A hood that won’t close is dangerous. I’m a mechanic, and this is a common problem luckily, the fix is usually simple and fast, and here it is!
The most common cause of a car hood that won’t close is hood latch corrosion. Corrosion causes the hood pull release handle to stick in the open position. Working the latch while applying a generous application of penetrating oil such as WD40 followed by a coat of white lithium grease will fix the problem.
Very often, resetting the stuck pull release handle allows the hood to lock. It’s a fast fix but not a permanent one.
In this post, you’ll learn why your hood won’t close, how to diagnose the root cause, and of course, how to nail the repair quickly. I’ll also cover some of the other possible causes.
Hood Latch Assembly Parts
- The hood lock – lock catches the striker and holds it firmly
- The release lever – lever located on the latch (operated by cable and pull lever) releases the hood lock
- The safety catch (hook) – safety catch is a secondary safety feature
In addition, a complete assembly system consists of:
- A pull handle – positioned inside the car
- Pull handle cable – cable activates the release lever
- A hood striker – anchor fixed to the hood
Hood Latch Corrosion
Corrosion is the root cause of hood latch problems. Your hood likely won’t lock because a buildup of debris and corrosion on the rear of the mechanism is causing it to bind. Without a working hood lock, it’s not safe to drive your vehicle.
Although a hood latch mechanism has, as you know, a lock and a safety catch, the lock holds the hood closed and the safety catch (hook) prevents the hood from flying open should the lock fail.
However, corrosion can affect both the lock and the safety catch simultaneously, and that, as you know, means the hood could fly open on the highway and block your vision.
Your hood latch mechanism is metal and lives at the front of the vehicle, where wind driving rain road debris like salts and grit is directed at the latch. It’s no wonder they corrode and if those conditions aren’t bad enough, consider when you last lubed the latch…….exactly, yep, I’m guilty too. Hood latches like door locks and hinges are forgotten until, of course, they don’t work.
There are other possible causes your hood latch won’t close, and we’ll look at those later after we have eliminated the most likely common cause – a corroded/dry latch.
How To Diagnose A Sticking Hood Latch
Begin diagnosing, first, check the hood release handle inside the car. If it’s in the open position, you can bet corrosion prevents the return spring from pulling the release lever back to the reset position. But to confirm this, we’ll need to check the mechanism.
To do that, we’ll first need to locate the hood latch. It’s located in the slam panel. That’s the panel that faces you as soon as you open the hood. The latch is located in the middle and may be quite visible or hidden by covers. Many higher-end cars may have two latches, one at either side of the hood.
When you locate the latch, examine for corrosion and debris. Check also that the return springs are in place. A stout spring for the lock and a finer return spring for the safety catch (hook). Some vehicles locate the safety catch on the hood assembly.
The hood release handle employs a braided metal cable like a bicycle brake cable to pull the release lever and release the hood lock. When the hood latch suffers from corrosion, this release lever often sticks in the open position, preventing the lock from holding the hood firmly closed.
For visible latches, this is evident by the position of the release lever and cable. However, as said, many latches are tucked away below covers and are therefore difficult to see.
To test the locking mechanism, use a long shank screwdriver and attempt to close the lock by pushing the screwdriver into the lock. That’s where the hoods striker activates the lock.
The lock should offer a ton of spring resistance as you apply force and should eventually snap into the locked position.
If the lock action doesn’t lock or feels stiff, grab a wire brush and some WD40 for the next part of the repair.
How To Clean & Apply Hood Latch Lubrication
A small wire brush works best. For some using a wire brush isn’t possible because the latch doesn’t offer any access, and if that’s you, go ahead and skip the wire brush part of the process.
If you can access the latch, remove as much rust and debris as access allows. Grab the WD40 and, using the straw, spray the latch liberally, especially on the pivots. Move the release lever over and back if access allows; otherwise, have a helper pull and reset the hood release repeatedly.
Lock the latch using a screwdriver again and have the helper pull the hood release. Repeat this process until the action is smooth.
Turn your attention to the safety latch (hook), spray WD40 around the pivot of the hook, make sure it moves freely, and be sure the return spring pulls it firmly.
With the three parts of the latch moving freely – the lock, the release lever, and the safety release (hook). Move to the final stage of the repair.
Apply white lithium grease to the latches moving parts. You can’t get the grease to the pivots but apply plenty. Spray white lithium is great for metal-to-metal contact, and it repels moisture.
You’ll find a link to good-quality white lithium grease on the Consumables page.
Other Causes Of A Hood That Won’t Close
Here’s a short list of other possible causes of a latch that won’t lock.
Cable – Cable fraying and binding inside the cable outer. Remove the cable from the latch and check for fraying and binding in the cable.
Adjustment – Rubber stops on the hood are set too high. This prevents the hoods striker from meeting the latch at the correct height. Try lowering the stops by turning them clockwise.
Alignment – The latch mechanism is fitted to the slam pane, and its position is adjustable, both up and down and side to side. Check the striker is meeting the latch correctly.
Handle – Pull handle assemblies are often made from plastic, and many wear out and may stick in the pulled position. Check for damaged or broken assembly components.
Faulty latch – The latch may be worn out or damaged. Check for bent, damaged, or worn-out levers or springs.
Accident damaged – As the latch lives at the front of your car, even minor mishaps will expose the latch to damage or at least misalignment. Apply a dab of grease to the striker and check where it hits the latch. Adjust as necessary.