How to Raise Your Vehicle's Hood

How can you check the oil, coolant, and transmission fluid, refill windshield wiper fluid, and check accessory belts if you don’t know how to get the hood of your vehicle open? Opening the hood is easy and uncomplicated — if you know how to do it. Although the location of the hood release may differ from one vehicle to the next, all releases work in pretty much the same way.

If after reading the following instructions and consulting your owner’s manual you still can’t figure out how to get your hood open, head for the full-service bay the next time you stop for gas and ask the attendant to show you how to do it. You may pay a little more for fuel and a tip, but the lesson will be worth it — and you can get your windows washed and your tire pressure checked for nothing!

Here’s how to open the hood yourself:

  1. Find your hood release and pop open the hood.

    Either consult your owner’s manual, or try to remember the last time a service station attendant opened the hood of your car. Did he or she ask you to pull a lever inside the vehicle? Or did he or she go directly to the front grill?

    In newer models, the hood release is often inside the vehicle, somewhere near the steering column or on the floor next to the driver’s seat. (It generally displays the word “Hood” or a picture of a car with its hood up.) In older models, the hood release is behind the grill or the bumper.

    If the hood release is inside the vehicle, press, push, or pull it until you hear the hood pop open. If the hood release is at the front, look around and through the grill and feel under the grill and behind the bumper to find a handle, lever, arm, or button. Then press, push, or pull it from front to back and side to side until it releases the hood.

    The hood will open a little, but it will probably be stopped by the safety catch — a metal lever that, when pressed one way or the other, releases the hood so that it can open all the way. This gizmo prevents the hood from opening accidentally while you’re driving.

  2. With one hand, raise the hood as far as it will go.

  3. With the other hand, feel along the area between the hood and the grill for the safety catch. Release it and raise the hood the rest of the way.

  4. Secure the hood if necessary.

    If the hood stays up all by itself, fine. If it doesn’t, look for a hood prop — a long, thin metal rod attached either to the underside of the hood or to the bottom edge of the hood opening. Either lower or lift the rod (depending on where it’s located) and fit the end of it into the slot that’s provided to hold it in place.

On some vehicles, the hood is held up by two gas-pressurized cylinders known as hood shocks. If the hood doesn’t feel secure, gas may have leaked out of these units and the hood could come down at any moment. If you’re not sure, secure the hood with a broom handle or similar object and have these units checked — or replaced, if needed — as soon as you can.

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