How to Pop Your Trunk if Your Battery Is Dead

If your car battery dies, you may have to try backup methods to access your luggage.

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One of the downsides of modern automobiles is perhaps a little too much emphasis on keyless access to your car or SUV.

As many new cars no longer feature mechanical keys for the door and trunk, things can get a little tricky if your car battery dies. If that oversized electronic key fob or a remote button on the tail of the car no longer works, your car may be completely locked.

There are ways to get around a dead battery and into your trunk. Here are three simple solutions:

You May Still Have a Key

Ever wonder why your electronic key fob is so large? In addition to the radio-frequency gizmos that lock, unlock, or even remote-start your vehicle, most key fobs also contain an emergency metal key that you can use on doors if the car battery is dead.

Typically, there’s a tiny release button on the back or side of the fob. Press that to reveal a metal backup key that you can slide out and use to open one of the vehicle doors, although the keyhole may be slightly hidden under a door handle.

Also, if it’s just the battery in your key fob that’s dead, most automakers have the ability to electronically send a signal to your car to unlock the doors. This is often a part of your roadside service plan.

Going For the Manual Release

Depending on the vehicle, you may have a button or manual lever inside the cabin that can pop the trunk, possibly even inside the glovebox. Look for a pull-up lever on the floor to the left of the driver’s seat. Some vehicles also have hidden trunk-release latches behind the seats, or in the doors or armrests.

In some circumstances, you’ll have to do a bit of gymnastics to access a car trunk or a rear hatch door on an SUV or crossover. If you’re able to open a rear-side door, fold the rear seatbacks out of the way and then shimmy back into the trunk area (you may want to take a flashlight, or use the light on your smartphone).

Inside, you’ll find a release pull (often a glow-in-the-dark tab) that will pop open the trunk. That’s been a federal requirement since 2001. Other cars, such as the Toyota Prius, may also have a release tab hidden in a panel under the carpet.

Jump-Starting the Vehicle

For vehicles that feature fixed rear seats that don’t fold down, you’re probably not going to be able to limbo your way into the trunk. Same goes for some SUVs with electronic remote poppers for their liftgate — it may be easier to access the cargo area, but if there’s no manual release, you still won’t be able to open the tailgate with a dead battery.

In these circumstances, the best solution might be to jump-start the vehicle, which will restore power and help you regain remote access through your fob or any remote buttons outside the car. Thankfully, most automobiles still have manual releases for the hood — pop that and then use jumper cables from another vehicle or a portable jump-starter to spark the battery, and your trunk should open as normal.

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Andy Stonehouse
Andy Stonehouse literally fell into the world of auto writing while working as a ski-town journalist, and has not looked back since. A childhood spent dealing with the eccentricities of a 1976 MG Midget has made any subsequent auto experience a more safe and reliable drive. He has been blessed with nearby mountain trails and snowy roads in Colorado to do TV-adventure-styled test drives on a weekly basis.