Car Hood Won’t Open? (5 Causes and What to Do)

You expect your vehicle to work, and when you pull the release handle to open up the hood, you expect it to pop open. But when that doesn’t happen, it can lead to a moment of panic and frustration.

But what causes this, and what do you need to do? So take a deep breath and keep reading, we’ll help you get your hood open in no time.

car hood wont open

Related: What To Do If Your Hood Won’t CLOSE

How Does a Hood Latch Mechanism Work?

Before you can dive into and really understand why your hood won’t open, you need to understand how your hood latch and release works in the first place.

When you pull the release handle inside your vehicle, it connects to a cable. The other end of the cable is underneath the hood and connects to the hood latch.

hood latch assembly

When you pull the handle, the cable moves and it moves and opens the latch. When this happens, the hood pops up, and the secondary release holds it into place. Meanwhile, if your vehicle has a hood latch sensor, the opening of the latch sets this off and illuminates the light on your dashboard.

Now that the hood is open a bit, you can go up, reach your hand into the opening, and release the secondary latch to open the hood completely. When you shut the hood, you push it into place, and the springs push the latch shut so it won’t fly open while you’re driving.

See Also: How Car Door Latches Work

Reasons Your Car Hood Won’t Pop Open

If you’re trying to open your hood, one of the first questions you want someone to answer is why it’s not opening! To help you figure out why your hood is stuck closed, we’ve highlighted five of the most common reasons your hood might be stuck in the closed position.

#1 – Broken/Stuck Release Cable

The release cable pulls open the latch to open up the hood, so it makes sense if the release cable isn’t working properly, you won’t be able to open the hood. The problem could be that it’s stuck or rusted, or it could be completely snapped.

Either way, you’ll need to figure it out and fix it to get it working properly again.

#2 – Improper Cable Tension

Did you know you can adjust the release cable for the hood? If there’s too much tension on the hood, it won’t close, but if there’s not enough tension on the release cable, it won’t open.

To fix the issue, you need to adjust the tension on the release cable, which you can usually do with a screwdriver or a wrench on the cable adjuster.

#3 – Stuck or Broken Latch

The latch is the component that actually moves to release the hood to allow you to open it. When it’s working the way it should, the release cable easily pulls it where it needs to go. However, over time it’s common for the latches to start to rust, and when that happens, it won’t move as easily as it should.

Moreover, sometimes if the damage goes on long enough, the latch itself can completely rust shut or break in another way. But whether it’s broken or stuck, you won’t be able to open the hood until you fix it.

#4 – Stuck or Broken Release Handle

The other half of the release cable goes to the release latch inside your vehicle. The release handle itself might not be working correctly, or the cable going to the release latch might be damaged. Either way, you won’t be able to get your hood open.

#5 – Damaged Hood

If your vehicle was recently in an accident or if there is some other sort of damage to the hood, this is likely why it isn’t opening. All the different components might be working the way they should, but if the hood is jammed into place after an accident, you still might not be able to open it.

Until you fix the damage to the hood, you likely won’t be able to get the hood working properly again, so address the damage first.

Related: What is Car Frame Damage?

What to Do if Your Hood Won’t Open

hood wont close all the way

If your hood doesn’t open, it can be an easy problem to ignore until you need to get underneath the hood for something. But since there are times you need to get underneath the hood, it’s not something you’ll want to put off for long.

If you’re going to try and fix the problem yourself, we recommend diagnosing the problem as soon as possible, this way, you can order parts if necessary and get the problem fixed.

However, if you’re leaving it up to a professional, schedule an appointment at a trusted repair shop immediately. This way, you don’t find yourself needing to get underneath your hood and not being able to in an emergency situation.

Read Also: 13 Types of Car Doors

How to Manually Pop a Stuck Hood

If you can’t get underneath the hood, it can feel like it’s impossible to figure out what’s going on and fix the problem. And it’s true; if you can’t get under the hood, you can’t diagnose the problem.

The good news is that it is possible to get under the hood if there’s a problem with the latch, release handle, or release cable.

However, if the problem is from an accident, it’s much tougher to get underneath the hood. In fact, unless you have automotive body experience or you’re not worried about damaging the hood further, we highly recommend taking your vehicle to a professional.

Even with a broken latch, release handle, or release cable, you’ll need to be extremely careful so you don’t damage the front of your vehicle when you’re trying to get the hood open. You’ll want to start with a flathead screwdriver that fits under the hood opening or into the grille.

You want to find the latch and then use the screwdriver to open it up. It should require some force to push the springs and open the latch, but it shouldn’t take too much force unless the latch has a bunch of rust holding it in place.

Another option you have is to try and find the cable release from the inside of the vehicle and use a pair of pliers to try and pull it to open the hood. However, this will only work if the latch is a little stuck or if you can reach past the broken part of the cable.

But this is an excellent solution if the tension is off for the release cable since you can pull it further than the traditional release handle would let you.

How Much Will It Cost to Fix?

The cost to fix a hood that won’t open all depends on the source of the problem. If the problem is that the release cable needs an adjustment, a mechanic might fix the problem for you and only charge you $20 to $40, and if you do it yourself, it’s free!

Meanwhile, a stuck latch might just need a little WD-40 to help loosen it up for when it’s cold out. But if you need to replace the entire latch, you can expect to spend between $150 and $175, with about $50 to $75 of that cost coming down to labor.

The cost to replace a hood-release cable is about the same, but the labor cost accounts for about $100 to $125 of the cost. So if you’re replacing it yourself, it will cost a little less than replacing a hood latch by yourself, but it will take a bit more work.

Finally, if you only need to replace the hood release handle, you can expect to spend about $50 to $75, with almost all that cost coming down to parts.

Overall most of these components are pretty easy to replace even if you’re a novice mechanic, but if there’s quite a bit of rust on the bolts it can be a little more challenging to remove them and finish the job.

How to Prevent Your Car Hood From Getting Stuck

Nobody wants to deal with a stuck car hood, and there are a few things you can do to help ensure your car hood doesn’t get stuck over the years.

  1. First, you want to use it. Parts that move around more are less likely to rust, so aim to open your hood every once in a while.
  2. And when you’re opening the hood, go ahead and apply some white lithium grease (or WD-40) on the latch to help keep it moving freely.
  3. Finally, if you can keep your vehicle parked indoors, it can help preserve the latch and other components too.
Adam Mann

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