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  • A hood latch acts as a fastener that keeps the hood shut. It also opens the hood a couple of inches once you pull the release level that’s usually located below your dashboard.
  • Collisions, rust, misadjustment, and normal wear and tear are the common reasons why hood latches fail.
  • The hood release cable or a broken cable mount under the dash are two of the most common failures that cause problems when opening the hood.

Your ride’s hood protects your engine from debris and other elements while also providing access to the engine during maintenance and repair. The hood latch assembly makes it possible for your hood to do that.

How Does a Hood Latch Work?

A hood latch acts as a fastener that keeps the hood shut. The hood latch mechanism also opens the hood a couple of inches once you pull the release lever that’s usually located below your dashboard.

The lever or release handle is usually connected to a cable that triggers the actuator to disengage the latch, allowing the hood to open by a few inches.

After the hood is initially “popped,” as the common lingo states, the hood opens just an inch or so, providing access to the secondary safety latch that must be released by hand before the hood can be fully raised. This safety latch is required by U.S. federal law.

If you don’t know where the secondary latch is, it can be challenging to find it. Sometimes, the secondary hood latch will have a yellow element that makes it easy to spot.

What Are the Reasons Why Hood Latches Fail?

automotive hood latch
Like any other mechanism in your vehicle, hood latches can also fail.

Like any other mechanism in your vehicle, hood latches can also fail. Here are the common reasons why it happens:

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Road accidents, especially front-end collisions, can damage your hood latch. If your vehicle was recently involved in an accident, whether it’s major or minor, make sure you check your hood latch along with other parts of your vehicle.

A hood latch can also be accidentally damaged if a person working on the car with the hood open drops something on the latch, so that it’s bent.


Rust and corrosion can cause the hood latch to fail. This is more of a problem in northern climates where cars rust due to road salt. You can find your latch hidden inside your hood, but it doesn’t mean it’s safe from moisture and the elements. For example, a hood latch that’s located behind the grille can be vulnerable to corrosion because of air, moisture, and salt spray.


If your hood opens partially, you might be dealing with a misadjusted hood latch. A misadjusted latch can shift from where it’s bolted, so the hood will only open partially.

Typically, the holes in the hood latch mechanism are much larger than the bolts. Their holes and the bolts will have a large slightly cupped washer that’s part of the bolt with barbs around the outer edge of the washer facing the surface of the latch mount. A misadjusted hood latch bracket can make it difficult for you to close your hood.

Normal Wear and Tear

Although hood latches can last the life of your vehicle, it isn’t uncommon for them to wear out. Around 10% of the vehicles more than 10 years old will have some kind of hood latch malfunction. Frequently opening your hood, dirt contamination, and more factors can cause hood latch failure. If you own an old vehicle and suspect a hood latch problem, get it checked right away to avoid major problems down the road.

Frozen or Damaged Hood Release Cable

Aside from a bad latch, there are other reasons why a hood may become difficult to open. The hood release cable or a broken cable mount under the dash are two of the most common failures that cause problems opening the hood. When replacing the cable (it can be a tough job), make sure that the grommet is firmly in place where the hood cable passes through the bulkhead into the engine compartment. If you don’t seat the grommet, you’ll have a bad water leak that’ll wet the floor of the car when it rains.

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How to Open a Stuck Hood

Here are some tricks you can try if you need to open a car hood manually.

If there’s another person with you, let them hold the release lever while you press down on the hood. This can usually trigger a stuck latch to disengage. It doesn’t work a hundred percent of the time, but it’s surely worth a try. If this becomes necessary, adjust and lubricate the latch.

If you’re a DIYer, you can attempt to disengage the latch manually. Lift your vehicle using a jack and make sure it’s properly supported by jack stands. Slide underneath your car and locate your latch. Using a pry bar, reach for the latch and slide it. Your hood should pop open by then. Of course, you might not be able to access the latch this way, so this method isn’t 100%.

These are only temporary measures to open a stuck car hood in case of an emergency. It’s more advisable to leave a hood stuck closed than open. The best thing to do is take a trip to an auto repair shop and have a professional take care of the problem.

If you happen to try and fix the hood yourself without properly handling the repair, the safety latch might not work and the hood could fly up going down the road. This can break the windshield and make driving extremely dangerous if you’re on the road.

Is It Safe to Drive with a Bad Hood Latch?

You can technically drive your car even if your hood latch broke or it malfunctioned. However, it’s not recommended if the hood is stuck open. Remember that your car hood protects the engine from the elements. If your hood isn’t sealed properly, contaminants can damage crucial components.

How Much Does Replacing a Hood Latch Cost?

car hood latch inspection
Depending on what’s wrong with your latch assembly, you might also spend on a latch cable, actuator, and other related components.

Expect to shell out around $100 for a hood latch replacement. Labor costs can go anywhere between $55 and $70. Your vehicle’s make and model as well as the brand you choose can affect pricing.

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Remember that these are just estimates. Rates can vary depending on where you’re located. Experts also recommend replacing the whole latch assembly all at once. So depending on what’s wrong with your latch assembly, you might also spend on a latch cable, actuator, and other related components.

How to Find the Right Hood Latch for Your Ride

Hood latches may seem like simple mechanisms, but that doesn’t mean you can just get any replacement assembly for your vehicle. Here are some of the things to consider when getting a hood latch.


Hood latches come in different types. Vertical hood latches, for instance, are installed upright while horizontal latches are parallelly flat. If you’re not sure which type of hood latch you need, you can consult your owner’s manual or talk to a trusted mechanic.


Many hood latches are made of stainless steel, which makes them durable. Some have additional plating to shield them from rust and other forms of damage.

Aside from type and material, there are other things to consider when buying a hood latch. For example, you might prefer a specific brand or you might have a price range in mind. There are many top-notch aftermarket hood latches out there, so you’ll surely find a replacement in no time.

The components inside your hood all play crucial roles in the operation of your vehicle. That’s why it’s important to keep them protected from anything that can cause them to fail.

Aside from your hood latch, make sure that other components like the grille and the hood itself are checked from time to time. Having these inspected during maintenance checks can help prolong the life of your engine and other nearby components.

About The Authors
Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician
Reviewed By Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

Technical Reviewer at

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

CarParts Research Team
Written By Research Team

Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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