How To Open A Car Hood Without The Release

How To Open A Car Hood Without The Release

You need to open the hood of your car in order to operate it safely. Something as important as an oil change will be impossible without opening the hood. How do you open a car hood if something is wrong with the release system?

The technique used to open the car hood will depend on the part of the hood release system that is damaged. You can tug on the release cable from the part connected to the inside latch. If the problem is at the latch assembly point, you may have to insert a screwdriver to move the lever.

In this article, I will describe how a hood release system works and why a hood won’t open. I also discuss the different ways to open a hood with a broken release system and how to maintain the assembly point.

How Does A Hood Latch Release System Work?

How To Open A Car Hood Without The Release

Although all hood latches share the same concept of mechanism, each vehicle has a unique design for its system. A hood latch system has 3 principal components:

  1. The hood lock/latch handle: you can find it in the door frame, next to the driver’s seat, or under the steering wheel (close to the dashboard). It attaches to the hood release cable.
  1. Hood release cable: it is like the brake cable of a bicycle and passes to the front of the car. There is an inner metal cable encased by a protective layer. One end attaches to the release handle while the other end attaches to a secondary latch.
  1. The hood latch/assembly point: it comprises a secondary latch and a safety latch. The hood cable moves the secondary latch, and the safety latch at the front of the vehicle has to be moved for the hood to open fully. It has springs and is attached to the shut panel.

When you pull/press/push the hood lock handle, the hood cable tugs the secondary latch away from its locked position. The hood only opens a few inches because the safety latch gets to work. To open the safety latch, you need to find and move its release lever.

If your safety latch needs a little tension to move the release lever, you may have to press the hood slightly back to the closed position to release the pressure and dislodge it from its seat. Some cars have their hood latch handle on the outside, and some cars have more than one release latch.

Why Won’t My Hood Open?

Any problem with one or more components of the hood latch release system will interfere with the opening of your hood. It is important to figure out which part has the issue in order to address it. The things that could go wrong are in 3 broad categories:

  • Latch problems – they could be loose, out of alignment, or bogged down with grease and rust from exposure to the elements.
  • Release handle faults – the plastic release handle may become loose, broken, or the cable may become worn.
  • Cable faults – the cable may become overstretched, disconnected from either end, or broken.

Is It Possible To Open A Car Hood Without The Release?

Even with parts of the release system damaged, there are still ways to get your car hood open. With a little patience and creativity, you can get the job done. You can try to do it yourself or get a mechanic to do it for you when all else fails.

How To Open A Car Hood Without The Release

How To Open A Car Hood Without The Release

As mentioned earlier, knowing the part of the system that is damaged will help you apply the right maneuver to get the hood open. In order not to damage or dent anything, do not force any of the components more than is necessary to open the hood.

I have outlined the ways to open your hood without a functional release, according to the component involved:

1. The latch is stuck

In this scenario, your hood refuses to open even after you have pulled the release handle. First, spray some WD-40 into the latch area to lubricate it. Next, ask a helper to pull the hood latch handle repeatedly as you apply pressure to the hood. 

Doing this will release the tension in the hood latch (from the safety latch) and pop your hood open. It works most times. Gently apply pressure to the hood so you don’t dent it.

2. Broken or loose release handle

Confirm that the handle is still connected to the cable. If it stays attached, you need to remove the handle and pull on the cable with vice grips or pliers until the hood pops open. Use a light for ease of operation.

3. Overstretched or broken hood cable

If your release handle stays in a pulled-out position after you have tugged on it, there is a problem with the cable. You can get to the hood latch through your car’s grill or from underneath it. Locate the latch trigger by following the cable line.

Use a long screwdriver to press on the latch trigger and release it. If you cannot reach the latch with a screwdriver, use a long piece of metal (at least 26 inches long) to trip the latch. If this doesn’t work, find a mechanic.

Make sure your car engine has cooled down before approaching the grill or getting underneath to find the latch. You do not want to get burned. A rest of at least 30 minutes is enough to cool down your engine.

How Do You Maintain Your Hood Latch System?

Regular maintenance and lubrication with white lithium grease are the great ways to keep your hood latch system working. Lubricate both ends of the wire, the latch mechanism, and the springs that work with the latch. At every oil change, lubricate the components of the latch system.

Another good maintenance tactic is to wash/clean off the debris that accumulates on the latch. The cleaning frequency will depend on how fast debris accumulates. Remember to be gentle with your maneuvers to open the hood so you don’t dent it or cause further damage.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there! I'm Gui. To be honest, I'm not really that interested in cars. But what I'm really, really not interest in is spending lots of money fixing my car up. Thankfully, I have a father-in-law who's obsessed with cars and a brother getting a PhD in internal combustion engines, so I get to learn about fixing cars. And with Fixing Engines, I hope to help you save a lot of money and take good care of your cars.

Recent Posts