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Is Driving Without a Hood Illegal?

Is Driving Without a Hood Illegal?

You may have broken your vehicle’s hood and would like to take it to a garage to have it fixed, but then fear that law enforcement officers might pull you over. 

Or, you might have also seen several trucks and cars without hoods in your neighborhood and are wondering whether it’s legal to drive a vehicle without a hood. 

Well, here’s the answer.

There’s no federal law that prohibits driving a vehicle without a hood. Different states have laws whereby it’s illegal to drive without a hood in some states such as Maryland and Oregon. In other states such as Alaska, it’s legal but you’ll have to modify your vehicle to reduce escaping fumes. 

Ensure that you’re fully aware of your local hoodless driving laws before hitting the road. 

Today’s article is about the legality of driving a hoodless vehicle, the various state regulations, and the importance of your vehicle’s hood. Read on.

Which States Prohibit Driving a Vehicle Without a Hood?

Driving a vehicle without a hood is a misdemeanor case in two US states; 

  • Maryland 
  • Oregon 

There’s a very high chance that a law enforcement officer will pull you over if your vehicle is missing a hood. 

However, if you’re planning on taking a road trip to a garage to fix your hood, you should inform your police department beforehand. 

You’ll avoid getting a ticket along the way and hence prevent parting with your money.

Which States Have Regulations for Hoodless Vehicles?

While driving a vehicle without a hood isn’t illegal in the listed states, some regulations require drivers to make some changes to their vehicles. 

The modifications target reduction of vehicle carbon emissions to the environment.

The states are: 

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • North Dakota
  • West Virginia 

There’s a gray area concerning how your vehicle should perform while lacking a hood for the states above. As a result, if removing your hood contravenes their laws or endangers other road users, it’s a case of a misdemeanor. 

Which States Allow Driving a Vehicle Without a Hood?

The states listed below don’t have restrictions against driving a vehicle without a hood. 

On the contrary, the law enforcement officers could still pull you over if they deem that your vehicle is a road hazard and a danger to other road users. 

ArkansasNew HampshireWisconsin
CaliforniaNew JerseyWyoming
ConnecticutNew MexicoIllinois
DelawareNew YorkIowa
FloridaNorth CarolinaKansas
LouisianaRhode Island
MaineSouth Carolina
MassachusettsSouth Dakota

What’s the Importance of a Vehicle’s Hood?

A vehicle hood or bonnet is the hinged cover protecting your engine against exposure to hazards and weather elements. It is either steel or aluminum, with the aftermarket hoods being made from dry carbon, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. 

Front-engined vehicles have their hoods hinged either to the rear or front edge of the vehicle’s front. Some older models have hoods split along the middle into two sections. They’re then hinged along the centerline of the vehicle’s front end. 

No matter the vehicle hood configuration, a hood is still very important to a vehicle for the following reasons.

Protection Against Weather Elements

The hood covers a vehicle’s crucial mechanical and electrical components against weather elements such as rain, snow, or dust. 

If you’re driving your vehicle hoodless, it’s necessary to insulate all electrical components such as batteries and connectors. 

Exposing your engine to rain or snow can lead to short-circuiting, and you might end up damaging your battery. 

Protection Against Theft and Damages

Leaving your vehicle’s engine exposed will attract onlookers, some of whom might be thieves.

It’s very lucrative to thieves as they can tell the value of whatever they’re seeing under your vehicle’s hood and plan on stealing it. 

Unless your vehicle has adequate security measures against theft and vandalism, it’s better to have a hood over the engine and related accessories. 

Better Engine Performance

There’s a range of temperatures that an engine performs best. Any action that may cause a deviation in the engine’s optimum operating temperature causes the vehicle to strain and eventually lower its performance. 

Engineers design vehicles to work best with the hoods closed, and removing them will not in any way improve a vehicle’s performance. 

Most hoodless vehicles have improvements such as engine swaps and turbochargers that may not work best with the hood closed. For them, it’s a necessity that they leave the hood open. 

Better Aerodynamics and Cooling 

Removing your vehicle hood will slightly lower its air intake

A vehicle’s design maximizes the suction forces caused by the reduced air pressure under the vehicle’s hood. Forward motion forces air through the radiator to cool the engine. 

Additionally, a suction force results from the vehicle’s speed. The air that passes underneath the vehicle creates a low-pressure zone beneath your vehicle when moving forward. It gives it better downforce while also sucking the hot air from the hood. 

If you remove the bonnet, you’re effectively eliminating the suction forces that help cool your vehicle’s engine. 

Damages That Can Happen to Your Vehicle’s Hood

Most damages to a vehicle’s hood are external and affect its aesthetics and functionality. 

The damages can be from falling objects such as tree branches, hail, or stones that leave dents, bends, and crumbles on the vehicle hood. 

Rusting and Corrosion

Hail-related vehicle dents can damage the waterproof paint or hood coating exposing the metallic part beneath. Continued exposure to oxygen and moisture leads to rusting and corrosion, which lowers your vehicle’s resale value.  

Denting From Falling Objects

Heavier objects such as falling stones and branches damage the engine causing dents and cracks similar to hail dents but greater in magnitude. 

In some cases, the denting is so severe that you might have to straighten your hood before repainting it. Repainting a vehicle is expensive and partially avoidable. 

Avoid parking your vehicle under trees or in a children’s playing zone. 


Colliding with another vehicle on the road or slamming against your garage door or wall will wrinkle or crumble your hood. The severity of the crumble will depend on the extent of the impact. 

A crumbled or wrinkled hood is a disaster waiting. If your hood is no longer secured to your vehicle’s front end, it’s better to drive hoodless than drive with limited visibility. 

Furthermore, the wind pressure against your damaged hood may cause it to pop out and endanger yourself and other road users.   

Normal Wear and Tear 

Like most vehicle parts, the hood also suffers from the effects of wear and tear. Using your hood for extended periods will weaken its hinge or lock mechanism. 

The latch might break, and the hood assembly cable may fail over time. If you realize that your hood is not as attached to your vehicle as before, it’s better to have it replaced. 


Driving a vehicle without a hood doesn’t pose any immediate danger to you or other road users. It’s better to drive without one than to have one that’s loosely attached to your vehicle’s frame.

And, as we’ve seen, the legality of driving without a hood varies from state to state. Some local counties and cities might also have local laws that complement the state laws. 

You should contact your lawyer or the local police department before driving on public roads without a hood to avoid legal issues.

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!