The latch mechanism supplied by the Smyth Performance kit functions well but the latch opening method — there is no actual handle; instead a simple Biothane coated webbing runs through slits in the aluminum — can be improved.
One option is to adapt the handle used in the 2005-09 Polaris Ranger 500. This handle features swivel arms configured at a 45-degree angle that works with the pull-in design of the Ute tailgate latch. The Biothane strip could be reused or swapped for wire cable.
The aluminum panel kit-supplied cutout (two slits used for the Biothane) must be enlarged to contain the Ranger handle, but the substitution is otherwise quite straightforward. The cost of this modification is about $30.
A further refinement would be the addition of a power lock triggered by the original hatch release switch in the driver door panel or by the remote key fob.
The lock bolt arm, moved out by a lock/unlock actuator, blocks tailgate opening by inserting the bolt end through the side of the tailgate into a slot on the truck bed; unlocking moves the lock bolt arm away and frees up tailgate motion.
The existing hatch release is controlled by the J393 module — VW proprietary integrated circuitry — so the precise functionality involves some informed guesswork. See also hatch harness removal.
A single logic circuit unlocks the hatch (the hatch locks only by physically closing it) activated by pulling up the momentary switch in the driver door panel or by pressing a button on the key fob. Either action completes a ground connection that triggers the release motor. As the lid rises up slightly, a contact switch in the open position when the lid is shut tight now closes; this completes a ground connection to stop the release motor operation and, in tandem with a linked light switch, turns on the luggage light and illuminates the dash open lid warning light if the ignition is switched on.
As indicated in the schematic above, the driver door switch or key fob button only triggers a momentary flow of current to the release motor. This operation is one-way only; the hatch can only be unlocked/released.
A tailgate operates differently. Instead of “one-way release” functionality, we need a two-way lock/unlock feature. This necessitates two power circuits to handle the forward and reverse of a latch locking mechanism.
A latching relay can transform a momentary switch like the one in the driver door panel into an A/B type switch similar to a power window or door lock toggle.
The driver door momentary switch (including the key fob), dash wiring, and control module connections remain unchanged. Removal of the luggage light frees up this circuit for some future application in the rear of the cabin or truck bed.
The workhorse of this modified wiring is the latching relay MD-D262, a circuit board assembly that utilizes a Schrack/Tyco PCB relay. When the driver door momentary switch is activated, this sends +12v to a relay completing a ground to power up the MD-D262.
The MD-D262 “remembers” its prior state even without any power. So when the relay ground is completed, output power is toggled to the “next” state … lock if previously unlocked or unlock if previously locked.
The pin 10 connection on the J393 module may prevent reverse motion if ungrounded; we’ll have to experiment to see whether pin 10 should remain intact or not.
Meanwhile, we need a method for sensing whether the tailgate is locked or not that is independent of the power actuator circuit. A practical way of handling this is with a magnetic reed switch that is triggered by the proximity of a magnetic field (a small gap can persist so physical contact between two surfaces is not essential).