Since the dawn of the Ford Model T, the general front fascia of cars hasn’t changed. There are the headlights, the front grille, and the hood. Hoods carried your vehicle’s status symbol literally and figuratively. The longer the hood, the more luxurious the vehicle. At the end of that hood would sit the branding, or hood ornament of the vehicle. May it be Rolls Royce’s iconic Spirit of Ecstacy, Mercedes Benz’s Three-pointed star, or Buick’s Trishields. It’s important to remember that hoods have a practical purpose aside from just being an adornment, and a very important one at that.
What is a hood?
A hood, simply defined, is a cover over the vehicle’s engine, protecting the engine compartment. Hoods are hinged covers, locked in place with the hood latch, that can open up to provide access to the engine compartment underneath it. Aside from the conventional clamshell opening, hoods can open as a flipfront hood, or open forward and away from the vehicle (mostly found on early european vehicles.)
Engines resting in the front portion of the vehicle, have their hoods as part of the front fascia. Meanwhile cars with rear engines, like a Porsche 911 or Volkswagen Beetle, have a rear deck lid. Both serve the same primary purpose.
Hoods, also known as bonnets in British terminology, were usually made of a sheet of steel. With the new trend of using lighter body panels to increase gas mileage, car manufacturers have started to produce vehicles with aluminum hoods. High performance vehicles even use fiberglass or carbon fiber. If you don’t have the budget for a high performance vehicle, you can still always purchase an aftermarket hood made of composite materials.
What does your hood do?
Engines are generally made robust, ready to withstand the heat and stresses of everyday use. But there are still components in the engine compartment which need protecting from the elements. The vehicle’s hood provides protection from sun, rain, snow, and hail. It would be a nightmare to have the vehicle’s electrical system, or even the battery drenched in rain water. Imagine having to start a literally frozen engine block in the winter. The cost implication to repairing both are quite high.
Apart from protecting the vehicle, the hood adds to the vehicles aggressive look—especially those with large engines. There’s the power bulge, or the rise in certain portions of the hood so that components of a larger engine could fit, the hood scoop and hood vents which are a sign of performance responsible for feeding the engine’s top mounted intercooler, or even a top mounted radiator with cool air at speed to keep it operating at a standard temperature to name only a few enhancements which are the favorite of car modifiers. Sometimes modifiers even go to the extent of just gluing a hood scoop to the hood of their vehicle for no other reason but aesthetics.
Beyond protecting sensitive components of the engine, technology helps the hood keep pedestrians safe. Pedestrian related vehicle crashes are responsible for a large number of fatalities around the world. Car manufacturers have proactively made cars pedestrian friendly in terms of the design of the bumper covers, active safety technology like pre-collision warnings, and active hood technology. When a pedestrian makes contact with an oncoming vehicle, modern bumper covers have a pressure sensor that when activated, pops the rear hood latch up, lifting the rear of the hood four-inches, in order to create an area to absorb the pedestrian’s impact.
What can go wrong with your hood?
A vehicle’s hood absorbs a lot of abuse from nature. Being a large painted panel facing directly up at the sun, the hood is susceptible to fading paint. Much like our skin, paint also needs protection from the damaging UV rays of the sun. Sun damage appears to leave a faded, or dull looking finish to the hood’s paint, and at extreme cases, white mapping or oxidation when the clear coat starts to go. The finish of the paint of a hood can also be affected by the acids in bird droppings left unwashed, along with tree sap, and dead bugs that attach to the hood from highway driving. Polluted rain, or acid rain can also affect the luster of the paint on the hood, leaving heavy water marks behind.
Human factors as a result of nature also play a part in the damage of the hood, especially during winter. Removing snow and ice may sound like a simple task, but most hoods are damaged by ice scrapers, and the ice itself. Improper use of ice scrapers can scratch the paint of the hood. Water, which freezes, can go into the microscopic pores of paint and when scraped off, neglected paint on the hood can be lifted with the ice.
Aside from damages of nature, humans can also deform a hood by locking the hood latch improperly. In addition to that, deformation of the hood can be caused by materials such as tools used for the engine, being left in the engine compartment as you are closing the hood. This results to denting from the inside of the hood. Locking the latch when closing the hood can also cause denting, when hands are not placed at the proper location. Sudden force pressed down by hands can push down weaker points in the hood. Misaligned hood hinges also cause deformation, when they are not aligned, through twisting forces of one hinge higher than the other.
Daily use of a vehicle, especially those who commonly use the freeway, exposes the hood to external damages that are inevitable. Roads are generally littered with debris, most especially rocks, which are flung into the air by the tires of passing vehicles. Rock chips, or little paint scrapes caused by rock debris hitting the hood, are a result of this.
Larger damage comes in the form of accidents, causing the hood to totally distort, or fold. Situated at the front of the vehicle, the hood also receives the full grunt of the forces during a front end collision. Fender benders or low speed bumper contact, ideally shouldn’t damage the hood, but if speed is a factor, then for sure the hood will be damaged, and can’t be salvaged. Unsalvageable damage of a hood can also come by way of hail damage. Golf ball sized hail will create such damage that repairing the dimples, would cost more than replacing a hood.
How can I fix my hood?
The hood of a vehicle is generally weak, and structurally supported by braces underneath the metal. Small dimples, or dents can be repaired easily with paintless dent removal services, which usually charge $80-$250 and up, depending on the severity of the damage. Most paintless dent removal services will ask you to email a photo of the damage before they give a quote for more accurate pricing.
