There are some parts of your vehicle you just expect to work, and when they don’t, it can throw you for a loop. That’s the case with the hood. When you shut it, you expect it to stay closed, and you’ve likely never given much thought as to how it works.
But as soon as it doesn’t stay shut, it’s a big problem. We understand, and it’s why we came up with this guide to break down exactly how it works, how to figure out what’s wrong, and most importantly how to fix it!
Parts of a Hood Latch Assembly
Before you can diagnose why your hood latch assembly isn’t working properly, you need to understand exactly how one works in the first place. While it’s similar to a door latch, it’s not exactly the same.
Let’s go over all of the basic components of a hood latch assembly. Because while each hood latch assembly is slightly different, they all use the same principles and have the same types of parts, making them work.
When you’re trying to open up a hood latch, you pull on a lever that connects to the release cable. The cable pulls on the latch to release the hood so you can open it up!
The cable stop attaches to the release cable, which keeps the cable from completely pulling through the latch. In fact, when you pull the release cable, it’s the cable stop pulling on the latch assembly.
Bumpers & Adjustment Screw
When everything is working the way it should, you never really need to worry about the bumpers and the adjustment screw on your hood latch. The bumper is a rubber piece that sits between the latch and the hood to prevent a metal-on-metal connection.
Meanwhile, the adjustment screw allows you to adjust the amount of tension on the release cable. If you tighten the cable, it releases some slack in the line, while if you turn it the other way, it’ll loosen up the cable by adding a little more slack.
When you pull the release cable, you’re pushing against the spring tension that closes the latch. The spring tension is always trying to close the latch; that way, when you’re not pulling on the release cable, everything stays shut.
The retainer, also known as the retainer kit, keeps the release cable in place whenever you’re pulling it or when it’s sitting stationary. Essentially the retainer keeps the release from hanging down and snagged on anything else in the engine bay.
While the entire assembly is the hood latch, the actual latch consists of two pieces. You have the latch on the hood, and the latch in the engine bay, and the two parts work together to keep the hood closed.
The latches push together to form a metal-on-metal connection to keep the hood closed while you’re driving down the road!
Causes of a Car Hood That Won’t Close or Lock
If your hood won’t close or lock, it’s a serious problem you need to address. And now that you know about all the various components and how they work, hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding of how the following issues can come up.
Perhaps more importantly, hopefully, you’ll have a better idea of how to diagnose each one and fix it if it’s a problem!
#1 – Improper Cable Tension
Over time the tension on a latch release cable can loosen up too much, and when this happens, the hood latch won’t lock. However, if someone goes to adjust the problem to try and fix it and they overtighten it, the hood won’t close properly.
When this happens, the cable release is always pushing against the spring, and because of this, the latch is always open and can’t shut properly once you release it.
#2 – Misaligned Hood Catch
The only way a hood latch works is if the latch piece on the hood and the latch piece in the engine bay line up when you shut the hood. If either piece is off just a bit, you’ll have metal smacking on metal when you try to shut the hood, but the latch simply won’t work.
#3 – Damaged/Rusted Hood Catch
While it’s pretty rare for the actual metal on a hood catch to break, they can rust, and eventually, the entire part can rust through.
If this happens, it won’t work the way it should, and instead, you’ll be able to pull the hood right up even if everything else is working.
#4 – Lack of Lubrication
If any of the metal components in a hood latch assembly become dry or corroded, they may “catch” and not move freely as intended. In the video below, not enough lubrication is causing the return spring to not be able to return to its normal position which causes the latch to be misaligned.
#5 – Broken/Rusted Springs
The springs on the latch always hold the latch closed, and it’s only when you pull the hood release cables that you push against the springs to open it up. But if the springs fail, whether from excessive rust or because of damage, the spring never pushes to shut the latch.
This means when you pull the release cable to open the hood, it opens up, but the spring won’t pull it shut again.
#6 – Accident Damage
If the front end of your vehicle was recently in an accident, you might have problems with keeping your hood closed. The problem is that after an accident, all kinds of things can shift or break on your vehicle. Perhaps the hood or portion of the engine bay is no longer in the right location.
Perhaps the force from the accident broke a component on the hood latch. Either way, the hood won’t operate properly. We recommend fixing all damage from the accident first. Then, you should be able to figure out why the hood won’t close properly.
What To Do if Your Hood Won’t Close All the Way?
If your hood doesn’t close all the way, you should not drive your vehicle. The problem is that the hood can fly open while you’re driving down the road. Not only can these damage various components on your vehicle, but it’ll also make it so you can’t see.
This is extremely dangerous for you and everyone else on the road, so if your hood doesn’t close all the way, you absolutely should not drive.
You can take the time to try and diagnose and repair the issue yourself before trying to drive, but if you can’t figure it out, you’ll either need to tow your vehicle to a repair shop or have a professional mechanic come to your vehicle to diagnose and repair it.
Can You Drive With a Broken Hood Latch?
It depends on how the hood latch is broken. If the hood latch doesn’t keep the hood shut, you should not drive your vehicle like that. However, if the hood latch doesn’t allow you to open the hood, you can drive your vehicle to a local repair shop so they can look at it.
You still won’t want to drive your vehicle too far if you can’t open the hood at all, though. Sometimes you need to get underneath the hood in emergency situations, and with a broken hood latch, you won’t be able to do this.
What To Do if Your Hood Flies Open While Driving?
Sometimes despite all our best efforts, something absolutely crazy happens while we’re driving. If your hood ever happens to fly open while driving, there are a few things you need to do.
First, put on your hazards and immediately start to slow down and try to get off the road as quickly as possible. If the hood is actually covering your windshield, you may need to duck down a bit to see the road through the small gap at the bottom of the windshield.
Once you’re pulled over and in a safe location, get out and inspect your hood to figure out what happened. If you can shut the hood completely and get it to latch into place, there’s no reason you can’t start driving again (although slowly and to the nearest repair shop or back home).
However, if your hood doesn’t close when your vehicle is on the side of the road, you’re going to have to call a tow truck to get your vehicle off the side of the road.
Since you won’t be able to drive your vehicle again until you repair the hood (and likely your windshield), we recommend taking the vehicle directly to a repair shop unless you plan on fixing your vehicle yourself.
How Much Will It Cost To Fix a Car Hood That Won’t Close?
Whether your vehicle needs a new hood latch or a new hood release cable, you can usually expect to spend between $150 and $200 for a professional mechanic to fix the problem for you.
However, it’s worth noting that if your vehicle needs both a new hood latch and a new hood release cable, you can expect to spend between $250 and $400 for a professional mechanic to replace both parts for you.
A new hood latch generally costs around $100 while the rest of the replacement cost goes to labor, while a hood release cable generally costs about $60 and the rest of the replacement cost is for labor.
This also means that if you’re replacing the parts, you can save the labor costs since replacing both components yourself will generally cost about $160. Even better, if you’re not super mechanically inclined, a new hood latch and a new hood release cable are two of the easier parts to replace, even if the bolts have a bit of rust on them.
And if you’re looking to use aftermarket parts, you might even be able to get the total replacement cost down to about $100 for both components!
Finally, these are the costs to replace these components; if you can repair these components, you can save even more money. Sometimes all you need to get everything working again is a can of WD-40, and if that’s the case, it’ll only cost you about $5 to complete the repair!
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