Car ownership literally comes with a manual. But let’s be real, no one ever opens the 500-page book that comes with their car until things become desperate. To help between now and the next time you open the glove box to search for some answers, we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down a few well-known life hacks that can, hopefully, make your adventures in car ownership a bit more seamless.
Do you remember the last time you wished you knew an easier way to get something done? Cars require a lot of maintenance and money, so keeping up with these needy machines can get pretty expensive and time-consuming. If you happen to know some things about cars, it may be easy for you to find shortcuts around hard-to-remove substances or bad odors, but the rest of the car-owning population may need a little insight on a few things that can make life a little easier.
Don’t cough up a ton of money to have something professionally done or purchase unnecessary products that, quite frankly, never seem to get the job done completely. The car industry is a dirty place and if you don’t know how to resolve issues on your own, you’re vulnerable to purchasing products that will never work or that were never needed. Not to mention the fact that there are plenty of technicians out there more than willing to deceive the naïve owner.
Don’t allow yourself to be fooled. Do some research and explore your car when you need something done. Hopefully, a few of these tips can help you along the way.
Nail polish may not seem a bit unorthodox, but it can serve a lot of purposes as far as cars go. For one thing, if you ever get a little ding in your windshield from the occasional rock or other debris that nail it just right, then you can apply a bit of nail polish to the cracks and they will disappear. Obviously, if they’re bad enough the nail polish isn’t going to help conceal the cracks, but it may help prevent them from spreading, at least! In addition to that nifty use, clear nail polish can also fix superficial scratches on the paint. If you have small scratches on your car, then filling it with the clear coat will cause the scratch to vanish.
Weirdly enough, stockings hold a wealth of purposes that we never knew were even possible. So, it may be a good idea (whether you wear them or not) to invest in a few pairs of these in case of an emergency. Stuff them in your glovebox for a rainy day (literally) because they can also be used for engine pulleys if your timing belt ever goes bad while you're on the go. Obviously, this isn’t going to apply to each and every single person’s vehicle. Although, if it does the stocking may just be enough to get you down the road to an auto repair shop or to your house to complete the repairs on your own.
Have you ever spent a long day in an amusement park, mall, or pretty much any other place that has a giant parking lot for you to lose your vehicle in? You never realize how many look-alikes are out there until you have to sweep the aisles of a parking lot for your own car. In this case, setting off the alarm is pretty helpful, but if you’re out of your key fob's range then that idea is essentially useless. However, if you ever find yourself without a clue, you can extend the range of your key fob by resting it against your chin while clicking the button. Supposedly, the human body is full of extra abilities that we just don’t use and extending the range of your key fob is apparently one of them. If you’re in a bind, it’s worth a shot!
Believe it or not, everything we think we knew about driving has a few flaws (even if we don’t always want to admit that we’re wrong). One of the things that you should be taught in driving school is how to position your mirrors properly. The truth of the matter is that hardly anyone realizes this, even if they did happen to attend a formal driving course. Luckily for you, it’s pretty easy to get them lined up correctly. You just need to make sure that when you’re adjusting them that your car is NOT in view. If it is, then they’re not properly attuned and will slightly hinder your view.
We’re not sure how people don’t know about this one, but seeing how many drivers tool around town in their car with foggy headlights—yes, this is a major pet-peeve—we’re going to assume that it’s not out of laziness and that these drivers simply don’t know how to clear them up. The toothpaste trick involves smearing a little bit of it on a rag and scrubbing the headlights. Of course, they’re not going to look brand-new and you may still need to have them professionally cleaned if you’ve really let them go, but the trick is pretty good for getting the little stuff off. The toothpaste contains some abrasive materials that are pretty useful for removing scum.
This one seems pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many drivers have never thought about it. If you’re too cheap to have your food delivered at your door, then you’ve probably encountered the one drawback of picking up your own food: it gets cold pretty quickly. There’s nothing less satisfying than a takeaway order, to begin with, but room-temperature food isn’t even worth it. Next time, toss that box of pizza or chow mein takeout on your passenger seat and flip on the seat heaters. Obviously, this isn’t going to help any of you that have the unfortunate circumstances of having no seat heaters, but it’s a great idea for those spoiled drivers out there.
This one sounds a bit weird in retrospect, and it could be slightly unrealistic in this day and age, but you never know where life will take you. If you ever find yourself in the middle of a torrential downpour or caught in some unexpected snow, you want to have good windshield wipers in order to get back to your cozy home. Unfortunately, if the wiper blade breaks or is just extremely old, the metal can scratch the glass and also prevent you from actually being able to see. However, if you place women’s stockings or pantyhose on the tattered blade, it can actually clear the windshield for you. Plus, it will take off any bugs or other debris that may be smeared into the glass. So, it serves a dual purpose! Now, all you have to do is find out where to find stockings.
