Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Trunk Latch Release Cable

Most new cars, trucks, and SUVs are equipped with electronically controlled trunk latches that open once a button inside the vehicle or on a remote is depressed by the driver. Older vehicles, on the other hand, have manually operated and secured trunk latch release cables that pop the trunk when the lever is pulled by a handle. This handle is typically located next to the driver's seat or underneath the dashboard on the left hand side near a hood release. In some cases, this cable can become damaged and when it does, it will need to be replaced by somebody that has knowledge of how it's installed in order to avoid damage to other mechanical components.

A trunk latch release cable is simply that – a cable that releases the trunk latch when it is pulled. In most cases, the cable only is used when the driver is inside the vehicle and pulls a lever to open the trunk. The cable does not impact the trunk latch's ability to open when the key is inserted to the lock or triggered remotely through a solenoid. Some of the most common reasons why a trunk latch release cable might become broken in the first place include:

  • An accident where the vehicle was struck on the driver side
  • The cable connections on the latch or the rear of the trunk are damaged due to rust
  • Water or salt water corroded the cable

Most trunk latch cables are made out of steel wire and are very difficult to damage. On some imports however, the cable is a strong plastic material, which commonly becomes detached to the connections if the handle is pulled too hard or aggressively. Regardless of the materials or location, there are some times when the trunk latch cable will wear out and become damaged. When it does, it will display a few indicators or warning signs that the trunk latch cable is damaged and needs to be replaced. Noted below are a few of the common symptoms of a damaged or failing trunk latch release cable.

Trunk does not unlatch when the handle is pulled

If the trunk latch cable is damaged, the first indicator is that the trunk will not unlatch when the driver pulls on the handle. This can be caused by the cable being broken somewhere in between the handle and the trunk latch, the cable's connection on the latch being damaged, or the connection that secures the cable to the handle is broken. It's always best to contact a mechanic so they can inspect the issue before making the decision to replace the entire cable. Most of the time the cable runs underneath the vehicle and may be difficult to replace without the right tools and experience.

Trunk latch handle is loose

Another indicator that the trunk latch cable is broken is when the handle is loose on the side of the driver's door. When the cable is secured to the handle and the trunk latch, it causes the handle to be tight and does not have "play" in the handle at all. However, when the cable is damaged or broken, the handle near the driver's door will be very loose. Obviously the trunk latch will also not work correctly if this symptom is found.

If the trunk latch release cable is damaged, it should be replaced by a professional mechanic. If you notice any of these symptoms or suspect that your trunk won't open because of a bad cable, contact a local ASE certified mechanic to replace the trunk latch release cable or complete a full inspection to determine the right course of action to make sure your trunk is operational.


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