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Why My Trunk Won’t Open & How to Fix It?

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

my trunk wont open

A trunk stuck in a closed position may be due to a malfunctioning or misaligned lock or simply because you have locked your keys inside it.

Did you know there are about 1.45 billion cars in the world? That is a lot of trunks and groceries to stuff into!

With all those vehicles for personal use or public transportation, there are bound to be problems in getting into the trunks from the outside when you find yourself without a key.

Luckily, whatever the cause may be, there are many strategies that you can try before you call your local locksmith or mechanic and yell, “My trunk won’t open!”. Just remember to be careful, or you might damage your car!

Why Do Trunks Keep Getting Stuck?


Whether your car has an automatic trunk, or something with a remote or button or a manual trunk with a key, it is not uncommon to be stuck and unable to open the trunk of your car.

Just like an actual door, trunks mainly have a similar lock mechanism. Whether it is a Nissan Altima or any other car type, it is common for machines to malfunction. But first, let’s find out why this keeps happening—why does my trunk latch won’t open?

What is My Trunk’s Problem?

1. My Trunk Lock is Broken


A broken trunk lock may mean the lock is misaligned or a part of the lock’s mechanism (such as the latch, spring, or key tumbler) has been damaged. This can be due to overexerting force when opening the lock or simply because the lock has worn out.

It can also mean that a gradual dirt buildup is present in the keyhole, and you are experiencing keyhole issues. If you need help accessing the trunk using the keyhole, the issue lies in the buildup of dirt or rust inside.

2. My trunk’s key fob won’t respond


If you’ve ever watched every movie with a parking lot scene, you have undoubtedly seen a key fob. A key fob is your small handheld device that is connected to the hardware of your car’s lock mechanism.

It uses short-range radio transmitters or radio frequencies to send a unique code that is received by your car. If your key fob is unresponsive or broken, this can lead to a lockout in your trunk and even your car doors.

A key fob and trunk actuator has an almost immediate response when used, signified by a “click” sound. Once you notice the delay when you press the button and the springing of your trunk open, this may signify an issue.

3. My trunk actuator is unresponsive


The device that receives your key fob’s unique code is called a trunk actuator. It translates the command from your key fob and triggers the trunk to open with the push of a button.

The trunk release button location is normally on the car’s dashboard or the driver’s side. If the “click” sound is not engaged when the button is pressed, it is time to check the trunk button mechanism.

When the actuator doesn’t receive the fob’s commands, the trunk may not open or get stuck. This can happen due to faulty wiring or broken parts, a reason why your trunk button is not working.

4. Oops! I locked my keys in the car!


Cars nowadays have trunks with a button, while others are still with keys but the simplest and most frustrating reason why you can’t open your trunk is because you have simply done what every car owner has done before—you locked your keys inside your car or your trunk.

Because this is such an obvious thing to do, it can be the most frustrating situation.

Remember to keep a cool head and avoid damaging your trunk or car further. It is also one of the most common issues a locksmith has to deal with in their everyday jobs, so don’t be ashamed or frustrated! You are not alone!

Related guide:

5. Bonus Trunk Failures


If your car model has the option to fold the backseats, get a flashlight and try to check from within your trunk why the latch is unable to let go.

Everyone has a unique way of locking themselves out of their cars or their trunks. Here are some bonus features that you may relate to:

  • Car key breaks in half
  • Trunk handle breaks
  • A solid item is stuck in between

What Can I Do by Myself?

In encountering these issues, it is important to try out the things you can do by yourself without calling a mechanic. However, you might risk damaging your trunk or car further without prior knowledge and know-how.

Here are some safe do-it-yourself methods you can try to break into a locked car trunk:

1. Backseat Folding


If you have access to your trunk from the inside, try folding the backseats and accessing the trunk through there. This will allow you to pull the emergency release mechanism attached to the upper middle portion of your trunk.

2 . Use a Slim Jim


Using the “Slim Jim”, insert the tool through the slip of the trunk from the outside and try tugging on the emergency release. This is when you have locked your keys inside of your car or trunk and cannot open the trunk from the inside.

3. With a screwdriver and a drill


The trunk lock actuator is usually reachable from behind the license plate. Try to unscrew the license plate and check carefully if you can reach the actuator from the holes. With a screwdriver, try to get a feel of the actuator, and once it is locked in, pull the actuator to engage your trunk.

If the license plate holes are too far from the actuator, you can use a drill to carefully drill a hole into a spot near the lock.

4. Remember your spare


In the heat of the moment, people would naturally panic when their keys are locked into their trunks or cars. This is a good time to think if you have a spare key hidden somewhere in your home or if another friend or family has a key to your car.

5. Call a professional


When all else fails, it might be the best idea to call your local mechanic. Remember to verify the identity and affiliation of the locksmith you will be calling through their company ID and uniform.

Long-term Solutions and Tips to Avoid Malfunctions


  • Regularly Clean Your Trunk

Maintaining the cleanliness of your trunk is essential. This avoids any rust build-ups that could cause the malfunctions mentioned above.

  • Tarp Your Trunk

Lining your trunk with a protective plastic covering ensures that your trunk won’t suffer from unnecessary damage and spills.

  • Protect and Lubricate the Keyhole

Wearing of the keyhole from within can be caused due to exposure to weather conditions. This will also lead to rust build-up. To avoid key breaks, ensure that you are regularly applying lubricant to the lock mechanism of your trunk.

  • Regularly Get Your Car Checked

A long time without getting your car checked can cause unnecessary issues and can be a financial burden. Regularly get your car maintenance to ensure the locks are in good condition.

When Do I Call a Professional?

The best moment to call a professional is when you have applied all the DIY solutions mentioned above. There are special situations when you should NOT attempt to open the trunk or fix a jammed trunk latch by yourself, such as:


  • Lack of Experience – If you are unsure of your skills to use the necessary tools and perform the solutions you found online, this can further worsen your situation. This is a good time to call a professional mechanic.
  • Electrical Issues – If you have performed the key fob-trunk actuator diagnosis mentioned above and have determined it is an electrical issue, it might be time to drag your car to your local mechanic. Electrical car issues require the diagnosis and solutions of practiced hands.
  • Long-term Wear and Tear – If it has been a while since your car has been checked, then this is your sign to get the car to your local mechanic.

Frequently Asked Questions


How do I know if my trunk latch is broken?

A common sign of a broken trunk latch is if the trunk is having trouble shutting all the way or opening completely. When the trunk is temporarily stuck in a closed position but opens with a little budget is also bad news.

How much does it cost to fix a trunk lock?

Fixing a trunk lock may range from $200 to $600, depending on the model of your car and the complexity of the issue. Trunk replacements will also cost more than the average fixer-upper, reaching about $1200 for the parts needed alone.

How often should I inspect my trunk lock and latch?

Safety organizations and centers recommend ideally conducting a daily checking of the condition of your car including the trunk.

If you are too busy to do this, it is ideal to also have your trunk checked in the same schedule as car maintenance, which some driving safety organizations recommend to be after every 5,000-mile marker.

For visual learners reading this, check out this tutorial video on how to open car trunks without a key.


The trunk is one of the most trustworthy parts of your car, as it carries your valuables, such as your spare tires, groceries, baggage, or any item you hold dear.

So if you ever say to yourself, “Help! My trunk won’t open” don’t panic. There are methods to fix it as long as you identify the cause of your trunk not opening.

Take care of the vehicle that transports your personal belongings and your most precious cargo: yourself.

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