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Dealing with a STUCK BOOT LATCH - BD-101

At 08:51 PM 6/22/04 -0400, Dick Kinsey wrote:
>".... Today, I tried to open the boot on my 1962 MKII MGA but nothing happened. The loop seems to be activating something but apparently not the latch".

Oops!

>"I tried a two person approach with one pulling on the loop and the other pushing and pulling on the boot lid but to no avail. Do you have any suggestion as to how to gain access to the boot"?

Yes, but nothing that would keep you sober.

>" Is it possible to do anything by removing the left tail light ...."

Well, generally no. The MK-II tail light is mounted on that part of the body adjacent to the boot interior. If you had in mind to mangle something to gain access, that might be as good a place as any to hide a repair, but that shouldn't be necessary.

>"or is the rest of the assembly attached from inside?"

Yes, it's all inside. I guess it's not supposed to be easy to break into the boot.

>"If I have to do something major, what's the least destructive thing I can do?"

Get drunk and sell the car? .... Well, maybe not.

boot latch side viewboot latch front view I am attaching a pictures of a boot latch for reference. The top edge of the bracket attaches to the body lip with two screws in the weather strip trough. This is not to imply that you could ever disassemble it that way, just to let you know exactly where it's located. The latch pin and operating lever lie in a plane parallel to the edge of the boot lid. The bottom end of the lever is 1 inch off center and 3 inches below (aft of) the edge of the boot lid, and needs to move nearly 2 inches farther off center to release the latch..

There are two draw rods, the one you pull by hand and one running latterly across the back from the left rear corner of the boot to the latch arm. In the corner of the boot there is a bell crank arm. The rods are attached at the ends with a right angle bend, a flat washer and a small cotter pin (really small cotter pin). If the split pin rusts or wears or breaks, a rod can disconnect at the end, and the latch won't release..

From your description I might presume that the primary draw rod is still attached to the bell crank, and the lateral rod might be disconnected. I also assume (rash assumption) that you get no spring return force, which would come only from the latch if the rods were connected..

If the lateral rod was still attached to the latch arm, you might be able to literally rip the left side tail light plinth off the body and bore a hole there to gain access to the lateral draw rod. But I would not attempt to guess which end of the lateral rod might be disconnected. If the rod is detached from the latch arm, you might have to make a rather large hole in the rear body cowling to reach in with a hooked rod to pull the latch arm. I don't think I would even try that approach..

If the spare tire is NOT fastened down properly in the normal stowage position, you might tear through the carpet cover behind the seats to gain access to the boot, and then maybe operate the latch release lever with a long stick. If the spare tire is fastened in the normal location, you would have a devil of a time slicing up the tire enough to move it out of the way..

If I had to do something destructive, I would bore a hole through the boot floor from underneath, just ahead of the rear body valance, about 1-1/2" off center (away from the fuel filler side) and 1-1/2" ahead of the formed lip on the floor panel. Maybe 1/2" or 3/4" diameter might be enough in a pinch. A little larger hole might be more convenient (if you have a hole saw). Use a long thin pry bar to move the latch release lever. Assuming this works, when finished you can clean the hole in the boot floor out to be round and close the hole with a rubber or metal snap plug..

At 10:13 PM 6/23/04 -0400, Dick Kinsey wrote: >".... when I pull the rod to open the boot it has the normal feel and when I release it, then it springs back as it always has."

Oh-oh. Apparently both rods are still attached.

>"Is there any way the operating lever could move normally without bringing the latch pin along?"

This could be a surprising answer, but yes, if something broke it may be possible to have spring return without release.

The latch pin is a rectangular steel bar. It has a large notch cut about half way through the thickness where the release arm operates. If the latch pin were to break at this "thin" spot, about half way along the length of the pin, then the manual pull rod and spring return would work normally, but the working end of the latch pin would not move to affect the release.

>"I marked the hole location on the bottom of the boot floor tonight but couldn't yet bring myself to drill it. I keep thinking there must be something else I should try first".
boot latch in contact with striker
If your boot latch pin is broken, then if you were REAL lucky you might be able to affect release, without having to modify anything. I am attaching another picture of the interface of the latch with the striker. Notice the angle of the hook surface on the tip of the latch pin, not parallel to the direction of travel of the pin. This angle makes for an over-center type of latch engagement which will never be able to vibrate loose during road travel. However, this also means that the boot lid has to be depressed some significant amount (1/16 to 1/8 inch) to affect release. The curved side of the tip allows depression of the pin by the striker when you slam the lid to close it.

Start by pulling the manual release rod to full travel and holding it there. This might require a patient helper, or you might secure it in the drawn position (get creative). With the draw rod held at full pull, press down firmly (lots of force) on the bottom edge of the boot lid to partly compress the rubber weather seal and to move the striker plate away from the latch pin to provide clearance and eliminate friction. Then rap repeatedly on the body cowling just below the edge of the boot lid to attempt to induce some shock and vibration to break friction and allow the broken end of the striker pin to slide down into the latch housing where (hopefully) it would clear the edge of the striker on the boot lid and allow release. If you manage to pull this off, do not slam the lid closed just to try it again. When it is open you may be able to lift out the broken end of the latch pin.

>"When the boot is closed, would there be enough of the latch exposed between the bracket under the weather strip trough and the latch receptacle on the boot lid to pry with a screwdriver (through a hole in the floor of the boot) or at least observe movement, if any, when the release is pulled"?

