Subaru Outback Emergency Rear Hatch Release

I’ve been looking at the idea of using our 2011 Outback as a quick overnight camping solution for times when I’m out on the road for dance calling gigs. With some minor rejiggering and construction, it is easy to put a twin mattress in the back of the car for short term camping.

As part of that investigation, I was looking into how one could get out of the rear hatch in an emergency. There is no inside door handle, button or similar in the rear of the Outback of this model year. Apparently, the rear is not subject to the same emergency release requirement (law?) that is now addressed in vehicles with an enclosed trunk, so there’s no emergency release handle or similar. Searching around on line found no information about a solution – so I worked on figuring it out myself and here’s my write up of how I enabled a tool-less emergency exit release.

There’s a small plastic cover on an approximately 1″ x 1″ hole at the bottom center of the interior hatch panel with a small slot or indentation where one can pry off that cover. But the slot is on the bottom, so would be impossible to access with the hatch closed – not the best engineering attention to detail! With the hatch open you can easily (but carefully to avoid damage) pry the cap off.

Click on any of these images to see larger ones with detail

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Access Hole Cover

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Access hole to hatch release

Inside the hole is the hatch mechanical release mechanism. In this close-up you can see a triangular-shaped white plastic part in a curved slot. This is the hatch release. Moving the part towards the metal bracket will release the hatch catch and allow you to push the door open. Great!

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Release mechanism detail

As I didn’t want to simply keep the cover removed, I came up with an easy way to remove the cover in an emergency. I drilled a small hole just over the diameter of a small cotter pin and put that through the cover hole, spreading and curling the tabs to secure it on the inside. The cotter pin’s head loop was just big enough to thread a keychain ring through to use as a pull. The result is quite unobtrusive but easy to use when needed.

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Cover with drilled hole and parts

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Cotter pin tabs spread out

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Cover with pull installed

I’ll feel much more safe knowing we can now easily open the back hatch from inside whenever needed.

BTW, an additional search while I was writing this up uncovered this thread which talked about the release but not how to access it without a tool, as I detail above.

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