Back in December of last year I took Balázs and Nate skiing up at Eldora. While we were in the parking lot, ready to get out our stuff to go ski, the handle on rear hatch of my Sequoia busted right off in my hand. It was probably because it was so cold that the plastic handle became brittle, but after doing some research, it turns out this is a very common problem with Sequoias of this age (2002-2005 or so).
The rear window rolls all the way down, so we were still able to use our trunk, but it was a hassle. The other day I helped Balázs move the lawnmower, and lifting it through the back window, I finally had enough.
A whole back Rosemary asked a mechanic how much he would charge to fix it - he said $300. After reading up on it online, that's a pretty reasonable offer for a mechanic; most I read about were charging between $350 and $500.
Since Rosemary and the little ones were out of town last week, I headed over to my dad's house, and together, we followed the instructions in the video and were able to successfully replace the handle on the hatch, and now it works!
I picked up two things at Autozone: a replacement handle ($50) and a "panel rivet puller" ($10). The replacement handle is aftermarket and is METAL, which is awesome, since it's not cheap plastic like the original. The panel rivet puller is used to remove interior and exterior cosmetic panels without breaking the rivets that hold them on, so you can snap everything back into place when you're done. Definitely worth the money.
The first step is to remove the broken pieces of the old handle, so that you can open the hatch, since there is no other way to open it from the inside (a great oversight, btw). The key to this is to get in there and look for the lever that you have to push down with a screwdriver. It's not very far up inside there, and is totally visible with the help of a flashlight. I spent 20 min frustrating myself, feeling around in the dark, thinking the lever was way back there. When I finally put a flashlight on it, it took me 10 seconds to figure it out and open the hatch.
Next we removed the interior panels, and then hand to take apart the inside of the door. The difficult part is that you have to work around the rear window motor. The good thing is that there are 2 holes punched in the inside of the door to give access to two screws that hold on the handle from the inside.
The hardest part was hooking up the new handle. There's no easy way around it - it's hard to do, but not impossible. You have to hold it on both sides of the hatch at the same time and press the cable into a notch, much like on a bicycle brake lever.
But, after 2 hours of labor and $60, I have a hatch that works. It was worth the difficulty to save myself hundreds of dollars!