When I got the van, the handle for the tailgate didn’t do anything but rattle in the door. I spent an afternoon dismantling the door and realizing that 17 year old plastic requires a delicate touch. After removing the trim and unbolting the latch mechanism, I figured out how it worked, or at least how it was supposed to. I got the handle from a junkyard Previa, dissected it, and put the guts back in the original panel. While I could have replaced the whole panel, that would mean losing the gold Toyota lettering on mine, and the corresponding swagger. I put the whole thing back together, and realized why it still refused to open. Image below is the disintegrated original handle on the left and the replacement on the right.
At some point in the van’s life, a previous owner stripped out the bolts that hold on the license plate. They corrected this by putting more screws just above the factory holes, and unfortunately, right in to the lock mechanism.
I replaced the screws with much shorter ones, reassembled the hatch and it was as good as new. There’s that sense of accomplishment.