Are you the proud owner of a Subaru Outback? Congratulations on having a reliable and versatile vehicle that can take you on all sorts of adventures. But there’s one adventure you might not have expected: the great trunk-opening odyssey. This begs the question, why do Outback trunks not open in the first place?
There are 3 primary causes for why your Subaru Outback’s trunk can’t open:
- Dead battery
- Unresponsive key fob
- Liftgate problems
So, what can you do to resolve these problems? I’ll explain in more detail in the following sections, as well as how to manually open your Outback’s trunk.
Subaru Outback Trunk Won’t Open – Causes & Fix
As previously stated, there are 3 major causes that will keep your Subaru Outback’s trunk shut. Below, we’ll examine these causes individually, and I’ll provide their solutions.
1. Dead battery
In many modern vehicles, the trunk can be opened using an electric latch or lock, which is activated by pressing a button on the hatch door. This electric latch is powered by the battery, so if the battery is dead or not functioning properly, the electric latch may not work.
As a result, you may not be able to open the trunk using the button or key fob, even if the physical latch mechanism is functioning properly.
Solution: Recharge the battery
- Turn the Outback off and remove the keys from the ignition.
- Open the hood by pulling on a latch found near the steering wheel.
- Locate the battery, which should be in the engine compartment.
- Remove the plastic cover and all other protective coverings from the battery.
- Unscrew the wing nuts that keep the battery in place.
- Remove the cables from the terminals, starting with the black or negative cable and then the red or positive cable.
- After removing the cables, lift the dead battery out of the engine compartment. It will be slightly heavy, so do this carefully.
- Take the battery to a mechanic to get it recharged; otherwise, recharge it at home if you have the proper equipment. If the battery is over 4 years old, I suggest replacing it entirely.
- When the battery is fully charged, reinstall it in the engine compartment. This time, start with the positive cable and then the negative cable.
- Replace all of the battery’s protective covers and panels.
- Try starting the Outback to see whether power is restored to the electric latch.
2. Unresponsive key fob
Faulty key fobs may not be able to transmit the radio frequency needed for communication with the vehicle’s electronic control system. In this case, you may need to get a new key fob or have the one you have fixed so you can get into the trunk.
Solution #1: Clean the key fob
The key fob may stop working if it gets dirty or gets damaged. Use a soft, dry cloth to remove any dust or grime from the key chain. The key fob may be further damaged by using water or other cleaning chemicals.
Solution #2: Replace the key fob’s battery
If the key fob doesn’t unlock your Outback’s doors, there’s a pretty good chance that its batteries are dead. The batteries in your key fob can be easily replaced, and you can get them at any auto parts store or online. To replace the battery, just take out the old one and drop in the new one, making sure to face the positive and negative sides in the right direction.
Solution #3: Reprogram the key fob
There are instances where the key fob will need to be reprogrammed before it will function normally. Instructions on how to re-program your key fob can be found in the owner’s manual, or you can consult with a mechanic.
Solution #4: Replace the key fob
If the aforementioned solutions don’t work, it’s possible the key fob is broken and needs to be replaced. A new key fob can be bought from a dealer or ordered online; it will then need to be programmed to work with your vehicle. You can usually get this done at a mechanic’s shop or a car dealership.
3. Liftgate problems
Problems with the liftgate sensors or the power liftgate not engaging are common complaints about the Subaru Outback’s trunk. This typically necessitates resetting a sensor, though it’s possible that the problem is a faulty sensor. If your key fob works and you can start your Outback, then you should try the following:
Solution #1: Reset the liftgate
Resetting the liftgate can help “flush” some of the minor mechanical problems the liftgate is experiencing. It won’t resolve all liftgate problems, but it’s the simplest solution that you should try before resorting to anything more drastic.
- Manually open the Outback’s trunk (described in the following section).
- Open the trunk door halfway.
- Press the liftgate close button on the key fob.
- Wait for the trunk door to close on its own.
Solution #2: Check the latch for damage
- Manually open the Outback’s trunk.
- Lift the trunk door all the way.
- Inspect the latch mechanism for debris or damage.
- If the latch is damaged beyond repair, you’ll need to replace it.
Solution #3: Inspect the trunk cables
- Manually open the Outback’s trunk.
- Look for the trunk release cable, which should run from the latch to the inside release handle.
- Check the cable for damage (fraying, kinking, etc.). If the cable is damaged, you will need to replace it.
- Check the cable’s connection points and fix them if they are unsecured.
Solution #4: Check the electrical system for damage
If all else fails, you may need to get a professional to inspect and diagnose the trunk. The worst thing that could happen is that there’s an electrical issue with your Subaru. Best-case scenario, you will need to replace a blown fuse.
However, depending on how much punishment you put your Subaru through (driving on rough terrains, playing with the power liftgate, etc.), you may be looking at potentially costly repairs.
How to Manually Open a Subaru Outback Trunk
If you find yourself in a situation where you can open the Outback’s doors but not the trunk (perhaps you’re trying to load groceries into the trunk before returning home), you can open the trunk door manually. There are 2 ways to do this, depending on the model year of your Outback.
The first method is pressing a button with a trunk emblem. This will undo the latch, forcing the trunk door open. However, if your Outback’s power liftgate system is faulty, the trunk door will not open all the way.
Here’s the second method for Subaru Outbacks from 2013 and earlier:
- Unlock the Outback’s doors and lower the rear seats.
- Move into the cargo area.
- Using a flathead screwdriver, remove the panel in the middle of the tailgate. You may have to lift the carpeting.
- Locate a latch or handle.
- Pull the latch up until the trunk door releases.
You should only do this if you find yourself in a sticky situation. After returning home, you should try to resolve the problem by checking the battery, the key fob, and the liftgate system.
What Is Subaru Outback Rear Gate Memory Height?
If you own a newer version of the Subaru Outback, then you can program the rear power gate to open as high or as low as you want. This is a useful function if you want to load long items onto the rail racks of your Outback (e.g., kayak, paddleboard, surfboard, etc.) and don’t want the hatch to bump into them.
To reprogram the height memory, here’s what you need to do:
- Move to the back of your Outback and press the hatch button on the back.
- When the hatch has reached the desired height, quickly press the close button on the inside of the hatch.
- Move to the driver’s seat of your Outback and locate the memory button. It should look like the trunk button but with a white stripe on top.
- Depress the memory button until you can no longer see the white stripe.
- Return to the back of the Outback and press and hold the liftgate button for 3 seconds. If it produces a short beep and then a long beep, the height memory has been readjusted.
- Test the height adjustment setting by closing the hatch and opening it back up.
How Much Stuff Can You Put in a Subaru Outback?
The Subaru Outback is a spacious SUV that can accommodate up to 75.6 cubic feet of travel supplies and equipment with the rear seats folded down. With the seats up, the trunk capacity is cut to about 32.6 cubic feet.
There’s plenty of space in the Outback for all sorts of camping and road trip supplies, including multiple suitcases and folded lawn seats. You can even use the trunk as a makeshift resting place to lie down.
If your Outback has a pair of roof rails, you can add a further 800 pounds of stuff using tie-down hooks. The roof is usually reserved for longer items that won’t fit inside the trunk.