When the oil in your car needs an oil change, but you can't get the hood open, a minor mechanical problem suddenly becomes a major frustration. You can usually get the hood open with some tricks and patience, but there are difficult scenarios that require lengthy tinkering. Once you open the hood, fix the problem before closing it again.
Method 1 of 2: Bypassing a broken latch or cable
Step 1. Press the hood down while using the lever inside
If the cable between the lever and the hood is sticky or stretched, the latch may not open properly. Most cars are designed so that the cable unlocks when you push the hood down. Do this while an assistant uses the lever inside the car. When it works, the hood will raise slightly and can then be opened with the external latch.
Step 2. Pull the cable from inside the car
Find the cable under the dash, near the release lever. Gently pull the cable and see what happens:
- If the hood opens, the cable may have shifted or stretched. Try adjusting the front or replace it if you see any damage. (It is also possible that the internal lever is broken, but this is less common.)
- If you don't feel any tension at all, the cable is no longer connected to the external latch. Then continue with the next step. Once the cover is open, see if you can reattach or replace the cable.
Step 3. Find the latch through the grille
You need a way to get to the latch or cable from a different angle. If you're lucky, you can see the latch through the front grille. Examine with a flashlight and small mirror until you find a hook-shaped object.
The latch may also be accessible from the driver's side fender. On many cars, such as Hondas, the cable for the latch runs through the inside of the driver's side fender. Remove the clips on the inside of the fender and reach in. Pull the cable to open the hood. This will only work if the cable is still attached to the hood latch
Step 4. Unlock with a thin tool
Once you've located the latch, you can reach it with a long, thin screwdriver. If the openings in the grille are too small, you can also use a metal coat hanger. Hook it over the latch and pull.
You can remove the grille for better access. Even replacing a non-removable grille can be cheaper than taking the car to the garage, depending on the model
Step 5. Approach the problem from below
If you can't reach the latch from the front, the last option you can try is reach and pull the cable from below with pliers, or reach the latch itself from below. This will be easier if you jack the car up and check the owner's manual.
- Warning: If the engine has been running recently, let the car cool down before reaching under the hood.
- If this doesn't work, take the car to a garage. Removing the front bumper yourself can be more expensive than repairing the hood.
Method 2 of 2: Opening a stuck hood
Step 1. Park the car
Park the car on a flat surface and apply the parking brake. If possible, park at home or in a garage. If it turns out that you cannot solve the problem yourself, it is better if you do not have to close the hood again to drive to a garage.
Step 2. Locate the release lever
If you are unfamiliar with the car, locate the release lever under the steering wheel, low and near the driver's door, or in the corner of the glove compartment. There is often an image of a car with an open hood.
- Some older cars only have a remote release. Then look for a lever under the edge of the hood.
- If you are locked out, look further for solutions that do not require access to the car.
Step 3. Test the internal release lever
When working properly, the lever will raise the hood slightly. If you hear a sound, but the hood won't lift, the hood is probably stuck. Continue to the next step to resolve this. If you don't hear anything, the problem is probably with the cable or the release mechanism. Continue to the next step.
If the hood does open partially, all you need to do is press the external latch on the front of the hood. This latch is usually in the middle or slightly to one side and can be moved up or to the side
Step 4. Strike the cover to release it
Outside the car, stand on the driver's side and reach in to pull the internal lever all the way out. Then use your other hand to hit the hood with the flat of your hand. If you're lucky, the hood just needs a poke.
Be careful not to make a dent in your hood. You may need to use some force, but keep your hand in a flat, open position
Step 5. Try to open the hood with the help of an assistant
Have a friend pull out the internal lever and hold it in that position. Then stand at the front of the vehicle and pull the hood slowly and evenly. If rust or dirt is the problem, here's how to get around it. If the hood does not come off, do not force it.
Step 6. Run the engine in cold weather
Cold weather or frost can cause the hood to stick. Run the engine for a while to thaw frozen parts. Then try again to open the hood.
If the hood still does not open, the problem may be with the cable or the release mechanism. Continue to the next section to determine the problem
Step 7. Inspect the latch after opening
Once the cover is open, check for broken parts or a frayed cable that needs to be replaced. If you don't see any obvious problems, lubricate the latch with a penetrating oil.
- It may also help to lubricate the cable with a spray lubricant. Place the nozzle straw on the end of the cable, between the inner cable and the outer sheath. Squeeze the area with a tissue and spray.
- Do not use silicone spray under your hood. It can contaminate the oxygen sensor, which can affect engine performance.
- If you can't fix a faulty cable on the spot, tie a wire around the latch before closing the cover.
- Most bonnets do not stay open on their own. Once the hood is open, you will need to use the support rod to hold the hood open.
- Some older cars have a hood with hinges at the front, which can simply be lifted.
- An accident can shift the release mechanism and prevent it from working properly. You may be able to manually adjust the latch to fix this. Only do this if you are sure the latch is in the wrong position.
- Always keep your keys with you when working on your car. That way, you can't just drive off or start your car while you're working on it. Furthermore, you cannot accidentally lock yourself out while the key is in the car.
- Always make sure the hood is closed properly before driving. If the hood is not properly locked, it can fly open on the way due to aerodynamic force. This can restrict the driver's view and, at high speed, even tear the hood off completely.