Getting carsick can be fairly annoying if you actually need to keep driving while your body is telling you that you shouldn’t. Getting carsick is no fun at all and, unfortunately, it happens to some of us more often than not. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to make that nauseating feeling subside, at least somewhat. Tilt your head sideways and it will supposedly go away. We’re not completely sold that this will remedy the feeling entirely, but it could definitely make things better! Minimally, it could be a valuable tip.
When you’re under 25, it’s an awkward age because you’re technically an adult but you don’t really get treated like one. At least, not when it comes to rentals of any kind. Car rentals, in particular, will price-gouge you for everything that they can before you can even take that cruddy car off of the lot. However, if you happen to be a member of USAA then you can skip the ‘under-25’ surcharge that applies to all of the young, reckless drivers out there. As long as you drive responsibly, this will save you a good amount of hard-earned cash.
Sometimes, when you’re at the auto shop, it feels a bit challenging to figure out whether or not they’re being completely honest with you. Not all mechanics are no-good crooks out to get you, but there are still quite a few out there that fit the bill. If you have never dealt with this person before, you can find out how honest that person is with one simple test. Whenever you get an oil change or need to get something fixed, ask the mechanic about something that you know is working perfectly fine. If he finds something wrong with it, then you should probably go elsewhere. This can save you from being charged for things that were ‘fixed’ that never actually needed anything at all.
If you ever eat in your car, then you know how bad it smells later when the smell is trapped. Your poor vehicle is so smelly that keeping the windows up feels like torture and not just yourself, but also for your car. No matter what you do, sometimes bad odors just don’t go away. A much cheaper alternative than those expensive air fresheners you’ll find in an auto parts store is something that you can get while grocery shopping: dryer sheets. Leaving an open box of dryer sheets beneath your seat will improve the smell of your car tenfold, plus it’s not nearly as expensive.
Regular drivers tend to find semi-trucks and other big rigs pretty annoying. They’re slow-moving and limit your view, but sometimes it’s smarter to watch what exactly these guys are doing. If you know anything about truck driving, then you’re probably aware that each of them talks through a CB radio and lets others know what obstacles lie ahead. So, if you happen to notice a lot of truckers are getting into the same lane during a traffic jam, it might be wise to follow along because you’ll probably move a lot quicker. Conversely, if you notice truck drivers suddenly slowing down, they may be aware of a speed trap up ahead.
Have you ever driven someone else’s car, stopped to get gas, only to realize that you don’t actually know which side the tank is on? The observant drivers out there will probably have figured out that there is a little indicator that manufacturers have wittily thought of to help you out with this type of situation. Next time you get in a car, look at the instrument cluster and find the little gas pump symbol. You should notice an arrow next to it. Whichever way that the arrow points is the side of the car that your fuel filler hatch is positioned on.
We have all heard this at one point or another, and most of us have opted to ignore the claims, anyway. When you’re sitting in traffic, the last thing you want to do is sit helplessly in the same lane for an unknown amount of time. The idea sounds excruciating and your anxiety tells you that you may end up behind the hundreds of people in the lanes next to you. Instead of freaking out and swapping lanes constantly, studies have shown that you’ll actually get farther by staying in the same lane. We can’t verify the validity of this, but it does make sense that if you commit to one lane—instead of moving away every time it slows down—that you’ll more than likely get to move within that same lane, therefore, going much further than you would if you swapped and got stuck in a lane that also stopped.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but when you finally get to a car rental place, especially after a long flight, the last thing you ever think of is to take photos of the car before you take it off of the lot. It’s really smart to do so because it proves that you didn’t damage the car at all. It also helps for you to notice these scratches, dents, etc, beforehand because that way you can let the rental company know. They can choose whether or not they want to document this in their computers, but if you take extra precautions and snap a few photos then it will save you a lot of trouble (and money) in the long haul.
Have you ever had the brilliant idea of putting stickers on your car? After a while, they may have begun partially peeling off, or maybe they’re no longer a reflection of who you are anymore. Whatever your story may be, rest assured, you can remove any sticker without having to deal with the sticky residue that they all leave behind. Simply wet a newspaper with warm water and place it on top of the stickers for ten minutes. They should come off much easier, and you can even use a clean, microfiber cloth to remove whatever is left without scratching the glass.
