The word “hack” originally means “to cut with rough or heavy blows.” I don’t think that’s what you’re here for, and neither did I write the article with that definition in mind. "Hack" was, instead, literally “embarrassing" scripts and shortcuts used by IT people to get their work done, per Wikipedia. It was basically a way for people programming to deal with the information overload that's bound to overwhelm the programmer.
While it might seem that the term has been around forever (it might very well be, depending on your age, and thus your perception of the world), it was coined only in 2004 and was, at that time, used to refer to the work of programmers. It was in 2005 that the usage of the word spread to life, and consequently, you got the phrase “life hack.” After that, hack occupied every sphere, including cars.
When I was searching the topic of this article, there were a couple of “hacks” that I didn’t think were hacks. They were just things that were common sense. I realize that’s exactly how some of you might feel about some of the items on this list. However, some other folks will think it’s a useful DIY hack, so that’s why I’m listing the ones I think are useful—except for one, which I don’t think is a good idea, but I listed nonetheless, in case someone might find it useful for other purposes (it’s the one about wipers).
20 Apply The Mintie
There’s another use of the minties, the minties that my Office Word in the US doesn’t recognize and underlines red. The mint-flavored, candy-like thing originated in the lands of Oceania, and when it came out, it became notorious for displacing a chewer’s fillings, as it would become severely sticky upon chewing as to cause the fillings to get detached. Just keep in mind, that’s the kind of power we’re talking about. So, how do you use this for your car? You use it to temporarily prevent your fuel tank from leaking. I don’t know how you’d find out that your fuel tank is leaking, but once you do, you can place a chewed-until-it-became-sticky mintie at the leak site. It’ll hold things in place for a while until you can see your mechanic.
19 Dent? Use Your Plunger
Perhaps you went to the favorite concert of yours and parked at the nice venue. You enjoyed the music and the show, only to come out and find your car dented. You can’t tell whether it was due to the drunk group of people that you had seen, or whether you got it from after the car wash that you had earlier in the day. All you know is that you have a dent and are certainly not pleased about it, especially if it wasn’t on your beater. Worry not, for it can possibly be fixed without incurring another dent in your wallet. Spray the area with some liquid, and grab the plunger from your house. Push the plunger, and suction the dent out. Not all the dents will come out, especially the more contorted ones, but it’s worth a try.
18 Ashtray? No. Phone Docking Station? Yes
Some doctors say sitting is the new smoking, and some technology experts say cell-phone usage is the new smoking. I think the latter one is more of an issue, as people can’t seem to break the cycle of social media. It’s one website after another, one post after another, one picture after another, and so on. I think some things are necessary on smartphones, so one needs to have access to it. But what do you do when you have a car that was built during the time when angry birds meant just that—a couple of angry birds—and not the game Angry Birds? You buy your phone’s dock and place the dock on the ashtray. Get a USB-supporting connector that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter, and boom—you have a docking station for your phone.
17 Razor To Wipe
This one is pretty tricky and seems like it’s not a hack as much as a hazard. True. The idea is to use the razor blade to clean the windshield for items that the wipers can’t handle. I think this applies to rural places, where gas stations and stores are several miles away. At that point, it would be a good idea to have this. You can easily remove the bird poop from the windshield that’s been sitting there and solidifying. Now, you might say, “How does one incident of bird poop affect my driving?” It probably doesn’t. I’m talking about areas that are remote and inaccessible where these things might be very common. Plus, the razor can be used to remove any residual stickers everywhere.
16 Washer Fluid Or A Tasty Drink?
While this is feasible, I’m not sure how viable it is for you to drive the car after you do this. The idea is simple. Re-route the windshield washer lines into the interior. Disconnect the line that goes to the wiper, plug in a new tube through the firewall, and bring the pipe to the cabin. You can do more extravagant things with the pipe in the cabin in terms of position and placement, but now, you can squirt whatever you put in the clean washer-fluid container. You want to clean the washer-fluid container several, several times with soap and then even more several times with water, though, just to get rid of detergent from the container. The idea sounds cool, but let’s face it—you’ll get tired of the novelty soon because the beverage will be hot, too, as it’s next to an engine.
15 Use Your Head! Use Your Head!
I didn’t mean the subheading to be taken metaphorically. Quite literally, you should touch the key fob to your head to increase its range. The keyless entry is one of the best features (the best in this category would be remote start itself, I’d say), but it doesn’t always have the range needed to work. The range isn't a problem if you’re parked in your driveway but can become a crucial factor if you’re lost in a 9-floor parking garage. Even if you remember the floor, good luck finding the car in the different lots. This works because the fluids in your head act as a decent conductor, thereby increasing the reach of the key fob. Placing it on your chin produces similar results also. Don’t worry about looking weird—you’ll find your car sooner.
