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Opening a Stuck Beetle Trunk Lid

by Bill C. -

Every now and then, I hear from somebody who is locked out of their Beetle’s trunk. Even though there is no key required, sometimes that innovative trunk release lever fails to work the magic. It is even more depressing when you are sitting on the side of the road with a flat tire on the outside and a fresh spare in the trunk… along with your jack and tools.

What I am going to share in this article comes from my experience and some reading regarding the Super Beetle latching system. I say that because, though this information should apply to all Beetles, there may be a difference or two.

Theory of Operation: There are 2 latching devices on the later model trunks; the major one that is operated by the release lever inside the glove box and provides security against theft. It is the one that fails to release sometimes and causes so much “grief.” It is comprised of a conical piece on the trunk lid and circular receiver piece (hole) that contains the release latch, mounted in the upper surface of the front apron. The other device is the safety latch that is operated of the front handle button. It is made up of a hook, operated by the button on the handle, mating to a dimple on the front of the apron. It is the last line of defense against your trunk blowing up in case you don’t get it latched properly.

When you open the glove box and push down on the release lever, it pulls on a cable that attaches to the latch in that round receiver in the apron. Pulling on this cable causes the scissor style latch to let loose of the conical piece. The only thing to be done, then, is press the button and pull up on the front handle.

Folks are usually locked out when that little scissor half in the latch does not move far enough to release the cone piece.

Preferred Method

Even your Bentley Shop Manual will not mention this trick I had to discover for myself, after already using the destructive method and getting locked out AGAIN!

If you seem to have a lot of “play” in the release lever (in glove box) before it grabs hold, this may work for you. In this method, we are going to do some pulling on that release cable from the backside of the lever.

You will need

·        Standard hand tools

·        SMALL pair of Vise Grips (about 4” long)

1.      Take out the radio

2.      While pushing down on the release handle (as when opening the trunk), clamp the vise grips onto the cable as far down the cable as possible.

3.      Now you can let loose of the handle and give a good yank on the cable with the vise grips. If you are a muscle man, you might get by with pliers. Vise Grips allow you to concentrate your strength on just pulling.

You should hear a little “clunk” as the trunk latch releases. So, go try the handle and button up front. If it does not release on the first attempt, repeat the above before going to the next method.


Second, Most Common Method

Okay, you tried the method above to no avail. You might even had found that the cable seemed to be broken “down stream” some where. This method is pretty much guaranteed to work, but it will cost you a pretty chrome trunk handle. This is the method as mentioned in your Bentley’s.
You will need

·     Hacksaw with a good blade

·     Standard size pair of Vise Grips

·     Masking tape and some paper to protect your trunk paint (even multiple layers of newspaper will work)

·     New trunk lid handle (Roy Rogers)

1.      Tape layers of protective paper on each side of the front handle and place tape on the trunk surface at the hand hole of the handle. This will give some protection against a slip of the hacksaw.

2.      You will make 3 horizontal cuts across the handle

·          The first horizontal cut is just above the button, as close as you can get without scarring the side of the button

·          The second horizontal cut is in the middle of the handle.

·          Before making the third and final cut is at the bottom of the hand opening in the handle, use a larger pair of vise grips to clamp the handle halves created with the second cut. This will make the cutting easier.

3.      Remove the part of the handle that surrounds the button, created in the first cut. This will allow movement of the pieces in the next steps.

4.      Turn each resulting handle half counter-clockwise to unscrew them from their retaining bolts (that screw into the handle from inside the trunk).
HOWEVER, after they get loose, you may have to jam a screwdriver end against the exposed bolt threads to keep the bolt from spinning with the handle.

5.      Once this is accomplished the trunk-hood should open. The main latch assembly will stay with the mate, so just trip the mechanism (cable) to release it.