When your car needs an oil change, but you can't open the hood, a minor mechanical problem turns into a major frustration. Generally, a few tricks and a little patience open a stuck hood, but there are worst-case scenarios that require lengthy manipulations. Once you open the hood, always fix the basic problem before closing it again.
Method 1 of 2: Avoid a failed latch or cable
Step 1. Press down on the bonnet while holding the inner latch
If the cable between the latch and the hood is sticky or stretched, it may not loosen properly. Most cars are designed to release the cable when the front of the hood is pressed. Do this while your helper pulls the inner doorknob. If it works, the hood will move and lift slightly and can then be opened with the exterior latch.
Step 2. Pull the cable from inside the cart
Locate the cable under the dash, near the interior release latch. Pull carefully on this cable and see what happens:
- If the bonnet is opened, the cable may have slipped or stretched. Try to adjust it at the front end or replace it if you see any damage (less often, the inner release latch could break).
- If you don't feel any tension, the cable is no longer connected to the front latch. Continue with the next step. Once you open the hood, check to see if you can slide it back on, or if the cable has broken and needs to be replaced.
Step 3. Position the doorknob through the grill
At this point, you need a place to reach the doorknob or cable from another angle. If you are lucky, you will be able to see the doorknob through the front grill. Search with a flashlight and a small mirror until you find a hooked object.
Alternatively, the latch may be accessible from the driver's side fender. On many cars, such as Honda's, the handle cables are routed through the inner fender on the driver's side. Remove the fender clips and reach for them. Pull the cable to open the hood. This only works if the cable is still connected to the hood latch
Step 4. Activate the latch with a long tool
Once you find the doorknob, reach for it with a long, thin screw. If the gaps in the rack are small, use a wire hanger instead. Hook it over the doorknob and toss it.
You can remove the grille for more direct access. Even replacing a non-removable grill could be cheaper than taking the car to a mechanic, depending on the model
Step 5. Approach from under the hood
If you can't handle the handle from the front, your last chance is to reach under the hood and try to pull the cable with a pair of pliers, or reach the handle. This will be much easier if you lift the car and consult the owner's manual.
- Warnings: If the engine was running recently, let the car cool down before getting under the hood.
- If it doesn't work, take the car to the mechanic. Removing the front bumper yourself may end up being more expensive than paying for a repair.
Method 2 of 2: Open the Stuck Bonnet
Step 1. Park the vehicle
Park the car on a level surface and set the parking brake. Park at home or in a car garage if possible. If it turns out that you can't fix the problem on the spot, you don't want to be forced to close the hood again to drive to a mechanic.
Step 2. Locate the release latch
If you're unfamiliar with the car, look for the interior release latch under the steering wheel, underneath near the driver's door, or in the corner of the glove compartment. Often it has an image of a car with an open hood.
- Some older cars only have an exterior release. Find a latch under the front edge of the hood.
- If you can't access the car, skip over to fixes that don't require interior access.
Step 3. Test the interior release latch
When working properly, this causes the handle to move upward for short distances. If you hear a sound, but the latch doesn't move at all, it's probably stuck. Proceed to the next step to fix it. If you don't hear anything, there is probably a problem with the cable or the latch mechanism. Skip to the next section.
If the hood opens partially, all you need to do is press the outer latch on the front of the hood. This handle is usually in the center or only on one side, and it is possible to push up or to the side
Step 4. Hit the hood to make it unlock
Stand outside of the driver's seat and reach out to hold the interior release in the fully pulled position. With your other hand, hit the hood with your open palm. If you're lucky, the hood only needs one hit.
Be careful not to dent the hood. You may need to use force, but keep your hand in an open palm position
Step 5. Try opening the hood with a helper
Have a friend pull the inner release and hold it there. Stand in front of the vehicle and pull on the hood slowly and firmly. If the only problem is rust or dirt, you can usually fix it. If the hood won't move, don't force it.
Step 6. Leave the engine running when it is cold
Cold weather or frost can cause the hood to stick. Let the engine idle for a bit to defrost the frozen parts, then try opening the hood again.
If the hood still won't open, the cable or latch mechanism may be malfunctioning. Continue to the next section to continue troubleshooting
Step 7. Check the latch after opening it
Once you open the hood, check for broken parts of the latch or any worn wire that needs to be replaced. If you don't see obvious problems, just lubricate the doorknob with a penetrating oil.
- Lubricating the cable with a spray lubricant may also help. Insert the mouthpiece of a straw into the end of the cable, between the inner cable and the outer jacket. Squeeze the area with a cloth and spray.
- Don't use silicone spray under the hood. It can contaminate the oxygen sensor, reducing engine performance.
- If you can't repair a faulty cable instead, tie a string around the doorknob before closing the hood.
- Most kingpins don't stay up on their own. Once open, lift the support rod and use it to support the hood.
- Some older cars have a hinged hood in the front and can be simply raised.
- An accident can change the latch mechanism and prevent it from working properly. You may be able to manually adjust the position of the handle to fix it. Only do it if you are sure it is in the wrong position.
- Always keep the keys with you when working on your car. That way, no one will be able to drive the car or start it when you are working, nor will it accidentally lock with the keys in it.
- Always be sure to close the hood securely before driving. If the hood is not secured properly, it may open on the road due to aerodynamic forces. This can obscure the driver's vision or even separate the hood completely at high speeds.