What To Do When My Hood Latch Won’t Open? A Full Guide

Almost every car type on the market has a hood latch system – designed to shield the most critical compartments in the cars, like motors, radiators, alternators, and more.

Unfortunately, few pay attention to it or keep it well maintained, believing it has nothing to do with the car’s overall performance.

Such a lack of care has led to numerous technical issues. In the past months, Bryan’s inbox has received many letters, all of which pose the same question: My hood latch won’t open; what should I do?

This article will gladly dive into the issue. Click for more.

How Do The Hoods Work?

Engage Your Hood Release

In general, your automobile hoods (or bonnets) are constructed from steel or aluminum, whose primary goal is to cover the inner workings and engine inside your vehicles.

Without the hinges’ full function, there’s no way you can access the vehicle engine when problems arise, like condensation smoke under the hood (when your AC is on).

Imagine all the disasters that follow that! 

Unless your car is of exotic or rare categories, it will incorporate a system for hook release. The hood’s lock handle is installed inside the vehicle – usually near the side seat or your door frame.

For older models, the hoods will be behind the bumper or grille; to find it, you should check the grilles and below the lever, arm, button, or handle.

And what if you fail to find the system in all these spots? Then it’s time to refer to the manufacturer manual/instructions for more info about this car model.

Regardless of where they are, the hoods will slightly open once you pull these levers/switches.

Remember that a metal lever or safety lock still holds it down, meaning you must move it across one side completely for full opening and access.

On another note, most cars also have thin and long metal rods (often placed along both of the vehicle’s edges).

They will rise gradually, slotting into precut holes at your will. Such a design is to keep the hoods wide open without the need to involve both of your arms.

Why The Hood Latch Won’t Open

Why The Hood Latch Won't Open

Why won’t my hood open? Well, when the hood wont open, one of these three might be the culprit: damages within the latch itself, the release cable, or the release handle.

Here is how you should assess which one lies the root cause – in order to get proper fixes and treatments afterward!

Release Handles

My hood wont open. Why? In this case, release handles should be your first consideration.

These handles are often put within the vehicle (drivers usually find them around the main driver’s side). They comprise mainly plastic, with several marking signals to indicate their use.

In normal cases, you will pull the handle to get the cable released, which opens the hood latch (and the hoods) as a result.

Of course, such a feat can never happen if the handle becomes broken or loose, meaning your car hood wont open!

Release Cables

And what if it’s not the handle – but the cable – is the issue here? Again, several scenarios are at play: over-stretching cable, disconnection, or cabling breaking.

For better understanding, you can compare these cables to those of bike brakes, a combination of inner braided cable and outer casing.

Their pooled force is exerted to pull/raise the hood latch; hence, any problem with the internal wires means your hood latch stuck won’t open or move an inch! 

Damage Within The Latch Itself

The latch, fitted snugly right into the hoods, is not a common source of faulty hood issues.

Yet, it is still a possibility you shouldn’t skip – since this latch takes direct responsibility for cracking open or locking the hoods! 

If the latch is simply unadjusted, stuck, or loose, you can give it a quick tweak/tightening to solve the problem.

For more severe damage, check the inside carefully and double-check your memory about whether the car has been involved in any accident.

What To Do When The Hood On Car Won’t Open

how to fix Hood On Car Won't Open

The hood won’t open on car. What is there to do?

This section will instruct you how to open the hoods despite the broken latches.

Yet, keep in mind that you should not keep that malfunctioning latch system forever. Whenever possible, drive your car to an auto shop and have its latches fixed/repaired! 

Step 1. Cool Down The Engine

This step is crucial – especially if your car has been operating recently.

Let the engine cool down for about 30 minutes before you begin to poke your head under the hoods. Otherwise, burning risks will always be lurking on the horizon! 

Do you feel the engine against the bumper or car grill? Then we are afraid you have another issue to tackle: engine overheating.

Go to certified mechanics to fix that first before returning to the faulty hood latches.

Step 2. Engage Your Hood Release

As previously mentioned, most cars have a systematic hood release – and we are quite certain yours is not an exception.

Try to find where it is in the vehicle. Should nothing go wrong, you will easily spot it below the steering columns’ dashboard – in the left corner.

Pressing or pulling it will lift your hoods about 2 inches without complete disconnection from the latches.

For those that fail to identify the release’s placement, scan through the driver manuals offered by your car manufacturers. (both physical copies or the electronic ones on their official websites are fine)

Step 3. Spot The Latches

  • Underneath The Car If It Has No Grilles

Does your car have a creeper? (mobile seats to help users move while still lying on their back) Yes? Then use the creeper to roll your body below the car.

Otherwise, just try to shimmy under the hoods on your own back! Remember to sweep the ground quickly and wear clothes that you do not mind becoming dirty.

From this position, you are supposed to spot a very small hole with small metal latches hanging down toward the ground.

  • Through The Bumper If The Vehicle Has Grilles

For cars with large-opening grilles, the broken latches should stand right at the vehicle’s front.

Squat down to reach the small latches right under where your front-center hoods meet the automobile frame.

Still cannot find it? Then simply trace your eyes along with the release cables. They often connect straight to the latches from your driver’s side.

Step 4. Trip Your Latches

Prepare a long metal piece or a screwdriver for this task. (remember that whatever tool you pick must be long enough to touch the latches – at least 11 inches will be terrific!) 

Now, insert your tool between the metal it is hooked onto and the latches themselves. Press the latches away to trip them.

Step 5. Lubricate The Jammed Latches Using Lithium Lubricants

Purchase spray lubricants (preferably lithium) with bendable straws at least 9 inches long.

Never turn to silicone spray – since it will destroy the oxygen sensors and affect your engine performance!

From below the car, insert them into the grill and apply a generous amount to the latches. Usually, stuck or broken latches will get remedied in seconds with this method! 

Ensure you have safety goggles and other protective gear for the task.

Step 6. If It’s Just Minor Misalignment Issues, Fix Them Immediately

Sometimes, the reason your latches don’t work is just a mere matter of slight misaligning. In that case, there’s no need to go to a store for fixes or repairments; it’s easy to adjust them yourselves! 

Once you have located the latches, loosen their tightening bolts – no need to do much, just enough for the latches to get removed.

Next, move them side by side, aligning them with the hood’s inner panel opening.

Slide the latches upwards and downwards until they are flush against the gap between your hood top and the fenders. (the hoods should still stay pressed upward at this point).

Lastly, tighten your latch bolts. Close and open your hoods several times to ensure everything works properly now.


1. How Much Do Hood Latch Fixes Cost Me?

Average costs for latch replacements fluctuate between $152 and $168.

On another note, extra labor costs are calculated between $54 and $68, and certain automobile parts (if they need fixes) demand $99 to $100.

Keep in mind that all these estimations do not include fees and taxes; your specific location or vehicle type is not factored in, either.

2. My Hood Won’t Pop Open. Is It Possible to Drive My Car With Broken Latches Then?

Yes, actually. After all, we have just instructed you to open your hoods with broken latches in the previous section.

Nevertheless, do not keep things like this for too long – since opening your hoods with such methods can be pretty inconvenient. Just have it fixed as soon as you can.


What to do when the hood latch won’t open? Are there extra tips about its costs and reparations I should pay attention to? 

This insightful article from Bryan’s Garage has discussed all there is to know! Always refer to our guidelines above for the best outcome.

We have tackled hood latches that refuse to open. How about those that do not close? Check this article for guidance.

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