How to Replace Tailgate and Hood Struts

Protect your head with this simple DIY job.

White 2022 Nissan Rogue Sport trunk open with one back seat down Nissan

Article QuickTakes:

A limp tailgate or hood can be a real hazard when you're trying to check your oil or unload your groceries. Fortunately, replacing hood and tailgate struts is a straightforward job you can easily do yourself in your own driveway. Here's a look at how hood struts work, what causes them to fail, and what the process is for snapping in a new set to take care of the heavy lifting and protect your noggin.

What Are Tailgate Struts?

Two primary types of hood struts are found in automobiles. Traditional manually activated struts move up and down based on the lifting or closing motion of your hand on a trunk lid or tailgate. These tailgate struts rely on pressurized gas within a cylinder to support the weight of a hood or a hatch. When you open your hood or tailgate, gas moves from one end of the strut to the other through a valve, keeping it equal on either side and functioning as a spring that extends an internal rod. Any closing action pushes the gas back in the other direction, allowing the rod inside the strut to collapse again.

Electric struts use a pump to move hydraulic fluid that automatically extends and retracts the rod to open and close. The principle is the same, but the fluid takes the place of compressed gas in supporting and actuating the movement.

Why Do Tailgate Struts Fail?

A mineral oil fluid helps control the speed of a gas strut's spring-like action, and a seal that slides along the rod keeps the gas and oil in place. Over time, the rubber in this seal can dry out and crack, allowing the compressed gas to escape and reducing the strut's ability to hold a load.

For electric tailgate struts, failure is similar to that of a gas strut, only instead of compressed gas escaping, it's hydraulic fluid that leaks past its seals.

How to Replace Tailgate Struts

Replacing a lift strut is a simple, do-it-yourself project. You will need to open your hatch or hood and then use something to keep it propped open (such as a piece of wood, baseball bat, or broomstick).

Next, you will need to remove the old strut. Look for a bolt at the bottom or top of the component, which will likely require a socket or wrench to remove. Once that is out of the way, the other end of the strut can be pulled out of its socket. You may need to use a screwdriver blade to pop the strut free from this socket, especially if there is a retaining clip to keep it in place. Some tailgate struts may feature additional fasteners that must be removed, but it's generally a simple process on both ends of the part. Powered tailgate struts will also need to be unclipped from the wiring harness prior to removal.

Installing the new strut simply requires you to pop it into the socket and then re-attach the bolt at the other end (and the wiring harness, if necessary). You will need to do this on both sides of the hood or tailgate unless your vehicle only has a single hood strut.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
Benjamin Hunting
Benjamin Hunting is a writer and podcast host who contributes to a number of newspapers, automotive magazines, and online publications. More than a decade into his career, he enjoys keeping the shiny side up during track days and always has one too many classic vehicle projects partially disassembled in his garage at any given time. Remember, if it's not leaking, it's probably empty.