Auto Repair Basics: Opening Your Hood

Too many auto repair articles and videos assume a certain level of knowledge on the part of the reader/viewer. While it’s nice to not feel condescended to, the truth is that many car owners know next to nothing about their vehicles. They know how to drive and change the radio station, but that’s about all. And frankly, with a good mechanic no more than a phone call away, it isn’t always necessary to know much more than that. Of course, taking the first hesitant steps into doing your own car work (or even checking your oil) requires expanding your knowledge just a bit. So here’s how to pop the hood.
The Lever
More often than not (at least if you drive a car made in the last twenty years), the first step to opening the hood will actually start inside the car. The lever for doing so will be located in a different place on every vehicle, but it’s under the dash more often than not. It will usually-but not always-be a much larger lever than those used to pop the trunk and the gas tank, but it works in a similar fashion. Check your owner’s manual for your car’s location. Just give it a tug and you should hear the hood release pop open.
The Safety Latch
You’re not out of the woods quite yet. To prevent the hood from accidentally flying open during vehicle operation, all cars are equipped with a safety latch. You’ll need to press this in and lift the hood simultaneously. This is another situation where it’s different on every model. Just pull the hood up as far as it will go and then feel around with your fingers until you come across it. If you’re having trouble finding it, there should be a diagram in your owner’s manual that will show you where to look. Press it in (or pull it out) and you should be able to lift the hood completely and access the engine for auto repair.
Keeping It Open
Hoods work in one of two ways: they either stay up on their own or have to be propped with a rod. If yours stays up on its own, congratulations! You’re all done and you can commence to checking the oil, changing the spark plugs, or any other auto repair you had in mind. If you need a prop rod, you should find it located on the right side of your engine compartment. It will be connected to the car on one end and loose (well, held in a small latch) on the other. Pull it up and put it into one of the holes on top of the hood. Set the hood down gently and make sure it isn’t going anywhere. That’s all there is to it!

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