Car Guides

My remotes won’t open my car’s trunk

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who can't open his trunk with his car's remotes.

The 2004 Toyota Camry Solara Coupe SE.
The 2004 Toyota Camry Solara Coupe SE. Toyota

Q. My 2004 Toyota Camry’s trunk will not open with the remote. When pressed, the signal sounds but the lid stays closed. The remote works for the other functions — locking and unlocking the doors. We have two remotes and neither works.

A. The trunk lock actuator is likely the problem. It is a simple two-wire connection, so it’s relatively easy to check. If there is no current to the actuator, then the wiring will need to be inspected for an open circuit. One other possibility is that some aftermarket and dealer-installed remote lock systems have a hidden valet setting that keeps the trunk locked. Also, the mechanical trunk release on some models has a valet setting. 

Q. I am looking at enclosed cargo trailers to carry my remote-control airplanes and tow behind my Kia Sportage. A small 4×6 cargo trailer would probably work just fine. These trailers seem to range from $2,000 to as much as $3,500. To me they all look the same. Any idea why there is such a wide range in prices? 

A. To some extent you get what you pay for. More expensive trailers may have larger tires, side doors, roof vents, customizable cargo systems, and carry more weight. More expensive trailers also have stronger constructed frames and thicker exterior skin. The floor material could be higher quality and more durable. Also, I do not think the weight of the trailer indicates quality. I have seen some solid trailers that use aluminum to keep down weight but add additional strength. The markup on trailers can vary. I like to buy local, but some dealers just charge more for the same trailer, so it pays to shop around. 

Q. It seems as if every time I bring my car in for service (7,500 miles) the shop tells me that I need a cabin filter. I like to do what is necessary for car maintenance, but replacing this filter with every oil change seems excessive. I do not know anything about cars, so I am not going to check it myself. If my house does not have a dust filter, why do I need one in my car? Will it cause any problems if I have the shop remove it and not replace it?


A. Your house may actually have an air filter. And just like a furnace filter, I would not remove the pollen/dust filter in your car. The typical life of a cabin air filter is 20,000 to 30,000 miles. With my cars I do check the filters and replace them when they are dirty — sometimes in as little as 15,000 miles. I would ask the service facility to let you see the condition of the filters just to make sure they are, in fact, dirty. Some lube shops and even dealerships will just recommend replacement because they do not see a new filter in their record-keeping system. 

Q. My Mini Cooper convertible’s driver’s-side windshield wiper makes a loud noise when doing its job. When the wiper reaches the top part of the windshield, it chatters when it starts the return. I have changed the blade which did not help. This has been going on for about six months. The passenger side works fine.

A. More than likely the wiper arm is not sitting parallel to the windshield. Over time the windshield wiper arms will sometimes change shape just enough to cause the wiper blades to chatter. This can happen over the winter with snow and ice buildup on the wiper arms. A slight adjustment to the arms (a slight twist with an adjustable wrench) is usually all it takes to quiet the wiper down. 

Q. I bought a used car and after a few weeks I heard a noise when I first started the car. The noise may have been there from the beginning, but I just noticed it. I brought the car back to the dealer and they heard something, but the engine operated normally. They said to bring the car back it it gets worse. They also told me I shouldn’t be concerned because the car is covered by their own extended warranty of 100,000 miles. What do you think? 


A. Many engines make slight noises on startup that are perfectly normal and do not affect the life/performance of the engine. At this point I would get a second opinion from an impartial shop. If the second opinion is that the noise is normal, then take the dealer’s advice and just monitor the noise. If the noise gets louder, return to the dealer and have them inspect/repair the engine.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at

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