Why Do Modern SUV Liftgates Open and Shut so Slowly?
Crossovers and SUVs are the best-selling car designs in the United States, delivering utility, flexibility, and performance that suits use cases across the U.S. That said, the design has always had a few quirks. So, why do the back gates of many modern SUVs open and close so mortally slowly?
What is a vehicle liftgate?
First, let’s define our terms. Liftgates aren’t trunk lids. The trunk of a sedan or compact car is a horizontal cargo space parallel to the ground and separate from the rest of the vehicle. An SUV liftgate is a vertical door on an SUV’s rear end, offering access to the whole car from the back.
Why do modern liftgates open so slowly?
The short answer to why modern SUV liftgates open and close comparatively slowly is “because they’re powered.” Rather than letting physics and arm strength do the work, most modern SUVs provide a powered assist. Adding electric or pneumatic support to a liftgate has many advantages. It’s safer, keeping the door from popping open or slamming shut unexpectedly. It’s also more accessible to people with limited mobility, whether from long-term health issues or short-term limits like “arms full of groceries.” Additionally, as Kelley Blue Book points out, power liftgates enable hands-free and remote opening options.
Unfortunately, all those benefits come at a cost: a power liftgate usually moves a little slower than an unpowered door. Different makes and models move at different speeds, but drivers have vented frustration about otherwise beloved designs. Commenters at OdyClub take the liftgate of the Honda Odyssey to task, for example. SubaruForester.org also has plenty to say about the hatch on its titular crossover.
That said, if a liftgate is slow or unreliable enough to be a problem, it may be time to take it to the shop. eHow identifies a few common liftgate issues, including worn-out struts, broken motors, and electrical issues. A good mechanic will likely be able to fix any of those issues.
Different types of liftgates and cargo containers
An SUV-style powered liftgate isn’t the only way to close the back of a car. As noted, sedans and other conventional car designs have trunk lids, which often have power assist systems and hands-free options just like SUV liftgates. Hatchbacks split the difference between trunks and liftgates by way of, well, a hatch. Unlike a trunk lid, a hatch is a door offering access to the whole car, but it’s generally more angled or curved than an SUV liftgate.
Meanwhile, pickup trucks have tailgates that lock up or fold down for access to the cargo bed. Work and cargo trucks go one step further with sturdy liftgates that can fold along the roof for ease of access, as well as serving as powered loading platforms.