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> Jeep Articles > General - Product Reviews > Smittybilt Locking Hood Latches

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General Articles - Product Reviews

Smittybilt Locking Hood Latches

Article written by Troll

Date Added: 02/01/2009

Security and Jeep Wrangler are not two phrases that usually go together. To assist with securing the engine compartment, we tried out locking hood latches to see if they would provide us with the security we were looking for.

The addition of security to a Jeep, or any bolt on addition for that matter, is not always as easy at it seems.
For anyone who questions the viability of the non-locking hood of a Jeep Wrangler and is concerned about theft of items under the hood, several manufacturers have the answer with their locking hood latches. One of these aftermarket manufacturers is Smittybuilt - a company known throughout the off road industry for their large line of accessories and parts.

We decided to try out a set of the Smittybuilt latches on the Troll's new TJ, the Hammer, which contains a hefty sum of parts under the hood. To keep these parts out of the prying eyes of would-be thieves, the locking latches seemed to be just the ticket to keep the Hammer's engine intact. How difficult could it be to install hood latches? A whole lot more difficult than you might imagine.

When we received the latches, everything looked pretty straightforward and we anticipated spending maybe 30-45 minutes total to remove the 2 existing factory latches and install the new locking ones on the fenders and hood. Unfortunately for us, everything started to go south quickly once we realized the passenger side factory latch was going to fight with us when we attempted to unbolt it from the fender. The factory latches are held onto the fenders by a single nut and bolt that seems easy enough to remove with a single socket placed on the nut. It seems simple enough until the bolt head decides to dig a channel into the soft plastic of the latch where it will spin freely without any way to stop it. The factory bolt has no head to place a wrench on and the only way for it to stop from spinning while you attempt to remove the nut from the bottom of the bolt is through its squared sides, which are meant to butt up against the insides of the latch. The problem arises when the resistance given by a well-rusted nut on the other end of the bolt proves to be too much for the plastic insides of the latch to hold up to a metal bolt head. This force causes the bolt head to dig a groove into the latch and the bolt will then spin freely.

How did we manage to remove the bolt once this happened to us? We tried everything from wedging a screwdriver between the sides of the bolt head and the latch, to jamming a wrench into the hole to provide enough resistance to stop the bolt from turning. In the end, we decided to break out a hacksaw and cut the latch off the bolt, as there seemed to be no way to salvage the latch after a solid hour of fighting with the spinning bolt. Once we had the latch removed, it was easy to then hold onto the bolt head with pliers while twisting the nut off on the other end. The factory latch was destroyed in the process, but we had no choice in the matter if we were to get it off the fender.
Once we had both latches removed, it was time to install the new Smittybuilt locking latches with the supplied hardware, which included the 2 locking latches, along with 2 posts that bolt onto the fenders. Also included is the necessary hardware to fasten the locks and posts down.
After the debacle with the factory latch, we figured everything would be downhill from this point forward and we would wrap this up in 20 minutes or so. Once again, we were mistaken and the new latches threw a couple curves at us.

Bolting the locks to the hood and the posts to the fenders was a very simple process that took all of 10 minutes total to get everything bolted down. With the locks and posts installed, we attempted to close the hood when we realized we had a big problem. The installation instructions supplied by Smittybuilt mention the possibility of having to move the latches and posts to line them up so that the posts will slide into the lock holes on the latches. Unfortunately the factory drilled holes do not allow for any "adjustment." This meant we had to come up with another way to line everything up. This is the place where things became ugly for us. We had to "tweak" the fenders by pulling them up and down (don't try and understand, it was ugly) to align the posts properly. We do not recommend trying this yourself, unless you are okay with possibly crinkling the sheet metal on the fenders in the process. After 45 minutes of pulling and yanking on the fenders, we had everything lined up where the posts were sliding freely into the latches, but then we ran into another problem.

Included with the new latches are 6 small washers, which are meant to be inserted between the fenders and the posts to lift the posts high enough for the posts to lock into the latches. The problem we had was the height created by the washers was not enough and we still could not push down on the hood enough to get the latches to lock onto the posts. To fix this issue, we had to break out our own stash of washers and add 3 more to one post and 2 to the other one to heighten the posts to a place where the latch locks would snap into place.

Was all this trouble worth knowing we have successfully deterred the majority of would-be thieves from eyeing up our engine? Well, that's debatable. After 3 hours of installation time, we probably would have rather stuck with the factory latches.

Another "issue" we have with the latches is with the odd-shaped keys that look like small spears, rather than a regular-shaped vehicle key that is flat with just one side to fit into the tumblers. The hood latch keys have teeth for the tumblers on 4 sides and they can be quite difficult to insert into the latches to unlock them on the hood. Every time we attempt to open the locks, we struggle with inserting the keys into the locks.

If you are worried about someone stealing your engine components, then maybe it is worth the effort to install these locking latches. For us, we wish our factory latches were not cut in pieces...

Final Thoughts

While these latches provide you with additional security for your engine compartment, we will warn you that they are not easy to install and unlocking them on a regular basis is a difficult proposition, especially when compared to the flip style factory latches. We'll leave them on the Hammer after all the work we had to put into installing them, but we will not enjoy unlocking them when we need to get under the hood.

Our Thank You's!

MOABJEEPER Magazine would like to thank Smittybilt for providing us with their style of locking hood latches for this review.

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