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Hood Won’t Pop (Mechanic’s Hack)

The Hood cable on my old Mercedes was getting stiff for a while, I knew it needed replacing. Then it happened, pulled the release and….”Snap”. I don’t blame the old girl, she gave me plenty of warning.

When your car hood won’t pop, try the following:

  • Have a helper press on the hood while the hood release handle is pulled.
  • Use a long screwdriver to reach up from below and pop the latch.

A stuck hood is a real pain in the ass without a doubt, but we’ll get it figured out. In this post, we’ll cover assessing the problem and opening the hood with as little fuss as possible.

Hood Won't Pop

Assessing The Problem

First, we’ll need to have some idea of what the problem is. Knowing what part of the hood release mechanism has failed will help us open the hood quickly.


The hood has 3 basic components, they include:

  1. Release handle
  2. Release cable
  3. Hood latch

1 The release handle does as you expect – it pulls the cable which pulls the latch. They are usually made from plastic, positioned inside the cabin, as car ages suffer from a few common problems, including:

  • Broken handle
  • Worn cable holder
  • Loose handle

2 The release cable is a cable just like a bike brake cable. It has an outer protective casing and an inner braided metal cable that does the pulling work. Common problems include:

  • Stretching
  • Breaking
  • Disconnecting

3 And finally the hood latch, it’s the business end of the system. The latch is attached to the shut panel and is surprisingly durable. I haven’t replaced many due to failure unless the car was accidentally damaged. The latch is spring-loaded and is designed to receive and lock the hood.

Hood latch

As you know, the latch has a secondary safety catch that needs to be unhooked. It’s a belt and braces approach. Common latch problems include:

  • Sticking
  • Out of adjustment
  • Loose

Mechanics Hacks

I’ve been a mechanic for over twenty years and meet this problem regularly. Here I’ll share my tips for opening the hood quickly. The last thing we want to do is damage anything, so we won’t attempt to force or pry any of the components.

When it comes to hoods not opening, your problem will likely fall into one of three groups.

  • Sticking latches
  • Release handle faults
  • Cable faults

Let’s go ahead and find out which problem you have and the best way to approach opening your hood.

Hood release handle

Sticking Latch

Symptom: Your release handle is pulling but your hood isn’t popping up. If this sounds like your problem, follow the steps below.

Tools needed – WD40 and a helper.

Step One:

Spray some WD40 into the latch area, you won’t be able to see the latch, but on most cars, there’s just one to the front and center of the hood. Cars with large hoods may have two, one on either side and to the front of the hood.

Mechanics hack for hood opening

Step Two:

You’ll need a helper to repeatedly pull and release the release handle, while you repeatedly apply pressure to the hood. This helps release pressure from the latch, and in many cases will pop the hood.

Use caution when applying pressure to the hood, some hoods will dent easily.

Release Handle Fault

Symptom: You’re pulling the release handle but it doesn’t feel like it’s pulling the latch, there’s no resistance on it. If this sounds like your problem, follow the steps below.

Tools needed – light, selection of screwdrivers, and vice grips.

Step One:

Check and see if the handle is connected to the cable.

Hood opening handle

Step Two:

Remove the release handle and use pliers or vice grips to pull the cable until the hood pops.

Hood opening hack

Cable Fault

Symptom: You’re pulling the cable, the handle stays in the pulled-out position and has no resistance. If this seems like your problem, follow the steps below:

Tools needed – jack, axle stands, light and a long screwdriver, or similar.

Step One:

Gain access to the underside of the car. You may need to remove splash covers.

Step Two:

Using a light, locate the latch trigger. Likely you’ll see the cable attached to it.

Hood latch

Step Three:

Find a way to press on the latch trigger using your long screwdriver. This is going to be a challenge but it’s doable, my tip – get comfortable and you’ll succeed.

Hood opening

Caution – I never depend on a jack, Please always use axle stands to support the car.

You can check out all the tools I use including workshop manuals here on the Mechanics tools page.

Related Questions

Hood pops up but won’t open? The hood safety catch hinge is sticking. Spray it with WD40 and allow it time to penetrate. When open lube the hood latch and safety catch with white lithium grease.