How To Open A Trunk Without The Key

How To Open A Trunk Without A Key

You’ve just loaded your trunk full of groceries and closed it up but realized that you set the keys down in the trunk with your cargo. Now, what do you do? You need to figure out how to open a trunk without a key, so you can retrieve them to start the car.

Thankfully, there are several ways to get into the trunk without a key. We review your top options if you can get into the cabin and if you can’t. At the end of our guide, you’ll also find answers to some questions you’ve been pondering. 

Ways To Open A Trunk Without A Key

If you can get into the car, you can release the trunk with a button or lever. You can also fold the backseats down, use the emergency release, find a spare key or remove the trunk interior to unlock it. There’s also the option to use a slim Jim or contact a locksmith. 

Let’s figure out which one suits your situation the best. 

1. Trunk Release Lever or Button

trunk release button

Inside your vehicle, there’s a button or lever to release the trunk. If you can get into the cabin, this is going to be your easiest solution. 

Most trunk release buttons are found to the left of the driver’s seat, under the steering wheel or to the left of the steering wheel. If you don’t find it there, look in your glove box. Many vehicles have a trunk release button on the key fob. Otherwise, you need to consult the owner’s manual to find out where it’s located for your car model. 

2. Fold The Backseats Down

backseat fold button

To get the keys out of your trunk without using a release button, you may be able to put down the back seats. Some rear seats offer the option to fold down, which is handy for carrying bulkier items.

Put down the seats and reach into the trunk to find the keys. You may need a flashlight to see into the trunk clearly because it can be a little dim. 

3. Use The Emergency Release

Emergency escape release lever

It’s unlikely that you’ll be in a position to use the emergency release in this situation, but it’s good to know that it exists. The emergency release handle was designed to help you escape from the trunk of a car.

Look in the owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with this cable. It may be on the trunk lid interior or it could glow in the dark. Once it’s pulled, the trunk should pop open. 

4. Find A Spare Key

open car key fob

In all the craziness that you are dealing with, maybe you forgot that you have a spare key somewhere. This spare set can help you get into the trunk, especially if it’s one of the remote key fobs with the trunk button on it. 

However, there could be bigger trouble if you locked your keys in the trunk and the house keys are on it too. That makes it more difficult to get your spare. If you have someone that can bring you a spare, you may save yourself from hiring a locksmith. 

5. Using Slim Jim

If you are locked out of the trunk and the car, you may need to use a slim Jim, otherwise known as a lock pick. You won’t be able to use the slim Jim on the trunk lock itself without the right expertise, but it could get you into the car. Here are some steps to consider.

  • Go to the passenger’s side car window.
  • Put a wedge between the weather stripping and the car window.
  • Carefully slide the slim Jim into the space you’ve created. 
  • If your vehicle has electronic locks, you simply need to press the button. With manual locks, you need to raise it up physically.

If you aren’t careful with this procedure, you could damage the vehicle. For that reason, we recommend moving on to the next steps if you are unsure about what you’re doing. 

6. Remove The Trunk Interior From The Inside

If you don’t have keys or a way to open the trunk from the inside, you’ll need to disassemble the trim on the trunk lid. Carefully remove all of the pieces until the locking mechanism is revealed. 

Here you need to override the mechanism to pop the trunk. Once you are done, you’ll have to reinstall all of the trim and paneling, which can be a pain. For this reason, many people skip this step and go right to calling a locksmith. 

7. Contact A Locksmith

Your last resort is to contact a locksmith. We recommend this option for anyone that doesn’t have a lot of experience working with locks.

The cost of a locksmith varies based on what needs to be done and where you are located. The cost also varies based on what time of day it is, such as if it is an emergency in the middle of the night. 

How to Access Your Keys if the Whole Car is Locked

Several of the options listed above will also work if you can’t get into the car. For example, it won’t do you any good to use the trunk release lever, put down the back seat, use the emergency release or remove trunk lid pieces if you can’t access the cabin.

Instead, you will need to use a spare key to get in or work the lock with a slim Jim. If nothing else works, the locksmith is your only option. 

Cost for Replacement Trunk Keys

If a locksmith needs to be called, you are looking at a hefty price. Here are a few of the factors that alter what you will pay.

  • Type of vehicle: Some vehicles cost more to work on than others. If the locksmith has to drill out the lock, you might be looking at more money than if a replacement can be cut. 
  • Type of key: The traditional keys that are cut will be the least expensive to replace. However, if you have a smart key or key fob, the price will go up significantly. You may also have trouble finding a locksmith that will get this replacement, depending on what type of car you drive. 
  • Location: Locksmiths in rural areas tend to cost less than those in urban environments. The price also varies by state, but this isn’t a factor you can change. What might be a $75 service call for you could be $150 for someone across the country.
  • Time of day: If you need a locksmith in the middle of a business day and you aren’t in a hurry, your costs will be as low as possible. However, when an emergency strikes in the middle of the night, you are going to pay a premium price. 

It’s okay to call around and see who offers the best price. We don’t recommend taking too long or you might find yourself without a locksmith at all, especially if they get busy in the time you wait. Once you find a reasonable price from a reputable locksmith, we advise drivers to jump on it. 

RELATED: Car Key Replacement Cost

How do you force a trunk to open?

If the key or trunk release button isn’t opening the lid, you may need to take the mechanism apart from the inside. You can put down a back seat and remove the trim to access the mechanism. It’s also possible that the emergency release in the trunk will work. 

How do you open a trunk without power?

You may not be able to use the trunk function on your key fob or pull the release if your car battery dies. If you need to get into the trunk while the battery isn’t charged, you will need to climb through from the back seats. Once inside the trunk, you can use the emergency release or access the locking mechanism. 

Do all cars have an emergency trunk release?

Every car manufactured after 2002 must include a trunk release for emergencies. It was mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) after lobbying from a woman that was kidnapped with her husband and infant child in San Francisco. 

What to do if you lock the keys in the trunk?

The easiest solution is to pull the trunk release, normally located near the steering wheel or on the driver’s side of the vehicle. It could also be in the glove box, so check the owner’s manual if you have trouble finding it. You can also get into the trunk through the back seat in many cars. 

Is it hard to pick a lock with a paperclip?

If the paperclip is too small, it won’t be able to unlock the trunk. If you can create a sturdy lock pick out of the paperclip, you have a better chance of getting in. However, this is a honed skill that takes a lot of practice, so you may not be able to crack the lock at all. 

In many cases, it shouldn’t be a big deal to get into the trunk without a key, especially if the car is already open. This situation has already been thought through, knowing that many drivers would drop their keys in the trunk when unloading cargo.

As professional mechanics, we go right to the lever installed in the front of the vehicle. If that’s not an option, a spare key will also be the least stressful to deal with. Otherwise, you have some work to perform and it’s not always intended for the novice.

Categories: Guides, Troubleshooting

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