Car Talk: Mystery lever benefits from a two-step system

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

That’s the ejector seat, Tahsin. 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.

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