In order to keep the contents inside your car or SUVs trunk, the trunk latch is utilized either mechanically or electronically. In vehicles manufactured prior to 1996, most of the trunk latches were mechanical in nature, while newer vehicles have electric powered latches with a manual key insert as a backup if the electronic portion fails. Regardless of what type of trunk latch you might have on your vehicle, from time to time, they will falter, wear out or simply break due to extensive use or other issues.
The trunk latch on most vehicles is a two-part system that includes the locking mechanism and a lower latch where the lock encapsulates once the trunk is closed. The latch on the top portion of the trunk is connected to a spring, which controls the operation of the upper latch mechanically (with the turn of a key) or electronically (as a solenoid is activated to spring the latch open). For the most part, this component is designed to last the entire lifespan of the vehicle; however, there are times when the trunk latch becomes damaged and requires replacement by a certified mechanic.
When the trunk latch is failing, broken, or is wearing out, it will display a few warning signs that might alert the driver that an issue exists before the part breaks. In most cases a trunk latch can be repaired if it's noticed early enough. Noted below are a few of the common warning signs or symptoms of a bad or failing trunk latch that indicates you should call to a local ASE certified mechanic for inspection or replacement.
Trunk does not shut or lock
The most common symptom that indicates that the latch itself is damaged is when the trunk will not shut or lock into place. This is typically caused by the top trunk latch mechanism being jammed closed and unable to open when the key is inserted or the remote is triggered to activate the electric solenoid. There are several small components inside the trunk latch housing that may be broken, stuck, or seized in place due to improper lubrication. The only way to fix this situation is to remove the trunk latch cover and physically inspect the components inside. In some cases the problematic component can be fixed, while most of the time, the mechanic will replace the trunk latch.
Trunk is stuck closed and locked
This typically occurs when the locking mechanism is damaged. On mechanical locks, the system works by inserting a key into the trunk latch slot and turning the key to the right or left. This activates a series of tumblers like any other lock and a spring to open the latch. Sometimes the spring inside the locking mechanism is damaged while in other cases it is caused by a broken tumbler. On electric operated trunk latches, this can be caused by a faulty solenoid which will not open when the remote or button inside the vehicle is pressed.
In either case, a mechanic should be called to review and fix this issue as soon as possible. Having access to the trunk is often a luxury for car owners, but the trunk typically contains spare tires and other safety equipment that won't be accessible in an emergency situation if the trunk latch is broken.
In most circumstances, the issues with the trunk latch are caused by electrical problems, as mechanical trunk locks were built extremely well in years past. If you notice that your trunk is having difficulty opening or closing, or remaining locked; contact a local ASE certified mechanic so they can replace the trunk latch or complete an inspection to verify what is wrong so they can repair it quickly and affordably for you.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Trunk Latch and was authored by Timothy Charlet.