The cost of gas can really add up if you’re commuting to work on a regular basis. We all try to find effective ways to get the best prices, whether it means joining rewards programs or driving two extra miles to a gas station that sells it for less. This little trick will appeal to all of the savvy savers out there. Next time you’re pumping your gas, hold the trigger halfway; it allows less air to go into the tank and more gas. You’re not going to get rich off of this technique, but the savings will add up over time.
Now, whether or not you’re the type to start your day off with a cup of coffee, it can be one helpful drink. Believe it or not, it can even help with your car’s smell. Maybe you left your gym bag in the car over the weekend or your kids allowed food to roll beneath the seat. A number of scenarios can play out, but the point is that there’s nothing good about a stinky car. Maybe you’ve cleaned the car numerous times and nothing really works. Ground coffee is the perfect remedy for removing these smells. Unlike the dryer sheets, it won’t necessarily work as an air freshener (unless you actually enjoy the smell of ground coffee) but it will get out those funky fumes that you can’t seem to get out.
In addition to random women’s clothing and cosmetic products, you can also use things from your own kitchen to clean up your car. Now, this one seems a bit more predictable since the kitchen is typically one of the cleanest places in a home. But you’ll probably be surprised to find that it’s not the kitchen cleaners that are so great at getting your dashboard shiny: it’s olive oil and coffee filters. Yep. You know that overpriced caddy full of worthless car cleaning supplies that you spent gobs of cash on? You can say goodbye to (some of) those exorbitantly priced products because these items are not only fairly universal, but they’re also extremely cheap. Olive oil is great to keep skin moisturized and shiny, and guess what? It’s also great for your car's dash and door panels, too. And coffee filters are perfect for polishing anything without leaving a scratch.
If you live in a pretty cramped area or even an older home, the garage can be a lot smaller than most. Or maybe you just have a few too many things that you’re not willing to part with just yet. This can leave a lot less space for you to park and a lot more chance for you (or your kids) to open a car door into a wall. No matter what your case may be, you shouldn't have to worry about your car being too close to anything and you won’t have to spend more than a few bucks to make it so. Pick up pool noodles at a nearby store, and affix them horizontally on your wall. They may not be able to take in the impact from a huge slam, but they will certainly serve as helpful bumpers to prevent any scratches from manifesting on your car.
We’ve all seen those horror stories about how Coca-Cola, among other incredibly tasty drinks, are terrible for your teeth. This may not help with that image, but there’s something that Coke is good for cleaning: chrome. If you use aluminum foil and the infamous soda to scrub the chrome on your car, it will get it clean better than some of the leading chrome cleaners. Plus, let’s face it, it’s probably going to cost you a fraction of the cost, too. Mythbusters have filmed an episode on this tip and found it to be completely true, so it must work.
If you’re one of the up-to-date drivers out there, then you may have Bluetooth in your car. Bluetooth is great, and it allows your phone to track the location of your vehicle, as long as it was the last device connected to it. However, tech seems to fail every once in a while, and not everyone’s phone or car works the same. An even easier way to keep track of where you left your vehicle is to drop a pin when you park, then life is easy when you go to find it later. This is basically the preventative advice for the key fob tip. If you’d like to avoid combing through parking lots to find your car then this is a great idea to consider, especially if you’re walking blocks away from your vehicle in an urban area. You’ll thank us later.
Anyone who has grown up in the snow should probably already know this, but for those of us who merely visit these colder locations don’t realize these simple tricks. If you get stuck in the snow (or even mud, for that matter), you can use your floor mats to give your tires improved traction. All that you need to do is lay down the mats in front of the tires, but make sure it’s touching the rubber so that the tire has the ability to grip onto the floor mat. Like we said, you can do the same thing in mud, however, it’s likely to be a lot messier than what the snow-dwelling drivers will have to deal with.
This one should go without saying, but it’s not often that drivers ever even think of packing emergency items in their trunk. What exactly you keep in it will be dependent upon where you live, but the essentials are basically the same. Flashlights, waters, snacks, sleeping bags, and blankets (especially for those who live in colder climates), toilet paper, a first-aid kit, a power block—as well as a cheap mobile phone—can really come in handy if you find yourself trapped in the middle of a blizzard or broken down in a remote area. You never know what could happen and it’s better to be prepared than to wish you had been.
Nothing is worse than getting into a hot car after a long day at work, or really anywhere for that matter. If you find yourself having to go without air conditioning for a little while, then life can feel pretty miserable. The easiest way to cool off your car is to roll down the front passenger and driver windows while driving, keeping the rear ones closed. This typically brings in a stronger breeze and will make things a lot more comfortable. It’s not going to replace air conditioning, but this can make things a bit more bearable, particularly for anyone that lives in a warm climate.
Sources: AutoGuide and Popular Mechanics.