My Car’s Remote Failed. How Do I Open My Rear Hatch?

by | Oct 24, 2016 | Auto Questions, Car Problems & Repairs

I would have never thought I would be doing repair diagnostics at our local JCPenney at the Columbia Mall, but I find myself answering auto repair questions in some of the oddest places. The other day I was standing in the check-out line at JCPenney and ran into one of our British American Auto Care customers.  As it turns out, her car remote wasn’t functioning properly. It wouldn’t open her rear hatch, so she asked me what the problem could be, what would be involved in fixing it, how much it would cost.

“How do I open my rear hatch when the remote fails? I don’t have a key!”

I offered to take a look at her car in the JCPenney parking lot.  I figured we could determine what the diagnostic pathway would be and come up with a range for the repair costs.

Interestingly, her car does not have a hatch release inside the car, so first I checked to see if the remote was operating the solenoid that releases the catch.  I could hear it clicking when I pressed the remote, therefore I knew the remote was functioning.  (Sidenote: A solenoid is a current-carrying coil of wire that acts like a magnet when a current passes through it causing it to operate in a push or pull manner. Solenoids are used for a number of purposes in cars including remotely opening doors, hatches or trunks. When used in this way, the push/pull device is commonly attached to a locking mechanism by a cable or rod).  

The next step in diagnosing the problem would be to crawl into the back of the station wagon and release the catch through the access hole. (No, I didn’t climb into the station wagon in the JCPenney parking lot.) After that the rear panel would need to be removed to visually check the release mechanism. 

This sort of repair can cost between $120 and $270 including diagnostics, labor and parts. Sometimes the fix can be as easy as reconnecting the solenoid, but often it requires replacing the catch mechanism.

If you find yourself faced with this problem, go ahead and check to see if you hear the latch click. It will at least give you an idea of whether it’s the remote or the latch mechanism.


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About the Author

About Brian England

Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care), got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD. A few years later, he started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. Brian is a big believe in preventative maintenance, and his philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of a regular maintenance plan.