CarRepairFilter: Can I fix a broken trunk indicator light myself or does this have to go to a mechanic?
September 22, 2008 12:21 PM   Subscribe

CarRepairFilter: Can I fix a broken trunk indicator light myself or does this have to go to a mechanic?

I drive a 2002 Saturn SL2 that until this week had given me absolutely no problems that weren't routine maintenance related. Friday morning the trunk open indicator light came on in my dash area, even though the trunk was closed. I opened the trunk and shut it again, with no noticeable result. It was firmly latched shut, but the light stayed on.

Later that afternoon it went away, but now seems intermittent. It is on significantly more often than it is not. This would be only a minor irritation, but my car won't lock the doors using the key fob unless all the doors are closed. When I hit lock, it beeps at me three times telling me the doors aren't closed (because it thinks the trunk is open), and it doesn't lock the ones that are. Furthermore, this morning while I was driving the trunk suddenly popped open about 20 feet from my house. I'd slammed the trunk shut pretty hard before leaving, so maybe it just didn't close properly, but now I'm worried about putting things in the trunk. I'm fairly certain its closing properly, but I worry.

I called the Saturn dealership, and they wanted $119 to take a look at it, and then of course I'd have to pay something exorbitant to fix it.

Is this something I can do on my own? What should I be looking for? Will the Chilton's or Haynes guide help me here? I'm willing to buy the guide if it will have information I need to fix this problem. Alternately, if this isn't something I should do myself, can a normal mechanic do it or is electrical work more of a dealership specific thing?

I'm completely ignorant of most car repair beyond changing a tire and my oil, but I have significant audiovisual and some electrical experience, and feel fairly confident in dealing with wiring, I just haven't ever worked in a car before and don't know quite what i'd be getting into.

posted by jeffderek to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total)
I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure your car has an internal trunk release. It should be a little green glowy piece of plastic hanging down. Give that a couple of pulls and see if it works. It might have gotten pulled when you were taking something out and is keeping the latch from fully closing.

Barring that there's no reason you can't poke around a bit. There's usually some carpeting or fascia you have to remove with a flathead screwdriver, but then you can at least look at the mechanical parts and see if they are in working order.
posted by sanka at 12:35 PM on September 22, 2008

This sounds like a loose/dodgy relay to me. The good news is that relays are relatively easy to replace. The bad news is that it's a pain in the neck to figure out where this particular relay is.

If you have a really good repair manual for your Saturn, you can just use it to find the wiring and the relay, and get the replacement at a typical auto parts store.

If you don't feel like tearing into the car to root out the particular wire among many that handles the trunk light, you can always take something like this to a car audio/alarm place. They specialize in car electronics, and don't charge as quite much for labor as mechanics. They'll likely only charge you $100-$150 total to just fix it, which is a better deal than your dealership. Try to get a recommendation to a good audio place from someone you know, though.
posted by Citrus at 12:51 PM on September 22, 2008

Sounds like a pretty easy DIY. I'd look for a Saturn owners forum for info on how to fix it.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:16 PM on September 22, 2008

You could take it to Autozone or comparable auto parts store and they will read your fault codes for free. Then look up the code on one of the internets, and replace whatever it seems to be. It's probably either the entire trunk locking mechanism or a sensor therein. Should be easy.
posted by luckypozzo at 4:54 PM on September 22, 2008

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