Escape From the Trunk of a Car

Being trapped in a car's trunk can be a harrowing, sometimes deadly experience. Sometimes a criminal will force a person into a trunk, and sometimes a person (usually a child) will accidentally get trapped in a trunk. Regardless of the cause of entrapment, a trunk is a very dangerous place to be. Unfortunately, it's not easy to get out of a locked trunk. While any vehicle made in the United States after 2002 has a trunk release lever, others do not. So what can you do to improve your chances of escape? Read on to find out.


Strategies for Escaping Immediately

  1. Pull the trunk release. All American cars made after 2002 are required to have a trunk release inside the trunk, thanks to a national law.[1] If you're lucky enough to be in one of these cars, and your abductor was dumb enough to overlook it, find the release and pull it down or up, as the model may require. It will usually be a glow-in-the-dark handle located near the trunk latch, but it may also be a cord, button, or toggle switch, or a handle that does not glow in the dark.
  2. Escape through the backseat -- if the driver leaves the car. Some cars have back seats that fold down to allow access to the trunk. Generally the release for these seats is located inside the car, but there may be one in the trunk as well. If not, try to push, kick, or pry the seats down, and then climb out. If there's a kidnapper involved, make sure he's nowhere to be found, or you won't climb your way to safety by getting into the backseat, just inches away from your abductor.
  3. Pull the trunk release cable. If the car is equipped with a cable trunk release that can be operated from inside the car (usually by a lever near the driver's seat), you may be able to pull the cable and open the trunk latch. Pull up the carpet on the floor of the trunk, or pull of the cardboard paneling, and feel for a cable. It will typically be on the driver's side of the car. If no cable is there, search along the side of the trunk. If you locate a cable, pull on it (pulling toward the front of the car) to open the trunk. Pulling the cable toward the front or side of the car will pull up the release handle on the trunk.[2]
    • If there are pliers inside the trunk they may help you grip the cable.
  4. Pry the latch open. If you can't find the release cable but have located the latch, then your best bet may be to try to pry it open. Search for a screwdriver, crowbar, or tire iron inside the trunk. There may be a toolkit or tire-changing tool set under the trunk floor. If you find a tool, use it to pry open the trunk latch. If you are unable to pry the latch, you may be able to pry up the side of the trunk. This will provide some ventilation and enable you to signal for help.[2]
  5. Push out the brake lights. You should be able to access the brake lights from inside the trunk. You may need to pull or pry a panel off to get to them. Once you have access to them, rip the wires out of them. Then try to push or kick the lights through so that they fall out of the back of the vehicle. You can then signal to motorists or passersby by sticking your hand out through the hole.
    • Even if you're unable to push the lights out, if you disconnect the wires, you increase the chance that whoever is driving the vehicle (if you've been abducted) will get pulled over by the police for a faulty brake light or taillight.
    • Just remember that out of all the strategies, this is the one that will make the most noise. If you want to attract attention and haven't been abducted, then creating noise will only help your case.
  6. Use the car jack to pop up the trunk lid. Many cars have a jack and a few tools in the trunk along with the spare tire. Sometimes they are underneath the carpet in the trunk, or on the side of the trunk. If you can get to the jack, set it up and crank the jack up under the trunk lid and attempt to keep pumping the jack up until the trunk lid pops open.
  7. If these methods fail, kick the trunk and create noise to attract attention -- if you haven't been abducted. If you just managed to get yourself stuck in the trunk of a car but aren't worried about making enough noise to alert your abductor, then just kick the trunk as much as you can and scream until you alert someone else, who will call for help. If you're in a relatively public place, you can try this method while you search for the latch or trunk release, but know that yelling and kicking is more likely to make you feel hysterical and hyperventilate.

Improving Your Chances of Escape

  1. Stay as calm as possible. Trunks aren't completely airtight, and it generally takes at least twelve hours to fall unconscious; more, if you are small or the trunk is large (or both). What could kill you is Prevent Hyperventilation, so breathe regularly and don't panic. It may get very hot in there - up to 140°F (60°C) - but you still need to stay calm in order to increase your likelihood of escaping.
  2. If the kidnapper is in the car, make your movements as quiet as possible. Though you'll feel desperate to get out of the car as quickly as possible, if you wildly thrash around, kick, and scream while the kidnapper is driving, then they will hear you and will get angry and may take additional measures, such as gagging you or tying you up. If you've determined that the only thing you have left to do is to try to kick out the trunk and the kidnapper is still driving or it's getting really hot, try to do most of your kicking when the car is driving fast or in a loud environment.
    • Keep in mind that even if you're being quiet, the kidnapper may be able to hear the sweet "pop" of the trunk opening.
  3. Be on the lookout for the best time to escape once you pop the trunk open. Though you may want to jump out of the car the second you pop open the trunk, unfortunately, you won't be able to do it if the car is speeding down a highway, or you'll jump to your death. Wait until the car has slowed down enough for you to escape from the trunk, like when it's at a stop sign or going slowly in a residential neighborhood.
    • It's better to jump out of the car while it's moving slowly then when it's completely stopped, because if the kidnapper stops the car and gets out, he may notice that you've popped the trunk open -- and he'll make sure you don't do it again.

Preventing Yourself or Your Family Members from Getting Trapped in Your Trunk

  1. Install a trunk release in your car's trunk. The vast majority of trunk entrapment cases occur in the victim's own car. The good news is, you can prepare for such an eventuality by installing a trunk release. Check if your car already has a trunk release in the trunk. If it doesn't you may be able to install one as long as yours has an operational electronic trunk release mechanism.
    • If your trunk can be opened remotely, the easiest thing to do is to hide a spare remote in the trunk. Make sure to tell your children and other family members where it is located and how it is operated.
    • If your trunk cannot be opened remotely,you can purchase the supplies to install a trunk release yourself for about $4. Have the release installed for you if you are not confident in your mechanical abilities.
  2. Keep several key safety tools in your trunk. Keep a flashlight, crowbar, and a screwdriver in your trunk. If you can't install a trunk release, keep tools in your trunk that will help you pry open the latch or, at the very least, help you attract attention from passersby.


  • Keep in mind that if you have been abducted, your kidnapper will have most likely already cleared out the trunk, as these people usually will think ahead.
  • Emergency trunk releases have been required on all vehicles with non-hatchback trunks sold in the U.S. beginning with the 2002 model year.
  • Many cars have a spare tire and some tools to change it in the trunk. If you can get to them, you may be able to use them to help you escape!
  • If you're lucky, your abductor will be playing music loudly or is in a loud environment in which you can call emergency services or for help without the abductor hearing you. If the abductor isn't in a loud environment or playing music, whisper on the phone so he/she doesn't hear you and take away your phone.
  • If you have a phone, always remember to call 911, 999 or the number for the country you are in.


  • If the car is moving, do not attempt to jump out of the car at freeway speeds. Wait for the car to slow down or stop before attempting to flee.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations