Front Hood Latch


Problems with the front hood latch seem to be fairly common; for example -

  • My hood doesn't lock shut. When I shut it and give it a little push, it sounds like the latch catches, but if I pull the handle the hood opens right back up. Is there an adjustment that can be made to the latch so that it stays shut?
  • We're having a devil of a time with the front hood latch. Someone in their frenzy to "customize" removed the hood handle from my '73 SB, then filled in the holes and painted it nicely. We've dug out the bolt holes and replaced the handle and the latching mechanism, but apparently the car has been front-ended in the past and the parts don't mate up. There are two latch points--the one that is released by the button on the handle and the other that is released using the lever in the glove box. Neither latch point connects with it's mate right now. We're having a hard time seeing where the mismatch is and correcting it.
  • Someone else found that it was not a lateral alignment problem but a vertical one; i.e., the lower part of the latch was too low and wasn't catching the upper part as it came down, even with the upper latching post lengthened as far as it would go. He hammered the apron up a bit and solved the problem. Dave questioned, "How do you "hammer" it up from the bottom when there is only about an inch and a half of clearance? Obviously he had those elements of the body torn apart when he did it." Maybe he was hooking a 'slap' hammer into the hatch hole and pulling it up. Rob suggested, "Maybe there is some way you could put some strong wire around/through the latch and use this to pull the whole thing up a bit with a lever or whatever. It would need to be carefully done though -- don't want to pull the latch free of the body!

The Bentley Manual says (Section 5.2) -

Open and close the hood several times to check the lock's operation. If you can lift the hood slightly after it has locked, the lock pin in the upper part is too long. If the hood must be pressed down very hard to lock it, the lock pin is too short. To adjust the lock pin, loosen the locknut on the top of the pin and turn the lock pin with a screwdriver. Tighten the locknut when the correct length is obtained.

Someone suggested that we get down to eye level with it on the side and see exactly where it's hitting. From there you can either adjust the whole hood at the hinges or bend the striker bolt a little to make it go in. (Dave tried this but wasn't able to see the latching mechanism clearly.) If the apron has been pushed in from an accident too much you would have to correct this. The lower latch mechanism is riveted on the frame, so any adjustment has to be on the handle/lid side.

Dave had a good idea -- He filled the bottom portion of the latch with modeling clay, then push the upper part of the latch down into it so he could determine exactly where the top piece falls. When he did so, Dave found that the male latching piece pressed into the modeling clay almost right in the center, but it needed to go in about another half an inch to mate up with the lower latching element.

Dave turned the male part of the latch in the bonnet as far out as I could get it (until it fell out), trying to extend it down into the bottom part of the latch, but no deal. There didn't seem to be an easy solution to this problem.

As an interim fix, Dave jerry-rigged a locking device for the front bonnet lid. He got a 6' length of heavy cable with loops in either end, sheathed in shiny black plastic (a bicycle locking cable). Then he ran the cable through the handle on the trunk, then down around the bumper brackets on either side and connected the two ends with a heavy weather-proof lock. Not a permanent fix, but it worked and didn't look TOO bad either. At least it kept his tools and all the other stuff under the bonnet from being stolen until he could make a permanent fix.

Dave and Rob bounced around several possible methods of raising the lower portion of the hood latch, as well as several alternate methods of locking the hood. Dave finally determined that the scrunched-in front apron was at fault; he found that it was not possible to mate up the two halves of the latch mechanism properly because the front apron had been badly damaged in a front-end collision. Dave ended up replacing the front apron and the entire hood latch mechanism. It wasn't until he replaced the front apron (see our discussion of the Front Apron) that Dave was finally able to resolve the problem with the hood latch.

Dave attached the lower latch piece of the latch to the new front apron with four little bolts (the original was riveted in place). Because this piece sees a lot of action, Dave secured the nuts with Locktite. Before installing the bottom latch piece Dave lubricated it and the wire and lever well to make sure it would operate properly.

Rob wrote - You can get a feel for the hood hatch by pressing the knob and lowering it gently until it just catches the knob catch, without locking the lid. If the lid descends straight on to the latch it should lock OK when you press further. The latch on my Bug needs a tiny adjustment I think, though the lock itself is fixed, the sprung "bayonnet" (don't know what to call it) can be moved around slightly. You might even be able to see it a little by looking in from the side with a bright light.

Dave installed the handle and the upper latch portion with new seals. Then he closed the hood down -- and thought he was realizing his worst fear! The button latch caught on the lip on the front apron, just like it's supposed to, but then he couldn't push the button in far enough to release it, and he couldn't get the hood open again! He tugged and tugged -- and it finally came free. Obviously some adjustment was needed! The top latch piece it has quite a range of up-and-down adjustment.

Rob wrote - Sounds like the catch on the lid needs to move forward/down if the bolt holes will allow, and maybe the catch mechanism moved back a little if possible. If you can't get the catch and hood hook further apart, you may be able to bend the catch-lip up a little so it makes a "softer" catch on the hood hook.

Get it reasonably centered in the hole. Set the pin very long to start with, so you can see it from the side as it descends on to the catch. Maybe you can jam the release lever open at the glove box lever so it doesn't catch at first, so you can close and reopen it without the "tooth" (don't know what else to call it) grabbing the pin. The final setting of the latch pin should be that you hear the button catch click, then a slight extra push gets the pin to latch - it should be just touching the rubber seal.


Some Questions and Answers
Regarding the Front Hood Latch

Someone wrote - The trunk (front hood) is presently shut, and I can not get the latch to release. I have pulled the inside release and then pressed the button on the handle...but it holds fast. I was able to look between the hood and the body and see that the button on the handle is it has to be the inside release that is not letting go. I have tried pulling the cable with a pair of vise grips, but it still does not release.

Rob responded - It's unusual for the hood to jam without it being fully shut. Normally if it will lift a little and then jams it means it jamming on the button catch, not the main hood release, since the two-catch system crabs with the button catch first, then as you push it down further it grabs on the main release mechanism, meaning it's shut hard before the main catch gets hold.

The only way to release a completely stuck catch is to saw the handle in half - then the lower part should spin off it's single retaining bolt, leaving the catch mechanism still in the latch, but the hood itself is released. It means buying a new handle, but they're not expensive.

Someone asked - Is it OK to disconnect the inside hood release mechanism on my 74 Super Beetle and drive the car like that just using the hood latch to keep it down? Will the hood maybe fly up?

Someone responded - My 1974 Super Beetle had a problem with the latch mechanism after we put it all back together from the restoration. The cable was not run in the same place as it was before the resto. So that effected the throw distance of the cable. After routing the cable it properly and readjusting it at the latch, it worked fine. So in a more direct answer to your question -- I drove with the unit not latched by the additional mechanism around town just fine. I never took it on a long haul or past 50 mph. Just my experience, not a guarantee!

Another response - I don't have anything holding down the hood on my '67 bug because of front end damage, and it never even THINKS of flying up. But then again, I have really good hood springs.

As indicated above, it wasn't until Dave replaced the front apron that he was able to make the hood latch work properly.


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