Every panel on a vehicle that opens and closes must have a latch to keep it closed. That includes the hood, doors, and deck lid - also known as the trunk lid. A trunk latch is the device used to hold the deck lid (or “trunk lid”) closed. Unlike a hood latch or door that utilizes a two stage latching mechanism for safety purposes, the trunk latch is a single-latching mechanism. Included in the latch is a locking mechanism to prevent unwanted opening while the vehicle is locked.
Closely related to a trunk latch is a liftgate latch, found on vehicles with a liftgate, such as a hatchback, van, or SUV. This latch functions in the same way as a trunk latch. Whether the latch is used on a deck lid or a liftgate, it is typically operated remotely using a switch inside the vehicle or a key fob. In some cases, especially on older vehicles, the latch can be opened manually using the key in a lock cylinder.
If a trunk latch (or liftgate latch) fails, one of two things will generally occur. Either the deck lid/liftgate will fail to open or it will not stay shut. You might suspect that the latch is bad if you are unable to open the trunk, especially if you can hear the lock actuator cycling when you press the button to open the trunk, but the lid stays latched. Another sign that the latch is bad is If you try to shut the deck lid and it will not latch - or if it latches only to open on its own later.
Sometimes a latch fails when the latching mechanism is bent, contaminated, or corroded and does not move as it should. Other times, a latch fails when the locking mechanism does not move properly and sticks in a partially-locked position, preventing the latch from opening or closing.
To replace a trunk latch, a technician might first need to access the inside of the trunk to release the old latch that is stuck shut. That is a relatively simple task if your vehicle features fold-down rear seats and access to the trunk. The job is far more complicated otherwise (or if a liftgate is stuck shut and the interior trim panel is in place). Once the trunk has been opened, the technician will remove any interior trim panel, unplug the wires from the lock/latch, and disconnect the linkage or cables connected to the latch. The lock actuator might also need to be disconnected. From there, the latch is unbolted and removed from the deck lid or liftgate and the new latch is installed.
Once all connections have been made, the latch is tested before the trunk or liftgate is closed.
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