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What is a Hood Latch?
This is as simple as it gets. It’s the latch. For your hood. It keeps your hood closed. Class dismissed.
Oh, you were looking for more info?
The hood latch is an extremely simple latch. When the hood is closed, the latch slides over what is called a catch, and a spring covers the latch to keep it snug. When you pull the knob inside the car to open the hood, the hood latch cable opens the latch, allowing it to bypass the catch and open.
There is, however, a second hood latch, to keep the hood from flying up if accidentally unlatched. That latch will need to be opened with your hand to get the hood fully open.
Like all great things - the hood latch will eventually wear out. It’s not uncommon for a latch to last the life of your vehicle, but it can die with excess use, or exposure to the elements. A crash is also a great way to break your hood latch, if you’re trying to ruin it.
Symptoms of a failing Hood Latch
Hood won’t latch
I’m guessing (hoping, really), that you didn’t need me to list this symptom. When the hood latch is broken, the hood may not be able to latch.
If that’s the case, the latch will be having a difficult time opening, which means the hood cannot close all the way. It’s like trying to close a house door with the dead lock engaged. It just ain’t gonna happen.
Sometimes you don’t realize this until you’re driving. It might feel like the hood is latching, but once your car is moving, you’ll realize that it was never all the way closed.
Hood won’t open
Just like any kind of latch, the hood latch can keep the hood from closing, or it can keep the hood from opening. Neither are very good!
If the latch is broken such that it’s keeping itself from being able to disengage, then the hood will not be able to open, and you’ve got a sticky situation on your hands.
Hood release doesn’t work
When you pull the hood release in your car, it releases the hood. In theory. But theories don’t always work.
If the hood latch has kicked the bucket, then it may not be properly connecting to the hood release, and the entire mechanism won’t work.
How urgent is a Hood Latch replacement?
If your hood is stuck closed, then it’s not an urgent service. You can safely drive your car until you need to do something under the hood (which will come quickly if you’re actually following your oil service schedule).
But if the hood is stuck open? Don’t drive your car. If you do, air will get under the hood, blowing it open, and blocking your view of the road. Which is as dangerous as it sounds.