Hood Props and Latches
Just as soon as the manufacturers got away from using heavy springs to hold the hood up they went to these tiny hydraulic hood shocks. But, since these shocks don’t hold up all that well over years of use, coming up with a way to “hold up” the hood can turn into its own form of backyard engineering. So what do you do? Some of these car hood crafters find the proverbial discarded broom stick or something of adequate length to prop the bonnet up for them. It works; hey… it held the hood up right? When the job under the hood is done you’ll tuck it away in the garage, or find an appropriate spot under the hood where you can leave it for future use. Once the hood is closed what was once a problem is now not a problem; out of sight – out of mind. Needless to say, replacing the hood shocks isn't high on the maintenance priority list.
I make it a habit to re-purpose old broom sticks myself. If I need a more unobstructed access under the hood, or those old hood shocks have the “dropsies” (Yea, tell me you've never had that happen before.) I’ll reach for a pair of vice-grips to clamp onto the shock rod instead of propping it up with the broom stick.
Of course there are those cars out there that don’t use hydraulic shocks at all. A lot of manufacturers have gone with using a permanent hood “holder-upper” rod permanently mounted in the engine bay. What baffles me about them is the countless times I've opened a hood and the rod has vanished. Now I’m back to finding that broom stick of mine, or look around for the owner’s creative “holder-upper” tool they so carefully stashed somewhere under the hood.
What I’d like to know is, “Where do these hood props go?” They’re attached. I mean seriously, how do ya lose a hood prop? I just don’t get it. I can see somebody misplacing the jack because they changed a tire in their garage and didn't put it back, but the hood prop? It’s mounted in there so you can’t misplace it. It has one function in life, that’s to hold up the hood. What? Did somebody find a better use for one? I’d like know!
Once these props and shocks have become non-functioning the quick thinking car owner comes up with a solution. Some are feats of real engineering while others just grabbed whatever was handy. I’ve found everything from a shortened 2X4 stud, re-bar tree limbs, PVC pipe, yard sticks, walking canes, pool cues, batons, pieces from a swing set, ax handles, large monkey wrenches, metal chair legs, and even a full size crutch stuck under the hood. I've got to admit, some of these creations are quite unique. Some of them might be worthy of a patent. Heck, why not… someone is always building a better mouse trap you know.
All this talk of propping the hood up gets me to thinking about the other ingenious home repairs people have come up with regarding the hood, and that’s how do ya get the thing open when it won’t open. These days every car manufacturer I know of has gone with an inside release rather than the main latch release out under the front grill or bumper. The real surprise about the hood release snafu is when someone drops a car off for repair and neglects to tell the mechanic that they “rigged” the hood release. If the inside release isn't where it’s supposed to be… well then…the search is on…. (Usually with a spattering of inappropriate comments to go along with it.)
Once you find the remnants of the cable or handle then it’s a question of whether or not to pull the cable, wiggle it, or yank it for all its worth. (More “words” will commence in just a few seconds.) Oh, I’ve spent my fair share of time groping around looking for the working end of the release cables before. And, of course there’s always the one with the cable broken off. (Grrrr…!) That’s about the time I’ll look at the repair order to see what I’m really supposed to be doing. As usual, nowhere on the RO does it say, “Good luck finding the hood release cable!” or “You might want to fix the hood cable before you change that water pump.” Nope, not a chance… seems everyone including the owner has forgotten all about the hood being an issue. Leave it up to the mechanic to find out all about it, aye? It’s a thrill a minute around here folks! (Start the chant; “I love my job, I love my job. Repeat as necessary.)
It just keeps getting better… how about those mystery hoods? The ones that give you no signs that the main latch has released. You pull the lever and nothing happens. On some cars you grab that sucker and pull so hard you think you’re going to jerk the cable clean into the trunk, while others you can feel the latch releasing with a baby soft tug, but the hood doesn't budge. It’s still even with the rest of the body panels. That’s when you have to go out and use the old “Fonzie bump on the jute box” trick to get it to pop open. Some pop right up, but eventually you’ll run across a stubborn one, usually with the telltale signs of a screwdriver being used to pry it up high enough to get your fingers to the secondary safety latch. (Grumbling and cussing has erupted again.)
Needless to say, the objective of the day was to get into the engine bay for whatever repairs you needed to make. Not make a chore out of just getting the blasted hood open. But it happens… happens a lot. Once in a while the owner will politely tell me that the hood doesn't open up very well. I appreciate that. At least now, I’m aware of the problem and not confronted with the unexpected dilemma of an uncooperative hood. Sometimes I do have to ask the customer, “Say, how do ya get your hood open?”, even though I feel like an idiot doing so. Wasn't I supposed to be the expert here? I thought it was my job to tackle car related problems and make the necessary repairs? Honestly, what kind of impression are you making with that new customer who’s at the shop for the first time, and you have to go up front just to ask them how to open the hood of their car?! Needless to say, you've probably already spent way too much time trying to figure it out on your own… before you swallowed your pride and went up to ask. (Been there…done that.)
Well, the next job is coming in, and I can already see the hood cable dangling from under the front bumper on this one. Oh joy, another day in the shop… great, just great… I best go find that broom stick… I’m going to need it.