In extreme damage scenarios, where the vehicle got into a head on collision, a new hood is easily bought online, considering your hood latch and hood hinge survived. Consult the vehicle’s owner’s manual, for fit specifications before finalizing any purchase. An unfitted hood could unlatch at speed, and will slam it onto the windshield, causing damage which could have been avoided. A new OEM hood will cost roughly $103-$2,406, primered only, and ready for paint. Pricing will depend on year, model, and make, including the material which the hood was made of. Purchasing an OEM hood will give you the advantage of a warranty in the case it is defective from the factory. In the cases that the hood latch was damaged from an accident, they will roughly cost $8-$123, and a new hood hinges would roughly be $7/piece-$150/set. There is an option to purchase a hood assembly set, but it is limited to a handful of models.
If you want to use this opportunity to upgrade the appearance of your vehicle with an aftermarket performance part, carbon fiber hoods, and fiberglass hoods are readily available for purchase. Though more expensive than its OEM counterpart, composite material hoods aren’t as heavy as a steel hood, reducing overall vehicle weight, and in other cases increasing the gas mileage. A hood made of fiberglass rangers from $63-$4,882 unpainted, and a carbon fiber hood can roughly cost between $159-$10,499.
Recommendations before purchasing a new hood would range from, “get your parts from the dealership”, to “get your parts from the junkyard.” Refurbished hoods are a cost effective alternative to purchasing brand new OEM hoods, but they also come with their flaws. The condition before the hood was refurbished is unbeknown to the customer. Did it come from a wrecked vehicle? How long was the hood sitting in the junkyard before refurbishing? Is there rust where the naked eye can’t see? What was the quality of the paint? Many questions should be asked before purchasing a refurbished hood. Quality will define the longevity of the hood.
Body and paint shops can repair larger dings, and touch-up the existing paint on a hood. Trusted body shops, and paint shops are listed online, so do due diligence before proceeding with repairs. Inspect that the body shop is certified, and their paint area is clean with a proper painting booth. Note the price of a brand new hood, versus the price of repair at a body shop. Collision repair, if there is no paint needed will dip below $500, but in the case there is repair with paint, pricing can go north to $1,500.
How to Replace a Car Hood?
A weekend project some can easily dive into, the replacement of a hood is very simple. Two people will be needed for this project, along with the corresponding size of wrench/ socket and ratchet, and flathead screwdriver.
Open the hood, and secure hood upright with the prop rod.
If the windshield washer nozzle jets are attached to the hood, use the flathead screwdriver to remove the plastic clips holding the hoses in place, and remove the connection between hose from the windshield washer nozzle jets.
Using a wrench, or socket ratchet, loosen the bolts attaching the hood hinge to the hood.
Have an assistant hold the bottom of the hood, as the bolts are undone one at a time.
Lift detached hood, and place in an area clear of the working space.
Lift, and align your brand new hood with the bolts holes in the hood hinge.
Hold hood in place as you hand tighten the bolts to the hood hinge.
Using a wrench, or socket ratchet, tighten the bolts to secure the hood in place with the hood hinge.
Attach the windshield washer clips, along with the hose line to the bottom of the hood, and reattach the connection between hose and the windshield washer nozzle jet.
Remove any tools you may have rested on the fringe of the engine compartment, and close the hood.
Note, the hood should latch onto the hood latch with minimal force. If the hood doesn’t fall into the hood latch effortlessly, your hood may be misaligned. In addition, when the hood is locked into position inspect that the hood is flush with the body panels, and the panel gaps are consistent.
- Open the hood again, and lift upright. Make sure the hood opens fully, and closes smoothly.
For a hood with heavy water marks, or what looks like water droplets have dried to the paint, simple detailing techniques can be used to address the damage. Wash the hood thoroughly with car shampoo, and a microfiber cloth. Rinse, and dry, making sure no dirt, or grime is left on the hood. Use a clay bar, and some soapy water to lubricate the area which needs claying. In small sections clay the hood, listening for changes in the texture with each pass. Areas which need more claying sound as if there is an abrasive surface underneath, and rough to the touch. On the other hand, areas that have been successfully clayed will have no sound, and is smooth to the touch. After the whole hood has been clay barred, wipe the surface clean, and use a wax remover and degreaser to make sure the hood isn’t contaminated with any residue. Apply a polishing compound either with a rotary machine, or cloth, working in small sections at a time, in case of a mistake. Be aware that rotary machines create heat between the polishing pad and hood panel, which can burn through the base coat of paint. This may not instantly give a result, and may require multiple applications, which is completely normal. Once you are happy with the results of your poslishing, seal it in with a wax. Wax the hood till your desired luster appears.
The less aggressive method of repair, the better. If the paint seems to have mapping, or the primer is already at the surface, the hood will need a repaint. There are many videos online showing methods of how to repaint a hood only using rattle cans, but note that these are temporary fixes. Nothing beats a proper repaint of a hood by a professional body shop in terms of quality, and longevity. Repainting with rattle cans also bring up environmental, and health concerns, since most clear coats from spray cans are toxic when exposed to skin, or inhaled. In addition to that, when executed wrong, the result will create a hood with uneven paint, which is aesthetically displeasing.
The hood of a vehicle is one of the first things people see when they check a vehicle. Aside from the fact it keeps the vehicle looking great, keeping the hood top condition can also affect the resale value of a vehicle. Washing after road trips, or long stints exposed without a cover will greatly increase the life of a hood’s paint. If the vehicle cannot avoid being parked under the sun, a good wax every six months or so will keep it protected from the elements. Rock chips are unavoidable, but be weary, because rock chips can start rust spots. Prevention of paint contamination, and scrapes is the best action to further damage. Purchasing, and installing a clear bra, or a hood guard/bug deflector and guard will help with the battle. When there are bigger damages like dents, replace the hood all together to avoid causing further damage to other areas of the vehicle. A great looking hood, will always compliment the beautiful design of a vehicle.