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Another common fault that produces this result is bending of the center mechanisms from trying to open the t/g when the glass ISN'T all the way down. I used to have some REALLY good pics of it, but I guess SFO lost them. This one shows, but you have to REALLY look: the rod that comes from the far right comes from the t/g handle. The bellcrank that it passes through (in one of the white plastic clips) is bent downward, making the handle stick up from the t/g. That's what I usually find in tailgates that are hard to open. The fix is to just bend that bellcrank straight again and NEVER try to pull the handle unless the glass is FULLY down.

 

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The '78-82 latches are different from '83-96.

If the latch doesn't lock, try to get it to latch with the t/g down and use a screwdriver (or something slightly smaller than the strike post) to close the jaws. You probably just need to rinse it out with Liquid Wrench (not WD-40; too much wax) or some other penetrating oil. If it still won't latch, put the glass up & pull the access panel. Inspect the operating rod that runs from the center mechanism to that latch to make sure it's not bent, keeping the latch released. If the rod is SLIGHTLY slack and the latch is clean & lubed, but won't catch, replace the latch.

If it latches with the t/g open but not EVERY time that you close it, trace a circle around the big washer (for reference) and then shift the strike post rearward ~1/32" at a time until it latches or you've gone 1/4". If it still won't latch, then you need to move the post up or down to align it.

This is the strike bolt for '78-82. '83-96 looks just like an '80-86 door strike bolt.
 
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