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How to Fix a Hood Latch That Won’t Lock? – 2 Solutions

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to fix a hood latch that won't lock

Imagine you are preparing to go on a vacation. You are all set and ready to go, but you decided to check your car’s engine for a while just to be sure of everything. Now that you are about to leave, the car hood won’t close, and that could be dangerous for a long drive.

Below are detailed steps on how to fix a hood latch that won’t lock so you would be able to drive freely and safely anywhere.

Ways to Fix a Hood Latch That Won’t Close

Option 1: Latch cleaning


Cleaning may be the simplest and most cost-effective fix for a corroded latch, which you can check if the release lever frequently sticks. It might also be the only thing you need to do.

What to prepare

  • Small wire brush
  • Rag or a small piece of cloth
  • WD-40 lubricant (preferably, dirt and dust resistant dry lubricant)
  • 90-degree pick tool or a screwdriver
  • White lithium grease

Step 1: Remove all built-up dirt and rust

Using your small wire brush and/or a rag, remove as much dirt and rust as you can. If your brush or rag doesn’t fit between the gap of the latch, you can skip this part.

Step 2: Apply WD40

Using the straw, apply as much WD-40 lubricant on the latch as possible, especially on the moving parts. Use a 90-degree pick tool or a screwdriver to move the latch while spraying the lubricant.

You may also use the lubricant on the cable, its housing, and its springs in the case of a latch that won’t open all the way.

  • Note: Be careful when spraying around the area, as you may damage the oxygen sensors of your engine. Wipe with cloth the areas where you do not need the lubricant.

Step 3: Apply grease

You should use white lithium grease for the moving parts of the latch to ensure they move smoothly after cleaning.

Be generous when applying to protect your latch from dirt and moisture for a long time.

Step 4: Check if it works well again

Use the 90-degree pick tool or a screwdriver to check if the latch is functioning properly before closing the hood. You may not be able to open it once you close it without making sure it works.

Option 2: Latch replacement


In some cases, it takes more than just cleaning to fix the hood latch on a car. Replacing the damaged part is essential in these cases to avoid further damage and accidents. We will use as an example the Chevrolet Cobalt hood latch for replacement.

What to prepare

  • Replacement latch or part
  • 10mm socket
  • Trim tool set or push pin pliers
  • 90-degree pick tool or a screwdriver

Detailed steps

  • Step 1: Clear up some space to work with by removing some push clips. Use the trim tool or push pin pliers to gain more access to the latch.
  • Step 2: Use the 10mm socket to remove the three mounting bolts that attach the latch to the car. Once the latch is detached, you may now replace it with a temporary hood latch or a new one, along with a new cable.
  • Step 3: Make sure you return the previous cable or attach the new cable before installing the latch. You will hear a ‘click’ sound when it is properly installed.
  • Step 4: Install the new latch to the car using the 10mm socket. Make sure that it is returned to its original position before tightening the mounting bolts. Misaligned latch may cause it to not function properly.
  • Step 5: Check if the latch is working before closing the hood. 

Reasons Why the Hood Latch Won’t Lock

1. Corrosion

This is the usual suspect when it comes to problematic automotive hood locks. The buildup of rust, dust, and dirt causes your hood latch to harden and leads to your car hood not closing and often being sticky.

2. The problem may also lie with a broken cable

 A dirty or rusty cable can get stuck inside its housing so that it may not engage the hood latch. This can be a common issue why your VW hood latch won’t lock.

3. Rubber stops

Another reason why your hood won’t latch might be the rubber stops. They may be adjusted way too high to prevent the latch from reaching the lock on the hood.

4. Accidents

One more reason could be when the latch is damaged after an accident. The latch could be bent and misaligned, or a spring could be detached because of an accident. This could result in the malfunction of the latch.


Can you drive with a hood that won’t latch?

Although a broken hood latch does not keep your car from operating, it is not advisable as it is very dangerous.

Driving with a broken hood latch can cause your hood to suddenly open and obstruct your view of the road and surroundings, which could lead to danger and serious accidents.

Because of a similar risk of a failure with the Nissan Pathfinder hood latch, the company was compelled to recall over 322,00o units worldwide. The issue is found on models from 2013 – 2016, where the secondary hood latch won’t engage when dust and dirt build up over time.

How much does it cost to fix a broken hood latch?

Depending on the make and model of your car, costs may vary to replace a hood latch. The standard price ranges from $150 – $170, in which you will need to pay for at least $50 labor cost for replacement.

For instance, it is estimated that a Nissan Versa hood latch replacement ranges from $200 to $230. Meanwhile, a Chevy Cobalt hood latch costs about $30 -$100, depending on the models.

Where can I get my hood latch fixed?

Your local car dealer provides maintenance and services that can fix broken hood latch or replace the whole thing. Online platforms such as YourMechanic also provide that service right at your doorstep.


Keeping your hood latch clean and free from rust and dirt is the easiest fix you can do when it won’t lock. It is also the most affordable option you have.

But sometimes, you may need to replace it with newer parts, and now you can do it by yourself because you already know how to fix a hood latch that won’t lock.

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