14 Hanging Tennis Ball For Garage Parking
I’ve been guilty of this myself. I would try to park in the garage but would go slightly over, lightly touching the items in front of the car, near the side farthest away from the garage doors. I’m not a bad driver; it's just that my family would place a lot of stuff in the backside, and the objects would get moved every day. Result? I would unintentionally bump into the stuff. I never thought of this hack at that time; however, it seems like a reasonable hack that could save you some headache. Just hang a tennis ball where the car’s windshield is supposed to be. Next time, you’ll know exactly how far you need to go. The apparatus is also relatively easy, requiring only a piece of yarn, two screw hooks, and a tennis ball.
13 Brush Your Headlamp
You probably admire the sunlight because it’s all warm and cozy, especially if you suffered a terrible winter recently. But at the same time, you do get plenty of ultraviolet radiation and other kinds of radiation. Your body can ward off against that through the biochemical reactions, but it’s your car’s headlamps that are left behind to suffer the abuse of radiation, the outside debris, and things that only they know. In other words, over time, the covering of your headlamp becomes severely foggy, and you become a hazard to others and, of course, to yourself.
Take the toothpaste out of your medicine cabinet and spread it on a piece of cloth. Then, rub that cloth on your headlamp. Rinse the headlamp with clean water, and let it dry. It should be significantly better.
12 Hand Sanitizer For What?
Let’s say it snowed and sleeted heavily. Covering the two feet of snow that piled up over the course of the night is a thin but treacherous layer of ice, and you know you’ll need to go back to work. You had the time planned out. Jacket? Check. Shovel? Got it. Gloves? Yep. Out you go and make a path for your car. After increasing the rate of carbon dioxide emission from your body for half an hour, you finally get done with the chore. You come to the car and remove the snow also. Office time is nearing, and you want to warm your car before leaving for office. You pull the car lock, but to no avail; it’s frozen. Don’t worry. Get some alcohol-based hand sanitizer and spread and rub it over the lock. It should melt the ice.
11 Nail Polish Fix
I once saw footage of a guy committing an abhorring act. He had an infant child in a stroller and decided to do the act in front of the child. He lowered the hood of the stroller after he made the decision. Momentarily after, he took out a key from his pocket and keyed a parked car throughout the driver’s side, the vandal having nothing but an emotionless face. The car was an Aston Martin. It had a dashcam. If you find yourself in the situation of that car owner, you could get the scratch fixed professionally, but if you don’t have the money, other alternatives exist, including using similarly colored nail polish. Of course, if you own an Aston Martin, you might consider getting it professionally fixed, but if it’s your beater or is a minor scratch, give the nail polish a shot.
10 Staple Remover = Key Remover
I’ve done this incorrectly so many times that it’s hard to think why I didn’t think of this myself. This entry is more relevant for car keys rather than a car itself, but it’s still a useful hack. Simply open the key ring with a staple remover—and the best part is just that—being able to open it—and then keep sliding the key and the staple remover until the goal is achieved. I personally hadn’t known about this until today. Ever wonder how many years after the invention of staple did the staple remover come out? Fifty-five years later. That’s a lot of time. I guess people just got used to using their hands for such things. Anyways, the staple remover removes not only staples but also keys.
9 Car Hammock?
The mesh bungee shown here reminded me of a hammock, the cool, stretchy, yet extremely sturdy mesh-like structure that you perhaps used in your college days to “read a book.” While I could never concentrate on studies outdoors, I think this mesh bungee is one of the best ideas for hanging or holding various items in a car. Let’s face it—if you have more than a couple of shirts and suits that need to be consistently present in the car, that coat hook isn't going to cut it. You need something more, something called "mesh bungee." Just attach all four corners with cable ties to the grab-handles, and you'll have a solid closet for your clothes. If you know you don’t use your rear seats, this becomes even better.
8 Heated Seats For What Now?
I was a little hesitant to include this, as it’s not really a car hack, but it’s in the ballpark. Most people would attest to the usability of heated seats for the brutally cold winters that we experienced not so long ago; some other regions are still suffering the fury of winter gods. If you have the heated-seats feature, imagine the time when you didn’t have it, and take a moment to appreciate the fact that you have one now. However, there’s something else that you can also do besides heating your body in the seat—you can keep your pizza warm in the passenger seat. Imagine driving for even 10 minutes in a sub-zero Fahrenheit climate—clean roads, no snow—just a beautiful clear sky, but ruthless temperature. Good luck keeping the pizza warm without the heated seats.
