e61 tailgate problem update/resolved
If anyone has an e61 tailgate latch issues there is hope. I've been dragged through the mud (or snow in my case) with this one. Now that it is above freezing I've had some time and cooperative weather to figure this thing out .. Toga94m was correct in his post. If you move the manual release mechanism to the right (left opens, pg 36 owners manual) it will send a message to the computer that the tailgate is closed and that in return will shut off interior lights etc...and more importantly allow you to open the rear tailgate window to access the screws to remove the latch. In my case a small piece of aluminum (which I found out later) that holds the latch mechanism spring in place broke off and got wedged between the manual release lever and the housing . At this point the tailgate would not open or close because the latch would not release or move either way. I could also see there was a spring (one of two in the mechanism) floating around in there. I sprayed WD40 in the latch and since I suspected the problem was mechanical I had nothing to loose so I wacked it with a hammer and screw driver (gently) and eventually dislodged the metal. Once the manual release lever was free to push to the right, the rear window opened and it was a fifteen minute job to replace the whole mechnaism. If you are lucky enough not to have something lodge the manual release lever this is a simple job. I paid $143 for the latch (dealer only part as I could not find it on the internet elsewhere) and a done deal. Once I got the whole thing working I drilled the two rivets on the old latch to see what was going on in there. It is a fairly simple mechanism but the aluminum part that holds the spring in place was definitely the culprit. I'll repair the old latch at some point and have a spare . Thanks to all for the help!