Question: I have a 1986 Toyota Camry with a hood that won't open. The cable release level inside the car doesn't seem to release the latch. None of the service manuals have any information on how to release or open the hood. The Toyota service department wants $159 to open it. Any suggestions?--C.W.B.
Answer: It is a sad day for the home mechanic when he or she can not even get the hood open. It shouldn't cost $159 for something as stupid as opening a hood, but that's modern car design.
The latch is supposed to prevent thieves from getting at the engine or battery. It should have a manual override, but does not.
You don't have too many options. As tempting as a crowbar or a cutting torch might be, you are going to have to carefully locate exactly what is broken. If the problem is in releasing the lever and cable under the dash, then it will be relatively easy to solve. You need to disassemble the lever.
If the problem is under the hood, however, you will have to attempt to remove the grill to get access to the latching mechanism. A long Phillips and slot head screwdrivers are necessary.
If your efforts fail, take the car to a body shop and ask them to open the hood. A body shop deals with these sorts of problems all the time and might be significantly cheaper than your dealer.
Q: My gas station mechanic noticed the cables on top of my battery were all gunked up. He suggested I use some dissolved baking soda and a stiff brush to clean them. When I did, water got into the electrical system and I had to replace the alternator for $300. Now the chimes that let me know the doors are ajar don't work. What did I do wrong?--P.D.
A: Everybody's father taught them to clean battery posts with baking soda. It works, but you have to be careful not to splash water all over the electrical system. You obviously got carried away and doused your engine.
The gunk on your battery posts may indicate that it is leaking and needs to be replaced. Some leakage is acceptable as long as the battery functions. But large buildups mean that battery fluid is coming up through the post holes and the battery is headed for a failure in the near future.
You will need to get a mechanic to fix the door chimes, unless you can lay your hands on a wiring schematic and are very good with electrical systems.
Q: You recently wrote about scratched and pitted windshields. You said there are certain kinds of polishing compounds that can be used on windshields, but you did not name them. Can I use polishing or rubbing compounds sold for my car's finish?--D.I
A: No. The polishing and rubbing compounds for your paint are far too abrasive for your glass. You will quickly ruin your windshield.
Some glass shops do attempt to polish windshields, but the practice is not widely accepted.
I would not recommend a polishing rouge to an inexperienced user, since they also are abrasive enough to cause you to damage the glass. I can't endorse it, but some professionals suggest that consumers can safely use toothpaste to polish minor imperfections in their glass. Of course, toothpaste is a mild polish. You will want to be certain to try it out in an inconspicuous area of your car first.