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while pulling release handle punch the hood near wiper side with bottom of your fist or have someone else do it if you can't reach it while pulling out handle,if you see front of hood lift in any way you should be able to open it then,but before closing it again you should spray the hood latch with a good amount of wd40,that usually get hood working normal again.
on each side of core suport under hood are rubber bumpers if you unscrew them so they are pushing the hood up just a little and oil the latch real good it should work you may have to adjust this a few times to get it right good luck and let me knod if it works...
i have a mercury sable and it is really hard to open at times this is what i do i take a screw driver and a old glove and put the screw driver in the glove and put that under the hood and pry up on the hood while someone is pulling the lever inside the car
If your driving a 96 just look at tire wear if it is ok .. then you are probably doing ok .. That year is known for rough road rattles ... Just watch tire wear. tells you alot if your steering is tight also.