7 Pool Noodle
While you may have used pool noodles to keep your body afloat in a pool, there are several other things that you can do with that pool noodle of yours. This hack applies to very few people, but it’s probably an immensely helpful hack for them. While all garages are probably built to accommodate a standard-size car, not all owners get a car that's of average size. If you get a Ford pickup, good luck putting that in the garage easily. And some people, even if they have an average-size car, can’t accommodate the car in the garage easily due to the pileup of other items in the garage. That’s when you split a pool noodle and stick it on the side wall to avoid your car doors from banging the wall each time you get out of the car.
6 A Flammable Star Blocking Your View? Block It Back
I think this one is a probably the handiest hack listed here. As drivers, we’ve all experienced this at some point or another. You’re driving down the road, the road curves towards the sun, and you realize you have a long way to go on that stretch of the road. The sun, emitting the highest intensity rays that it could produce from the combustion of hydrogen molecules, is punishing you. Your shields of sunglasses, driver sun visor, passenger sun visor and all attempts—including the custom anti-glare visor—are fruitless. Hopeless, you continue driving, hoping nothing wrong happens because you can’t see anything due to the sun hitting one particular spot on the windshield. Consider a movable shade. Even pilots use it (picture is of an airplane’s windshield).
5 Tape As Beverage Holder
I had the chance to browse pictures of interiors of old cars—from the ’60s, the ‘70s, and the ‘80s—a few days ago. The older the car was, the more space it had in the cabin, as there was nothing to decorate the car with. Besides the speedometer and a few buttons here and there, there was nothing to occupy the empty space on the dashboard. If you own a car from this era, great. You probably have a nice-looking car, although the interior will feel behind. There’s a good chance you won’t have a cup holder. Solution? Get a roll of packing tape, and stick the tape to the dashboard, leaving the roll hanging off the dashboard. Now, you have a cup holder. If you want more stability, tape the roll onto the dashboard also.
4 DIY iPad Holder For Your Car’s Headrest
This is a little more involved than some of the others on the list, but it’s worth the while. You need a couple of rolls of tape, two pieces of fabric, a cardboard, some pins, and a pair of scissors. You can read the detailed instruction online, but the gist is to create a solid structure that can hold the iPad and be harnessed to the passenger headrest. It’s an ingenious idea, requiring not much time or many tools for execution. If you’re an adult, substituting kindle or even your smartphone might be feasible for long trips. A little more than feasible, perhaps necessary, I’d say, considering how “text neck”—meaning pain secondary to constantly looking down at your device—is a recent phenomenon, emerging with the invention and rapid expansion of mobile technology.
3 Car Hooks / Hangers
Ah, here’s another of those useful space-saving hacks. The idea is quite simple. Just place a hanger on the front-row seats, and you'll have room to hang your grocery bags. Gone are the days of crushed breads and cracked eggs (although you’d still want to place the egg carton on the car floor, or they'll still crack by bumping into the seats if you drive a little too fantastically). I’m pretty sure that at some point, someone had started with a crude version of this idea. It might've been just an actual hanger, maybe, or something simple like that. Over time, it would've progressed to something more apt for a car seat, and with the help of others, the idea is fully working now.
I remember once, I was with breathalyzing drunk (and sober) people for a research project. It was 10 or 11 in the night, and the temperature was just brutal. And the wind—the wind was unforgiving. You really had to like the research project to be out on such a night. Out of nowhere, a kind stranger brought us four cups of coffee in a cup holder from a Starbucks a few feet away. That was nice of her. But what do you do when you have to hold more than four cups? Let’s say it’s a big family that you have and that you’ll be carrying everything in your car. Seven cups of soda, it comes out to. How do you carry that? You put them in a laundry basket equipped with a muffin tray.
1 Sticky Car Pad Dashboard
This is one of those things that you need to try yourself, as you'll doubt, no matter what I tell you, because of the way it looks. It’s sticky, but not where unneeded. In other words, you can remove it easily, and it won’t cause your item or dashboard to become sticky after removal. While I don’t get a commission for telling about this hack, I think it’s one of the best and most useful hacks on here. It sticks nicely to the dashboard, and then, you can stick whatever object you’d like on it. A cell phone is probably the best thing to come to mind. Users have stuck objects, and they don’t fall, so give it a shot. Some people even stick their vapes onto it!
Sources: popularmechanics.com; Wikipedia.org