Saw a strange thing on the back of an SUV today, need help identifying

I’m not really a car person, so apologies in advance for the way I describe this, because it’s probably inaccurate.

While driving on the road today, I saw an SUV (I don’t remember the make or model…sorry) that was stopped at a traffic light. When it was stopped, there was this small, rectangular section at the top left on the back of the car, that seemed to open up electronically, then after maybe 10 seconds, it retracted and returned to it’s original position, flushed with the rest of the car body. Then the light turned green and the car drove off.

It did not seem like a modification, as the paint of this area matched the car exactly. The size of the rectangle was about 8 inches in length by 5 inches in width. If you know those storage bins with the snap handles to close and lock the lid, that’s what it reminded me of, the way it opened and closed. I can attempt to draw it if necessary. Not sure if anyone knows what I’m talking about or if it even makes sense. I’m just curious what the purpose of this is. I thought it could be a rearview camera but it was not centered and it was also at a traffic light so it seems unlikely. Any help would be appreciated.

Maybe an external antenna

When you say top left do you mean on the rear hatch below the window or above the window? Did the top stick up above the roof line? It seems more like an aftermarket add on than a factory provided feature.

Is it possible that the SUV in question was a Land Rover?
The newer ones have an outside accessory box, presumably to carry the extra tools needed for regular repairs.


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It’s a lockable storage compartment available as an option or later accessory on the Defender 90 and 110, could fit a few tools in there.

What’s a defender? I would have guessed an anti car jacking gun mount. What will they think of next? I wonder what it cost and how much to fix it.

One of my grandkids hid my sun glasses once in my car. I looked all over as he snickered in the background. Finally found it in the overhead compartment for glasses. Who knew? The sales person never pointed that out. Another year, another new discovery.

Land Rover Defender, popular model.

yet another of their models … maybe karma, a Land Rover is in your future ??.. lol … …

OP says the door opened and closed at a stoplight. Have to wonder, is driver able to open & close that tool box from the driver’s seat?

Might be just showing off or like some of us, we like to try out all the buttons to see what they do. They would need a much larger tool box than that for a Land Rover and a bag of kitty liter for the oil spills.

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Land Rover brought back the Defender nameplate on the same platform as the Discovery and other models, the box is part of a couple different accessory packages and is attached to the right rear of the SUV, I’m finding ones on Ebay for around $200 The pack featured should be the one that also includes an outside rinsing station and a built in air compressor.

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We had a 78 volairie that the tires were always going flat. An on board compressor would have been useful. I don’t know about the shower feature but on a hot day with the ac not working maybe useful.

It was probably a Porsche Cayenne Air Brake.

2018 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Air Brake & Aerodynamics - YouTube

The compressor is in the cargo area and you can rotate the knob to the desired pressure (inflate/deflate) and push the button. The rinse system is intended to be a quick wash rather than a shower’s worth.

Lol, there’s zero reason for being snarky. I believe that’s what they call hindsight is 20/20. As I mentioned in the original post, it was at a traffic light. I wasn’t there for more than 30 seconds, and the thing in question was only opened for around half that time. It took maybe 3 seconds to open, stayed open for 10 seconds, then closed again. I thought it was interesting when I first saw it, but it wasn’t until much later, the following day as a shower thought, that I’d like to know what it was. I know none of these details were in the original post, but I think it was common sense if I thought to take a picture, I probably would’ve. But I see the thing open, I’m trying to process what it is I’m seeing, and before I can even do that, it’s closing and we’re moving again. Is my first thought to follow the car and pull out my phone while we’re driving so I can take a picture? Definitely not.

And no, it’s 100% not a semaphore. It doesn’t fit any of the details I’ve mentioned at all. Again, like I’ve said in my original post, it’s at the back of the vehicle, there’s no need to signal from the rear, that’s what all the brake and turning lights and such are for, right? I’m not entirely sure how helpful a picture would be. When closed, it looks like the outside gas lid, as in it’s flushed with the car, and you can only tell there’s something there by the cutout around it. I was directly behind the car, I can guarantee it’s not meant to indicate or signal for anything, because I had no clue what it was when I even saw it. If it was, that would mean I would have to be behind it but at an angle that wasn’t directly behind it, which also seems very unlikely.

