A car hood latch should work as designed, keeping the hood shut until you need to open it, for example, when checking fluid levels or inspecting the battery. However, if the latch gets stuck or fails to close, then you have a problem on your hand, one that could cause the hood to lift up while driving, consequently obstructing your view.
Car Hood: Front or Back
Most cars have the engine in the front and the trunk in the back, but not all do. The classic Volkswagen Beetle, Porsche Boxster and the Toyota MR2 are among the few models with the trunk up front and the engine located in the back or between the wheels. The Tesla Model S does not have an engine, therefore it has front and rear trunks.
For the sake of most car owners, we’ll assume your engine is located up front and you’re having trouble lifting the hood.
A Two-Step Release Process
Most car hoods open by first engaging a release inside the vehicle, typically located beneath the dashboard and to the left of the steering column. First, pull the hood release and the hood should normally lift an inch or two while remaining partially engaged to the latch. Next, exit the vehicle, slip your fingers underneath the hood, find the latch and finish disengaging.
If the hood doesn’t move after pulling the release, then you have a problem. A workaround involves two people taking action — one person to pull the hood release lever while the other person simultaneously presses down on the hood in a bid to free the latch.
If that doesn’t work, then take a look through the grille to find the latch. With a long screwdriver in hand, you may be able to disengage it. Further, you might find the latch by removing the grille. Check your car’s repair manual to determine how that is done.
In a worst-case scenario, you may need to drill through the hood to disengage the latch. But this should be your last resort as you’ll need to repair the sheet metal later.
Let’s Fix It!
Once the hood opens, prop it to stay up. Inspect the latch mechanism carefully. If it is dirty, apply penetrating oil to the latch while moving it back and forth. Follow up with a coating of lithium grease to ensure the latch keeps working. Replace the latch itself if it has worn out.
If you’re still having problems with the latch, check the cable that leads to the interior as this may be causing the problem. Observe the stop at the end of the cable. If it has slipped out of place, then reattach it. Lubricate the cable with aerosol spray.
On closer inspection, the cable may show signs of wear. Fraying, chafing or other abnormalities mean the trunk release cable should immediately be replaced.
Getting It Done
If your car was damaged in an accident, the hood may no longer line up perfectly. At this point, the car hood latch fix involves body work, something best left to a collision shop to accomplish.
For more information on your car hood latch, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.