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Hood Props and Latches - - - When the plunger on the pinball game doesn't work, you can't play. When the hood release doesn't work... well...


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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.

 


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Here's one thing to add: You pop the hood, reach in to release the wind-catch and there's a chain wrapped around the radiator support and through the holes on the underside of the hood, preventing you from opening the hood. A lock holds the chain together. No key on the key chain for the lock. So, you call the customer and he tells you, "Oh, I have the key in my pocket, you need it?"

 

You can't make this stuff up!

ROFL and I thought I was the only one that ran across that.

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gonzo: over the years have you ever seen a bad spring(s) that were once pretty standard to hold the car hood up? Seems to me we started having problems when they went to locking hoods and also the ones with shocks holding them up.

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gonzo: over the years have you ever seen a bad spring(s) that were once pretty standard to hold the car hood up? Seems to me we started having problems when they went to locking hoods and also the ones with shocks holding them up.

not many times. But, I've seen guys get whacked with an unsprung hinge.
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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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