It opens by flipping out and away from the car, I can’t even tell you if it flipped open from the top or bottom since I don’t remember, but it doesn’t protrude out of the car that much, maybe 4 inches? This is just estimating as I couldn’t really see much from being directly behind.

It didn’t look like a storage compartment going by your picture. Being flushed against the car, like the outside gas lid is the main difference I can see. It was also very small, much smaller than that storage compartment.

It was just right above the top left of the rear windshield, where the car body is. So maybe describing it as the outside gas lid would’ve been a far more accurate description. Imagine a wider gas lid, maybe double or triple the width, that’s at the top left of the back of the car and that’s what it looked like when closed. I initially said it wasn’t a modification because of how clean and flushed it looked when closed. It blends right into the car itself, like the outside gas lid. When closed, it’s very nondescript and inconspicuous. I mean for it to be an aftermarket add-on, it seems like far more work than necessary, which is why I thought it was unlikely, but again, I’m far from being a car expert like I’ve said.

The SUV also looked like an older model car, not stylish like these newer models. The back of the car, including the windshield, was also vertically flat or close to flat, so I guess more like a land rover, but there wasn’t a spare tire or anything in the back. The back of the car definitely wasn’t at an extreme angle, almost like a 45 degree angle like some of the newer model SUVs. Again, I’m just trying to recollect details from a very brief encounter. I wasn’t focused on the car the entire time during the stop, which was extremely short already. Even more, I wasn’t focused on the car at all until the thing started moving, thought it looked interesting, and when the light turned green, I lane changed shortly after and was more focused on the rest of my day.

I did read what I thought to be the model of the car on the back, but clearly I forgot it by the time I thought about it again. I just know it wasn’t something common like Civic or Altima. I know these aren’t SUVs models, I’m just giving examples. I didn’t think it was important to mention which is why I left it out. I don’t even know if what I read at the time was the model, it was maybe two words, something I didn’t recognize, that’s all I recall.

This is a very, and I mean VERY, badly done photoshopped picture, along with the style of the cars not matching. I just picked the Defender because the back is flat like the car I remember. I literally just cropped out the gas lid from a side view of the Defender, and tossed it onto the back.

So what’s different from the image here and the car in question, is I don’t remember there being a tire in the back, the back profile of the car was more blocky and less curved around the edges I think. The rear windshield also was not that high up, it was lower so there was more of the painted car body between the very top of the car and top of the rear windshield, so just imagine the windshield along with the photoshopped in panel thing to be 5-6 inches lower. And of course, minor details like color (the car was all one color), tail lights, bumper, the backdoor handle are all different.

The panel thing is also not oval shaped like that, it was definitely more angular, like literally 90 degree angles, but that’s just how it looks on the Defender so ignore that as well. I think I can also safely say it was not a handle. I couldn’t see much from behind, but it didn’t look like something you were supposed to grab onto.

It’s also highly unlikely to be an air brake. The car was already stopped when it opened. It’s also off centered and doesn’t extend the entire back of the car, and it also doesn’t protrude above the top of the car. It rested on a flat, vertical surface. The air brake on the Porsche Cayenne also has a very dynamic movement. This thing literally only flipped open and closed. Imagine a door opening but from the top or bottom. It’s a very simple movement, like on a hinge. It’s not meant to be flashy or for the purpose of showing off. There’s clearly a function for it, I just have no idea what. All these thoughts did not go through my head at the time I saw the vehicle. I’m more curious now than when I saw it, for the guy who’s still clueless as to why I didn’t just take a picture. But at the same time, even if I never figure out what it is, it’s not going to bother me that much. It’s just something interesting that I saw.

I’m thinking it might be a remote spot to hide the rear window wash nozzle. The ones we’ve had on our minivans were in the center and above the window but our cars aren’t meant for off-road use. Maybe off-road vehicles have big honkin washers on them.

This sounds logical and very well may be the answer. So when the panel thing opened, it wasn’t just like an empty hole. There was something there, but at this point I’m not sure if it was attached to the back of the panel or something extended out. Although it did open and no water came out, maybe the driver accidentally opened it but didn’t turn it on?

He was taking your picture in case you did something unusual. :wink:

In Minnesota if you were stopped at a stop light and grabbed your phone to take a picture, you could now be fined. Yeah stupid, but you aren’t allowed to touch your phone unless you pull over.