Having taken delivery of a 2020 Corvette back in March, I’ve followed the various reports of mysteriously opening hoods with great interest. First, I honestly feel terrible for anyone that this has happened to. Not only does an incident such as this cause physical damage, but it could also lead to an accident with significantly greater consequences. I don’t want anything like this to happen to anyone.
A great deal of debate has ensued across various social media platforms after two 2020 Corvette owners documented the sudden opening of their hoods via their Corvette’s Performance Data Recorders (PDR). A search of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that eight such incidences have been reported as of August 10, 2020. These instances have fueled a variety of owner attempted preventative measures including removal of the front hood release fuse as well as chain, rope, and bungee cord hood securing devices.
As of today, I have neither pulled a fuse or devised something that would hold my hood down in the event of an unintentional latch release while driving. A few weeks ago, I made a video to demonstrate the various on-board open hood warning alerts. I also demonstrated that the hood latch could only be released once you are inside the car via the fob button (press twice), the release button in the door panel (press once), and the manual pull cord behind the brake pedal. The most important piece of information that I shared, however, is that the car must be in Park for the hood to be released. It will not release once you have shifted out of Park.
Keeping all of these things in mind, there are really only two possible explanations for the flying hoods. The first, which has been mostly rejected, is user error. In other words, someone didn’t close the hood before driving off, or someone inadvertently triggered the hood release via one of the aforementioned methods. The second possibility, which has been more widely accepted, is that the cars involved had a sudden electrical and/or mechanical hood release failure. This is why numerous 2020 Corvette owners have taken steps to ensure their hood does not fly open. But does the evidence support the need for such measures?
The first exhibit that was made available for evaluation was the PDR video uploaded to YouTube by Julian B. Note that Julian B’s video shows the PDR footage being played back on a screen and recorded with a mobile device. This will be relative to the discussion of the second video a little later. Julian B states in the video description, “I was probably doing 30-35 MPH when the hood opened. Listen carefully at the second before. Unlatching clunk? I’d been driving for a minute or so before this, and there are no warning chimes. The sound wasn’t turned up so much that chimes wouldn’t have been heard. There simply weren’t any.”
I personally have no doubt that Julian B didn’t hear warning chimes before his hood flew open. Again, there could have been two reasons for this. First, the open hood warning chimes failed to sound or the hood release suddenly activated the moment before the hood flew open. Or, second, the hood was open before Julian B drove away and the warning chimes were sounding, but the distraction of the music caused the chimes to not be heard. Only a thorough audio analysis will help us determine what actually took place.
In the following video, you can listen to the audio examples that I am about to describe in print. You will see and hear Julian B’s original, unedited video, followed by an audio-enhanced video that reveals a key piece of evidence.
The first step in determining whether or not the open hood warning chime was active was isolating the warning chime frequency. Utilizing the Spectroid app on my phone, I discovered that my 2020 Corvette’s open hood warning chime’s frequency is 785 Hz. The following screen shows the spectrogram (visual representation of the frequencies found within an audio sample) of my sample open hood warning chime clip. Note that my warning chimes are clearly evident at the 785 Hz level, consistently spaced along the timeline, just as you would expect them to be.
Now, let’s take a look at the spectrogram of Julian B’s original and unedited video clip. Even though you cannot hear the alarm chimes in the video, and even though Julian B could not hear them before his hood flew up, the alarm chimes are indeed present throughout the entire video.
The evidence is clear. The initial perception that Julian B’s hood latch release suddenly and without warning activated, allowing the hood to fly up, is without question an incorrect assessment of what actually happened. As I previously stated, I hate that this happened to this Corvette owner, but the hood was already open and the alarm chime was already sounding. All the hood needed was enough opposing wind force and the result is easy to see.
Now let’s take a look at the second and more recent video, which was shared on YouTube by Pinmaniac. In the video description, the Corvette owner simply states, “2020 Corvette C8 front hood (frunk) opening while driving.” And indeed, this is exactly what happens. The driver leaves a parking lot, turns onto a street, and, at 43 mph, the front hood flies up. The car’s PDR camera not only reveals the hood incident, but also the owner’s visibly frustration as he closes the hood and takes photos before continuing his drive.
There is no audio with this particular video, making an audio analysis impossible. I have a hunch that the owner simply had his PDR set to immediately record without audio rather than this being an attempted cover-up of an obviously audible open hood warning chime. But there is a piece of important evidence that can be clearly seen in the video. First, take a look at the bottom portion of the following screenshot:
The top of the hood can clearly be seen as the car leaves the parking area and drives onto the street. This is the first 2020 Corvette PDR footage that I have seen where any portion of the hood can be seen when it is fully shut. You will recall that I mentioned previously that the first video we looked at was from a mobile device filming the PDR playback. As such, we are unable to see if any part of the already open hood can be seen at the bottom of the video. In Pinmaniac’s video, we can clearly see the hood. In addition, as the car moves onto the street, less of the hood is visible as it settles slightly downward. This is not due to the movement of the PDR camera, which is in a completely fixed position, but rather the movement of the open hood. Now, take a look at this screenshot, captured after the hood incident and the closing of the hood by the owner:
As you can clearly see, the hood can no longer be seen at the bottom of the image. This matches every other 2020 Corvette PDR footage that I have seen when the hood is fully shut.
After a thorough examination of the two videos, I have yet to find conclusive evidence that these incidences are anything more than the accidental activation of the hood release mechanism before the cars were driven, or the result of simply failing to close the hood. Furthermore, the videos fail to provide clear evidence that the open hood warning system did not function properly.
The frenzied social media reactions to reports of self-opening hoods and failed warning systems may not be as warranted as first perceived. Some owners may feel better being safe rather than sorry until GM provides a response, and that’s understandable as well. If I was able to figure out that the warning system in the first video was clearly working properly, I’m sure the team investigating this at GM has already uncovered this as well. Knowing that they want to do everything possible to help prevent potential life-threatening scenarios from ever taking place, I imagine GM is tirelessly working on a more robust open hood warning and prevention system that we’ll hear an official announcement about in the coming weeks.
So, be safe out there…and enjoy the drive!
[VIDEO] PDR Captures Another 2020 Corvette’s Frunk Opens While Driving
General Motors Responds to Issue of the 2020 Corvette’s Frunk Opening While Driving
[VIDEO] The NHTSA Has Complaints of the 2020 Corvette’s Frunk Opening While Driving