If push-me pull-me doesn't work then you're back to boring the hole in the boot floor as previously described. You will not be able to pry directly on the tip of the latch pin, because the striker plate will be in the way underneath it. First and best bet is to try moving the latch arm with a pry bar, assuming the latch pin is not broken. Failing that, go to "Plan C".

Make a bent steel rod tool, maybe 3/8" diameter and at least a foot long. Put a 1-1/2" x 90 degree bend on the end. With this tool you may be able to reach in above the tip of the latch pin from one side to pull it down to affect release. Having a helper to press down on the edge of the boot lid in the process may help immensely, as well as holding the draw rod in the full pull position. While taking the last picture I noticed that a 3/8" rod may not quite fit in the space above the tip of the latch pin, but a 5/16" drill bit did fit there. I don't know that a 5/16" rod would be stiff enough to pull that hard on the bent end (maybe with no spring force), so I think I would try a 3/8" diameter steel rod and grind the last 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the tip down to about 5/16" diameter (easier grinding before you bend it).

"At first, I thought that one of the two collapsible lawn chairs I have in the boot might have wedged itself into the space between the spare tire and the rear of the boot thereby fouling the release mechanism. But from your picture, I realize that the lateral rod is located several inches behind that space inside the rear body valance".

Yes, the lateral rod is very near the bottom back corner of the compartment, pretty much out of harm's way. Regardless of how much junk I have crammed into the boot over the years, I have never had anything jam up operation of the draw rod. But LAWN CHAIRS???

At 09:28 PM 6/24/04 -0400, Dick Kinsey wrote:
>"SUCCESS!!"

Score one for the good guys.

>"First I started by tying a cord to the boot handle and holding it out by tying the other end of the cord to windshield bracket. Before I drilled a hole in the floor panel of the boot, I did try pushing on the lid and rapping on the body cowling but to no avail".

No broken latch pin I presume.

>"Next I followed your recommendation by centering a hole 1-1/2 inch off latch center and 1-1/2 inches forward of the formed lip on the floor panel. I used a 1-1/4 inch circular saw to allow myself ample viewing area and reasonable access to the interior. What I observed by peering through the hole was that the latch arm was little more than 1 inch off center whereas you wrote it needs to move nearly 2 inches. Therefore I used a crow bar to force it further and the boot lid popped open".

view of hole from inside the boot view through hole from underneath the boot
Hole bored in boot floor, views from inside and from underneath

Dang! You mean I guessed right for the hole location on the first try?

>"What had caused the problem? Let me first say Murphy is alive and well. It turns out that when you pull the release, the fore and aft rod wants to move a bit transversely toward the center of the boot because of the bell crank action. One of the collapsible lawn chairs I referred to earlier had slipped down between the spare tire and the rear of the boot. The chair legs made contact with the rod and prevented this sideways motion. This in turn limited the rotation of the bell crank so that the latch failed to open completely".

Now that you mention it, I seem to recall a similar problem many years ago. I once had a boot latch gaining a lot of friction, so the pull rod required progressively more force to open it. At a particular threshold of force I think it finally bent the bell crank input arm downward a bit, as the pull rod is not perpendicular to the rotational axis of the bell crank. Once the crank arm was bent there didn't seem to be much hope. (In fact on later inspection I discovered that the crank arm was actually touching the boot floor). But when I recruited some help to hold the boot lid down to relieve the friction on the latch pin, I was able to pull the rod and pop the latch.

boot latch bellcrank >"So, the only 'damage' incurred (not counting the hole I made) was a bent arm of the bell crank which I later removed and straightened".

Does that make you wonder if you shouldn't beef up the crank arm a bit?

>"At least I now have ready access to the latch in case it's ever needed again. However, I must say, I'm damn glad I didn't have to fish around to try and pull the latch back using a piece of bent steel rod. That would have been very difficult to say the least".

Where there's a will, there's a way, and necessity is the mother of invention. If you had to do it, I'm pretty sure you could figure it out.

>"Regarding the hole location - it would be more convenient if it were a little further forward but I don't suggest a change. The present hole was just tangent to the flange (as shown in the boot side photo) of a transverse stiffening channel and boring the hole would be even more difficult if the flange was in the way".

I suppose the hole saw would have worked a bit farther forward, just would have required a little more sawing to get through the second layer of metal. Or if the hole is smaller diameter it could be farther forward by the difference in radius and still miss the flange.

Now you get to find a plug to fit the hole you made. I suggest you try to install the plug from the top (which might be a cleaner fit inside the boot). Then if you ever need access again, you could just push the plug up from the bottom with your pry bar, and you're in.

At 05:59 PM 6/26/04 -0400, Dick Kinsey wrote:
>"To finish off my latch project, I went to Pep Boys, Napa, Home Depot and Radio Shack looking for a rubber plug (or equivalent) but had no luck. So, I put a piece of duct tape across the hole from the underneath and another piece over the hole from above with the two adhesive surfaces making contact. Then I hit it with a spray can and now you can't even see it unless you know what to look for. Problem solved".

For hole plugs I recently found thin plastic snap plugs at the local Ace Hardware. In the store they were in a flat steel box with hinged lid, nested in a slot with lots of other similar boxes with other odd bits, such as stainless screws, roll pins, woodruff keys, lynch pins, etc. Most Ace Hardware stores will have such things.

Thanks very much to Dick Kinsey for his persistence and for the pictures.

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