How to Open Your Car Hood

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You may own your vehicle for some time before you ever need to open the hood. But inevitably, you will need to access this area, sometimes even if your vehicle is brand new. For example, you need to check your car’s fluids periodically, 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 cabin. 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.

hood release lever

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.

hand releasing hood from grille

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 grille or front bumper. You can peek through the grille 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 grille.

  • 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.

person engaging exterior lock

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.

person using prop rod

Step 2: 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 2 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.

person pressing on hood to get it unstuck

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.

hand holding release lever in place

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 2: 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.

hand reaching for hood release lever cable

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.

drivers side fender clips

Step 2: 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.

hood release tool being used

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.


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Tung

14 years of experience
280 reviews
Tung
14 years of experience
Subaru Forester - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Lithia Springs, Georgia
Tung was awesome! He arrived during the designated time and did a thorough job checking out a car I was planning on buying. An example of this was his finding a rat's nest (literally!) under a hidden compartment beneath the spare tire well. Tung impressed me as a mechanic who was very knowledgeable and had an attention to detail. He was also very cordial and customer-oriented. Along with sharing his knowledge and observations in a way that was informative and easy to understand, he answered every question I had completely and to my satisfaction. During his inspection, Tung found a number of mechanical and body integrity issues that made it clear that this was not a car I wanted to own. Two of these issues involved previous major repairs (including an accident) that were not previously disclosed by the seller and did not appear on CarFax, but could (should?) have. I have no doubt that because of Tung's findings I saved a lot of money in repair costs, probably within the next few months.
Honda Civic - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Atlanta, Georgia
It was a great experience. I would absolutely use his services again.

Wilson

11 years of experience
283 reviews
Wilson
11 years of experience
Ford Explorer - Lubricate Hood Hinge - Orlando, Florida
Wilson was fantastic. Very punctual, respectful, polite, and knowledgeable. Got the job done quickly. Super cool guy, great service, Wilson made a fan out of me today.

Maxwell

16 years of experience
390 reviews
Maxwell
16 years of experience
Jeep Cherokee - Lubricate Hood Hinge - Tomball, Texas
Did a great job with a strange situation. He got things working and got me back on the road. Very friendly, very knowledgeable.

Pete

14 years of experience
192 reviews
Pete
14 years of experience
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque - Lubricate Hood Hinge - San Diego, California
Always the best!!!

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