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The Go Anywhere Jeep Cherokee

Hatch Latch Repair for the Jeep Cherokee - Quick and Dirty Install

A pretty common occurrence in Cherokees is for the linkage to the rear hatch release to get out of adjustment. Over a long period of time a threaded-rod slips on the threads of an open nut that captures it. It initially starts out by making the hatch difficult to open and the end result (depending upon your luck) is either a hatch that won't open or better a hatch that is stuck open.

You'll go to open the hatch and pull up on the handle and it will seem as if the hatch was still locked. Soon you'll learn by pressing slightly on the hatch towards closed while pulling up on the handle that it allows the hatch to pop open. So was my existence with my hatch for a good 2 years.

I never put too much thought into what was occurring I just continued to be somewhat patient as I finagled it open time and time again. Part of the reason I let the whole thing slide was I routinely carried quite a bit of heavy equipment in the hatch and figured that probably partially screwed things up, so I tended to falsely believe that things were the way they were.

Then one day everything changed which forced me to quit ignoring the problem and fix it once and for all (hopefully). I was at a car show with my Cherokee and had my hood and hatch open all afternoon. After winning first place in the SUV-class I began to pack-up my gear so I could dodge the coming rain and leave. I closed my hood and went to close my hatch and "whammo" the hatch refused to latch shut.

The whammo/bang felt like the latch was forced shut and wouldn't open and latch-shut properly. With rain coming down, no combination of pulling up on the hatch release or playing with the latch would allow it to close.

So we took some string we had among my other off-road equipment and tied it shut significantly enough as to not worry about it popping open and having any of my gear fall out on the pavement. (In the first picture on the right you can see that the hatch is ajar and not fully closed)
Picture of my Cherokee with a hatch that won't close
To address this problem you need to take off the inner trim from the hatch. As depicted in the first picture on the right; use a small flat-blade screwdriver to pry out the trim plugs from the hatch assist handle. Now remove the screws attaching the assist handle to the hatch. Remove the screws that attach the hatch trim panel to the hatch. Using a trim panel removal tool or flat-blade screwdriver, detach the push-in fasteners from the hatch. You're now ready to address the root of the problem.

The second picture on the right shows what the upper-half of the hatch release mechanism looks like, this component is directly behind the hatch release handle. The problem-area is circled in blue with a red arrow pointing towards it. You can see in the third picture a diagram that illustrates the entire mechanism. The threaded-rod extends down below to a rocker arm that is attached to the latch.

The threaded-rod (with a very unusual thread pitch) has a threaded open-nut that it snaps into. What happens over time is the threaded-rod will jump a few threads here and there and suddenly be grossly out of adjustment. If your open-nut is constructed of plastic, don't worry as Jeep was aware of this short-coming with the Cherokees and switched materials throughout the model years, unfortunately this didn't take care of the issue once and for all.

The very first step is to mark the depth of the threaded-rod with a black Sharpie marker. On the threaded-rod just above the open-nut, mark a line across the threads on the rod.

Now take and pry the threaded-rod free from the open-nut. Once it is free it really is a matter of trial-and-error to get the latch adjustment right.

Using the Sharpie mark on the threaded-rod as a guide; I would raise the threaded-rod up perhaps two or three threads and snap it back into the open-nut (I believe we used some tongue and groove pliers - Channel Locks).

Once it is snapped back into place go ahead and push the hatch shut and test the release mechanism. It should just release the hatch with a normal tug and no unusual pushing or yanking. Keep repeating these procedures until you're comfortable that you have the linkage just right.
Diagram illustrating removal of hatch trim

Picture showing threaded-rod in open-nut, the source of all the trouble

Diagram illustrating the interface between the upper and lower mechanism
Now that you have the linkage back into adjustment it's time to go ahead and button the trim panel back on and call it done, right? If you feel confident that the linkage isn't going to slip again too quickly, then feel free to rubber-stamp the project [COMPLETE].

I tried to do my best to figure out a way to discourage the threaded-rod from jumping in the future. (Looking at the first picture to the right; you can see the area I am focusing on as it is circled/filled-in in the color orange)

First I spent a fair amount of time at my local hardware store trying to find a nut to spin down the top of the threaded-rod that would then act similar to a jam-nut. Unfortunately it would appear that the threaded-rod uses some oddball thread pitch (in true Jeep tradition) and I was unsuccessful in locating something compatible.

Next I thought about using an epoxy like JB Weld around the upper threads of the threaded-rod. After a bit of consideration I wasn't sure this was a good idea and passed on it (in retrospect it may have been my best option, but I'll never know).

Finally I settled on using two 4" zip-ties. I wrapped both zip-ties around the upper exposed portion of the threaded-rod and tightened the living snot out of them with my zip-tie tool. I figured this would be a decent compromise to work as an artificial jam-nut.

Now the thread-rod is adjusted and we have taken additional steps to discourage it from getting out of whack in the future. But Murphy's law told me to take one additional precaution before quitting.
Finished Product

Finished Product

Finished Product

Finished Product

The above information has been created by someone that is an enthusiast and not a trained automotive professional. My intentions are not to have any physical harm come to anyone, but to highlight what I have done to my own personal vehicle or share my knowledge or experiences. If you decide to use any of my information, you bear the responsibility to verify its safety and accuracy.

***Please do not link to this article or republish it without my permission***