You may own your vehicle for some time before you ever need to open the hood and look underneath. But at some point, you will need to access this area, sometimes even if your vehicle is brand new. For example, you will need to check your car’s fluids eventually, and it is essential that you know how to open the hood to do so.
Modern vehicles often come with a hood latch which is attached to a lever somewhere inside the vehicle. Before you can open the hood, you need to locate the hood latch. If you open the hood incorrectly, it can damage the latch or your hood and you may end up with the added expense of repairs.
Part 1 of 4: Finding the hood release latch
How you open the hood on your vehicle will differ based on whether it’s an older or newer model.
Step 1: Look for a release hatch inside the cabin of your vehicle. Newer models of vehicles have a latch to release the hood somewhere inside the cabin.
Finding the latch can be a bit tricky if you aren’t sure where to look. The release latch may be found in one of the following areas on your vehicle:
- Under the dash by the driver's door
- On the bottom of the dash under the steering column
On the driver's side floor
Tip: The release latch usually has a picture of a car with a open hood on it.
Step 2: Look for a release latch outside of the car. Older models open by releasing the latch under the hood.
You’ll need to search for a lever at the front of the vehicle beside the grill or front bumper. You can peek through the grill to find the lever or feel around the edges for a latch.
Warning: Make sure the engine is cool before you start feeling around around the grill.
Tip: If you can’t find the lever, check your owner’s manual to see where it’s located or ask a mechanic to show you where it’s positioned and how to get it open.
Part 2 of 4: Opening the hood
Step 1: Position yourself by the hood. Once you have released the latch, you will need to be on the outside of the vehicle to open the hood.
Step 2: Operate the exterior latch. You’ll only be able to lift the hood a few inches until you move the exterior lever under the hood to completely unlock it.
Step 3: Prop the hood open. To hold the hood in place, use the metal prop rod located on the inside of the engine bay, near the front of the car. Some models don’t require a rod and the hood will stay in place by itself.
Part 3 of 4: Opening a stuck hood
At times, the hood won’t pop open even when you’ve released the inside latch. Use the following steps to loosen the hood and open it.
Step 1: Apply extra pressure on the hood. Press down on the hood with open palms. You may have to slap down on it, but don’t use heavy force, such as with your fists, or you risk denting your hood.
Step 2: Get some assistance. If you have help from a friend, get the other person to sit inside the vehicle, release the interior lever, and hold it in the release position while you lift the hood at the same time.
This method often works if the latch has rusted or has grime or dirt on it.
Step 3: Warm up the engine. Cold weather often hampers the hood’s ability to open as frozen condensation holds it in place. Turn on the engine to allow the frozen parts to thaw. Once your car is warm, try to open the hood again.
After you open the hood, clean the latch. It is also a good idea to contact a mechanic to inspect the latch and either lubricate it or replace it, if needed.
- Warning: Avoid using a lubricant on your own because the wrong type can contaminate the oxygen sensor, which will impact your engine’s performance.
Part 4 of 4: Opening a hood with a failed latch
Sometimes, the latch may fail to work because it has been stretched or damaged.
Step 1: Try applying pressure to the hood. Pressing down on the hood while someone else releases the interior lever can allow the latch to engage even if it isn’t working correctly. If this step corrects the problem, the hood will raise slightly so you can open it up normally.
Step 2: Try tugging on the cable. If applying pressure doesn’t work or you don’t have someone available to help you, locate the cable that’s attached to the interior lever and tug on it. Be gentle and don’t pull too hard.
If the hood opens when you do this, it probably means the cable needs to be replaced.
Step 3: Try pulling the cable through the fender well. You may have to pull the latch cable through the fender well on the driver’s side. Remove the fender clips and reach inside the fender well to grab the cable and pull it.
This method will work if the cable is attached to the outside latch. If you feel no tension at all on the cable, it indicates that the cable is not attached to the front latch.
Step 4: Try using a hood release tool. If all else fails, you can use a small hook tool to reach under the hood and grab the cable or the latch to unlock it.
- Warning: Make sure the engine has cooled off to prevent your hands from getting burned when you reach in.
If you have trouble locating the latch or lever for the hood of your vehicle or if it’s difficult or impossible to open, enlist the help of a professional to open it for you. You can also get a certified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, to lubricate the hood hinge and replace the hood supports, if necessary.