If you’re used to pressing a button to open the car’s doors and hood, a dead battery won’t allow you to do that, but all is not lost.
Key Takeaways: You can open the hood of a car with a dead battery by simply using the driver-side key to open the door and manually pulling the latch that controls the hood. Then, open the hood as usual and charge, jumpstart, or change the battery.
Even a car with an electronically-controlled hood usually has a manual lever, although it may be covered. Otherwise, the locking mechanism might be external, you might be able to use a tool to open it from the outside, or you will have to supply power externally through the fuse box. A final method is the fusebox under the steering wheel, which applies only to some models.
I will guide you through this and go into more detail below.
Opening the Hood of a Car with a Dead Battery
The method to open a car’s hood may differ a little, depending on the car and make, but the general procedure is usually like this:
We’ll go through each of these four steps. This manual method is possible because even though the hood may be electrically actuated, the mechanism that latches it is still mechanical. [Hearst Magazine, 2005] This is also generally true for smart and electric cars.
I will show you 4 different methods:
- Method 1: Internal Lever – This is the normal and most common method, which also applies to cars with electronically-controlled hoods.
- Method 2: External Lock – Some “smart” cars have a locking mechanism accessible from outside the car.
- Method 3: Direct Opening – You will need a tool for this method, and it may or may not be possible, depending on your car.
- Method 4: Using an external power supply – This may be considered as a last resort if you can access the fuse box and it’s not under the hood.
Method 1a: Electronically-Controlled Hood
On some larger, newer smart cars whose hoods are completely electronically controlled, opening the hood may not seem straightforward, but it is.
This is typical in some electric cars. One example is the Mercedes EQS, which has a warning about the hood on its infotainment screen [Tiremeetsroad, 2021]:
“Only the specialist personnel of a qualified specialist workshop should open the hood. Access by the customer is not permitted. To open the hood, consult a qualified specialist workshop.”
So we’re now in an era when you’re not allowed to open your own car’s hood!
Whatever your thoughts may be at this point, it’s just a legally required warning. Normally, you open the hood electronically, but it’s still possible to open the hood manually, too. Electric cars usually also come with manual hood-release levers.
The Mercedes EQS has a lever inside, but it has a plastic cover over it. Just take the cover out, pull the lever, and open the hood. It’s located under the dashboard, near the accelerator.
Method 1b: Internal Hood-Release Lever
This is the normal and most common way of opening a car’s hood.
Step 1: Use the Key to Open the Driver-Side Door
You will need the key to open the driver-side door.
It will either be attached to the key fob or inside it. Key fobs come in various forms and sizes. In some, the key is external and visible; in others, they are hidden inside.
If the key is hidden inside, open the fob to access it.
Once you have the physical key, please insert it into the slot on or under the driver-side door handle.
If you have a hatchback and can access the car from the back, you can do that instead: get inside to the driver’s side to open the hood latch.
Step 2: Pull the Hood Latch until You Hear it Pop
Once you have gotten inside the car, locate the hood latch.
If you’re unsure where it is, it is usually in one of the following two locations:
- Under the front end of the driver seat, near the door
- Under the left or right side of the steering wheel
The hood latch might have an icon of a car with an open hood, as in the picture below.
Once you have located the hood latch, just pull it until you hear a pop sound of the hood opening.
Step 3: Open the Hood Manually
Now, go to the front of the vehicle and open the hood manually by feeling for the hood release lock.
The hood is partially open if you notice that it is slightly raised. It would be best to put your hand under the hood’s front edge, usually near the center, although it might be slightly to one side.
Step 4: Access the Battery
Once the hood is open, you can easily access the battery.
Since the battery is dead, you must either recharge it, jumpstart the car, or change it if it cannot be recharged. You might only need to clean the terminals or tighten the cable connectors, so check if that’s the case.
Method 2: External Lock
Newer “smart” cars with greater electronic controls may have a hood controlled by an external lock or lever.
The procedure is different from opening the hood in a traditional vehicle. There is no lever to access from the inside of the car. It’s located outside instead.
In one case, there were locks on both sides of a front grill. You pull them together, and the hood pops open.
Then, you simply lift the hood up to access the battery in the internal part.
This is more likely to be the opening mechanism in small cars with small hoods that you can easily lift up. Remember to close the locks when putting the hood back on.
Here’s a closer look at the hood release lock on another smart vehicle:
Method 3: Direct Opening
On some vehicles, it’s possible to open the hood directly with a tool.
This method could be useful if you can’t open the car’s door, you’ve lost the key, or the hood release latch is broken. Here’s the view from the front grill of one car:
If you can see and access the end of the hood release cable, you might be able to use a long tool to open the hood directly. Push the L-shaped metal piece back. The spring should stretch, as shown below, and the hood will pop open.
Method 4: If The Hood Is Electrically Controlled
Suppose none of the above methods work for you. In that case, the car is completely electronically controlled, you have a dead battery, and you can’t find any manual lever; you’ll need to supply power to the car’s electrical system externally. Here’s how:
Step 1. Identify the positive and negative terminals in the fuse box or another accessible point. Consult your car’s manual to locate the fuse box and terminals. Note: many cars have a fuse box under the steering wheel, often on the driver’s side. This is generally the location of the interior fuse box, while another one, the engine compartment fuse box, is usually under the hood.
Step 2. Connect the negative clamp to a grounded part of the car, such as the chassis. Make sure it’s a clean, unpainted metal part to ensure a good connection.
Step 3. Try to open the hood using the regular method.
Hearst Magazines. Popular Mechanics Vol. 182, No. 3. Hearst Magazines. 2005
Hood latch location and icon. https://xotictech.com/products/hood-latch-release-handle-auto-hood-release-pull-handle-for-chevrolet-silverado-tahoe-suburban-gmc-sierra-yukon-xl-cadillac-escalade-2007-2014-truck-latch-cable-interior-pull
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