fully open into its highest position
Hatch won’t stay in position or gradually sags and droops
Greasy residue on the strut
Scraping, squealing, or otherwise odd noises while opening hatch
Tip: Replace Both Struts at a Time
Save yourself some hassle and replace both struts during the job—even if only one appears to have failed.
That’s because, since the one went bad, it meant that the other lift support has been working overtime to carry the full weight of the lift hatch—which can quickly shorten its lifespan too.
So we’ve found that replacing them as a set is the best way to avoid the headache of doing the same job over again, say, just a few months later.
How to Replace a Bad Tailgate or Hatch Lift Support
Though every vehicle application is different, in our experience, most most modern cars follow a similar process. We’ll outline the procedure on our 2012 Subaru Outback using a pair of replacement struts from Stabilus, and if you follow along, you’ll see some handy tips and techniques that’ll probably help you out too—regardless of the vehicle you’re working on.
Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.