99 Escort Hood won't latch

The hood on my 99 escort won't latch...no matter how high drop/throw the hood down.
I was told that the spring that pulls the latch into place wears out, so
I bought a new latch assembly.
I replaced it and the same thing happens to the new latch.
I used a screwdriver to simulate the hood striker and can see that the securing latch isn't moving into position when it should.
I can not see any interference problems. In order to close the latch, I have to crawl under the front of the car and force the securing latch over with a screwdriver.
Also, the old latch works great once I got it out of the car. I have not tried to reinstall it.
My next step is to install the latch assembly without the springs in place under the assumption that springs are deforming the part during installation to prevent smooth operation, but I'm wondering if I'm missing something...some trick...
Please help.
Thanks,
Rob
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snipped-for-privacy@removethishotmail.com says...

This has an inside vehicle hood release lever?
Maybe it is jammed and holding the latch open..
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says...

I have looked at the inside vehicle hood release and made sure that it wasn't holding it open. Also, I looked at the latch assembly itself and made sure that the wire was slack.
Rob
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says...

Sounds like the latch needs to be adjusted. Most likely up. Check carefully how it hits. If it hits straight side to side, adjust it up. It could be all the slamming has bent something too.
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If I use a screwdriver to simulate the striker going into the latch, I can watch while the latch goes past the catching point and doesn't latch...I think I'm missing something...some trick...I try assemblying it without the springs tomorrow to see if that is the problem.
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