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CAR TALK: Hood release is a two-step system, for safety

by Ray Magliozzi | June 3, 2023 at 2:01 a.m.

DEAR CAR TALK: Hello. I am Tahsin from Bangladesh! I have a question regarding my car. It's my first car, and I don't know much about cars.

My car is a Toyota Starlet, model year 1992, right-hand drive. On the floor of the driver side just near to the door, there are two levers, one small one, and a larger one in front of it.

The smaller one I know is the fuel door release lever. But what is the larger one for? — Tahsin

DEAR TAHSIN: That's the ejector seat. Try it.

Actually, that's the hood release. Or as you may call it in Bangladesh with your right-hand drive habits, the "bonnet" release. If you pull on it, it should move 4 or 5 inches. You'll feel some tension, and then hear a distant "thunk" and feel the tension go away. That noise is the hood latch releasing.

So why isn't the hood up after you pull the hood release? Well, for safety reasons, it's a two-step release system. To actually release the hood, you have to pull that lever, and then go to the front of the car, and hold a second part of the latch with one hand, while you open the hood with the other hand.

Here's why: Let's say you stop for fuel and accidentally pull the wrong lever. Then you get on the highway with your hood unlatched. At some point, due to the air currents, that hood will go flying up. And it'll either fully block your vision at highway speed, or if you're going fast enough, it'll tear off its hinges and smash into the car behind you.

We don't want either of those things to happen. So, to actually get the hood to open, the latch system requires you to be standing in front of the car and holding a second lever while opening the hood. Presumably, you can't do that if your car is speeding down the highway. Unless you Bangladeshis have figured out something that we haven't.

Enjoy your car, and be careful out there, Tahsin.

DEAR CAR TALK: I have a 2017 Chevy Volt that I bought in May 2016. It only has 36,000 miles on it.

Now that the rainy season is here where I live, and the car has abundant low-RPM torque, I notice that the front tires break loose with relatively modest acceleration.

My concern is that my "low rolling resistance" tires may not stop very well in an emergency. They also seem to be getting noisy. Should I replace these tires? — Jim

DEAR JIM: Probably. First of all, the tires that come as original equipment on cars are often not that great. The cheaper the car, the more likely they'll come with cheap, original tires.

So, it's not at all unusual for original tires to need replacement at 30,000 miles. Plus, in my experience, some low rolling resistance tires -- while increasing your mileage -- do seem to wear out a bit faster than standard tires.

Second, as cheaper tires wear out, their treads get choppier, which is what increases tire noise. So, the noise is another clue that it may be time for new galoshes. And, most importantly, you've noticed that, in the rain, you're losing traction. That's the tire's most important job -- to maintain constant contact with the road.

Now, front wheel drive EVs, like the Volt, are more likely to spin their tires in the rain. The electric motor produces a lot of low-end torque. But if you've noticed a change -- that it's easier to spin the wheels when starting off than it used to be, that's probably due to tires. And if that's the case, you're right that stopping will be compromised as well.

Keep in mind that you have no obligation to buy the same brand or model of tires when you buy replacements. You can and should do your research. If you want to stick with low-rolling-resistance tires, go to a site like, and use their research function to see which Volt replacement tires perform best.

Tires have different attributes -- some offer longer life, some better braking or roadholding, others more comfort or quiet. And you don't even have to get low-rolling-resistance tires, Jim. You can trade a little bit of efficiency and have your pick of any passenger car tire that fits your car.

But it's best to do your research before you head over to a tire shop. They may try to sell you whatever they have in stock or can get easily, rather than exactly what you want. And since you'll be living with the decision for the next 30,000-40,000 miles, give it some thought first.

Ray Magliozzi dispenses advice about cars in Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting

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