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How to Escape from the Trunk of a Car

woman in trunk of car, light hearted

It’s pretty unlikely that you’re going to accidentally trap yourself in the trunk of a car. If you’re the only child of a diplomat or wealthy businessman, or if you’ve chosen to have dealings with less-than-desirable characters, you could find yourself locked in a trunk forcefully. Friends may play a practical joke on you - which isn’t very funny when you’re the one in the trunk.

If you end up trapped in the trunk of a car, there’s no immediate cause to panic. There’s plenty of air to breathe for quite some time, so collect your thoughts and find your way out. There are ways to escape that are simple, including one designed just for the purpose of exiting a closed trunk.

Method 1 of 3: Pull the emergency trunk release cable

Since 2001, vehicle manufacturers have been required to install an emergency interior trunk release handle in enclosed trunks. It’s designed specifically for this purpose as 11 children died from becoming locked in trunks the previous year. An extra trunk release cable is installed directly to the trunk latch. When activated, the trunk opens immediately.

Step 1: Locate the trunk latch. The most common location is at the joint of the trunk lid and the car’s body, right in the center.

The latch catches on a striker either recessed into the body or latched onto a metal bar. If the trunk is dark, you might have to locate the latch by feel instead of visually.

two fingers positioned to grab the t-handle for trunk release

Step 2: Follow the release cables to the emergency release. The release cables are attached to the latch assembly.

Using your fingers, trace the cables back to their handle. Usually, one will disappear into the car’s body for the interior trunk release handle while a second cable leads you to the emergency release.

If the trunk lid has a liner, you might not be able to access the cables. Feel around for a flat, T-shaped handle on the trunk lid or on the inner side of the fenders.

Step 3: Pull the emergency release. All it requires is a firm tug to open the trunk.

The handle is secured to the trunk lid with velcro or a clip. Just grab the handle, pull it, and the trunk lid will pop open.

Method 2 of 3: Break through the backseat

If your kidnappers have left you in a car trunk and abandoned the car and there is no emergency release, you can try to bust your way out through the backseat. It’s going to take some force and perseverance, but your survival could depend on it!

Step 1: Check for a back seat release handle. Some cars with fold-down rear seats have release handles mounted in the trunk area.

Look for a small release handle mounted under the back deck area, right below where the back window is located. If you find a handle, give it a firm pull. You might need to push on the seat to get it to fold.

Step 2: Locate a weak spot on the backseat. It may take a few tries to find the right spot to make your break for it.

If there’s no release handle, you’ll need to forcefully break through the seat. Look for gaps that let light shine through, or spaces between the seats.

If there’s a trunk pass-through in the middle of the seat, the plastic parts are relatively easy to bust up. Be careful, though: broken plastic is quite sharp.

Step 3: Brace yourself in the trunk with your feet pointed towards the seat back. Whether against the back of the trunk or the sides by the wheel wells, the trunk is solid.

Press your back against a firm surface for the best leverage when you begin kicking.

Step 4: Kick the backseat out. Kick as hard as you can to break the backseat.

Repeatedly kick the seat. When you hear cracking or breaking, you’ve probably found your exit point. Keep kicking at that spot until you break through.

Step 5: Crawl through the seat back. Make your break for it from the backseat, then run from the car.

Method 3 of 4: Break a tail light

If you can tell the car is in motion from the road noise and jostling over bumps, it’s best not to jump out of a moving car. You could wind up in the middle of the highway in busy traffic. You can get someone’s attention, however. And with just a little luck, they’ll contact the authorities to come help you.

Step 1: Break out a taillight. There’s one on each side just outside the trunk area, but mounted to the inside.

You might have to pull the trunk carpet back from the wheel well area to get access to the taillights. Just grip the edge of the carpet and pull hard.

Kick the tail light as hard as you can. You need to break all the way through to wave at other motorists and passersby. On some vehicles, the taillight is held in with just a couple plastic wingnuts. You can take these off by hand, and just push the light assembly outwards.

Step 2: Flag down assistance or yell for help. Make it well-known you need help to anyone within earshot or viewing distance.

Method 4 of 4: Use a tail light to signal distress

Using a tail light to signal distress works best at night but can be effective during the day as well.

Step 1: Locate the wires for one of the taillights. There are usually two or more wires going to each light assembly.

Cut through one wire with the raw edge of the trunk. This causes the light to stop functioning.

two wires tapping each other

Step 2: Tap the two ends of the wire together to make the light flash. Signal “SOS”, an international distress signal.

It’s three short flashes followed by three long flashes, then another three short flashes. Keep signalling SOS until help arrives.

Vehicle safety standards mean you’ll be able to get yourself out of a locked trunk as long as you can keep a clear head. If you’ve accidentally locked yourself in your own trunk somehow, try to minimize the amount of damage you cause. If you need to have your lights or wiring repaired afterward, have one of YourMechanic’s certified technicians perform an inspection.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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