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So you walked by a sports car in a parking lot the other day and noticed something odd: shiny chrome pins sticking up out of the front of its hood. The truth is that these are probably a stylistic accessory to make the street car look more like a race car. But they are still a very functional safety device. And there’s an interesting reason the latest sports cars may have them.

These pins sticking out of car or truck hoods are called…hood pins. They are a simple form of hood latch. To install them you simply attach a bolt with a hole in the end to the frame directly beneath the hood. Then you drill a hole in the hood so it fits over said bolt. When the hood is closed you thread a spring-loaded pin through the bolt’s hole and it holds the hood down. Some styles also have a cable attaching the pin to the car so you can’t lose it.

Closeup of a chrome hood pin assembly
Chrome hood pin | Walmart

Hood pins were popular in multiple forms of auto racing by the 1960s, for two reasons. The first reason is that many racers or motorsports organizers were concerned car’s stock latches would not hold the hood down at high speeds. The second reason was that a minor crash or “fender bender” can affect the alignment of the stock hood latch, rendering it inoperable. But as long as the hood pins are still latched, the hood won’t fly up–even at high speeds.

Folks building modern race cars, or even modifying some sports cars for street use, choose to replace the stock metal hood with a carbon fiber one. Some builders are concerned that these ultra lightweight hoods chan flex at high speeds, change the alignment of the stock hood latches, and come open. So while most modern street cars with hood pins are making a stylistic statement, some have the hood pins for a real safety reason.

The hood of a bright orange Dodge Challenger with black racing strips and chrome hood pins.
Dodge Challenger with hood pins | Walmart

Finally, you may see a car on the street that was modified for racing but is still street legal. In this case, it may be required to have hood pins for racing–even if its regular hood latches are fully functional.

Anyone who has had their hood fly up at high speeds knows just how dangerous this can be: breaking your windshield and blocking your view. So while hood pins may look a bit extra, they will never make a street car less safe.

Next, find out why some sports cars have metal loops on their bumpers, or see different types of aftermarket hood pins compared in the video below: