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9 Essential Car Hacks And 10 More For Winter!

These Awesome Car Hacks Are Seriously Worth Knowing!

Ultimate Car Hacks

There are some lame hacks out there using clear nail polish and toothpaste on your cell phone to make a phone holder or something dumb like that. You’ll find no beauty supplies in our hacks, just 100% ingenuity to make life easier. Scroll down and continue reading our list and feel free to comment with your own DIY car hacks.

Use Steel Wool to Detail Your Windshield

untouched-steel-wool

Ever wonder how detailers manage to get all those drops of tree sap and other assorted spots off your car’s windshield? It’s not with Windex and paper towels, that’s for sure. A detailer’s trick is to use 0000 (four zeros) Extra Fine steel wool to clean the glass. Not only will it not damage the glass, it’s recommended for the task by the steel wool manufacturers themselves.

Tired of ripping your fingers to shreds putting a key on a key ring?

staple-remover-to-add-keys-to-your-keyring

Many years ago I worked at a hardware store where we cut keys, and I always dreaded when a customer handed me a key to cut that was still on the ring (expecting me to somehow magically know how  to remove the key from the ring). It wasn’t until recently that I learned the secret: a staple remover. Put the teeth of the staple remover in between the two rings, then press down to make the rings separate. And to think, all that time staple removers were only two aisles away. Every car owner should know this one!

Exorcise Rodents Out From Under Your Car’s Hood

mice_proof

Who knows why but mice and rats like to chew on electrical wires and cables. Maybe they’re looking for a live wire so they get a little “tingle” when they chomp down. But seriously they have a brain the size of a peanut so there’s not much logic here. A method of keeping them from chewing through the wiring harness of your car is to tie fabric softener air freshener style sheets in safe, out of the way, places in your engine compartment. The scent of dryer sheets drives the rodents away. Just remember to change out the sheets as the scent diminishes.

Use Your Passenger Seat Warmer to Keep Take-out Food Hot

pizza1

Except for people who like cold pizza, no one else likes cold pizza. So why disappoint your friends and/or family. Turn the passenger side seat heater to 11 and place you to-go items on the warming seat. While the pizza (or wings, or chow mein) won’t be as hot as when it came out of the oven (or wok), it will stay just a little warmer on the trip home. Car seat warmers are more useful than you’d think!

Keep Drinks Cold When You Don’t Have a Cooler

EcoSport_ASEAN_interior_002

A surprising number of cars have what at first sounds like a ridiculous feature: an air conditioned glove compartment. Perhaps its because of ridicule that carmakers have stopped mentioning the feature, but thankfully they keep installing it. You can find them in vehicles as varied as the Kia Soul and the VW Passat. It’s really very simple, if your vehicle is so equipped, there’s an A/C vent in your glove box. It’s not there to cool your registration and insurance card for the police officer who stopped you — it’s so you can stock it full of cans of your favorite beverage and keep them cool during your voyage. Be careful, though, some states have laws against even closed containers of alcohol in the passenger compartment of the car.

Use a Plastic Container as a Trash Can

trash-can-car

It seems like it takes my kids just days to turn the Wagon Queen Family Truckster into the Wagon Queen Family Dumpster. The floor gets covered in food wrappers, old homework assignments, empty water bottles, clean and dirty napkins, and who knows what else. Having a dedicated trash can specifically for your car can transform your car’s interior! I’ve not tried this hack yet but it’s on my list. I like the fact that if it tips over, the small opening is less likely to allow all the contents to run out, and when you’re handed a half-finished Popsicle to dispose of due to a crippling brain freeze attack, the fact that it’s lined with a plastic bag makes cleaning-up wet, sticky items simple.

Static Cling Tinted Plastic as a Moveable Shade

use-tinted-plastic-sheets-as-moveable-windscreen-shade

This hack comes to us from the world of civil aviation. Clearly, a clever pilot realized that the Slap On Sunshield he or she had purchased for their airplane would work on their car or truck as well. Just peel if off and stick it to where the sun is coming through the glass. Reposition it as many times as you like as it sticks via static. The manufacturer claims that they absorb 78% of visible light and will stick to any smooth surface. They’re ridiculously cheap and can be purchased from pilot and aircraft supply companies. Don’t know any? No worries, you can find the Sunshield on those big websites that sell stuff, like the one that starts with an A or the one that starts with an e.

Need extra storage? Hook a mesh bungee to your roof handles.

DSCF6677

I’m not even sure why they still put coat hooks in cars anymore. Back in the days of Mad Men, businessmen would hang their jackets on the hook (or on a hanger on the hook) in their Cadillacs and housewives would use the hook(s) in their station wagons to hang laundry they picked up from the dry cleaners. Life just isn’t like that anymore.

A modern use is to utilize them as anchors for a bungee net (you can find them at many bike shops and outdoor stores) to create some  extra storage inside your car. If you’re a snowboarder, for example,  and are on a road trip with three of your closest friends, you can stuff your coats, hats, gloves, etc. into the bungee net, out of the way, off the floor, and in a place where they’ll dry. Some people think using a shoe organizer is another cool way to maximize space, in conjunction with a laundry basket or grocery bags for ultimate organizing, but the ol’ cargo net is the way forward. Trust us!

Boost the Range of your Car Remote by Using a Body Part

BMW-7er-1

When I first heard of this I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. I couldn’t imagine that doing this would make any difference. And then I tried it. The trick to increase the range of the car key fob  is to hold it underneath your chin. Like I mentioned, I tried this (when no one was looking) and I picked up maybe 20 feet of range. Maybe enough to help me find my car at long-term airport parking. So you can find your car from further away. Cool, right?

This floated around the interweb for some time, until the New York Times picked-up on the story and went to an expert to confirm the phenomenon as well as explain how it works. According to Tim Pozar, a Silicon Valley radio engineer:

 “You are capacitively coupling the fob to your head. With all the fluids in your head it ends up being a nice conductor. Not a great one, but it works.”

Nice to know my head is good for something! As car tips and DIY car hacks go, this isn’t particularly useful, but is is cool! But what about more useful hacks? As the Starks of Winterfell are always saying: Winter Is Coming. So we thought we’d extend this list by giving you 10 more hacks that are winter specific! Here they are! Again, these are really useful hacks, and not ones involving hand santizer, a tennis ball, and olive oil to build a…useless thing like a cup holder. These tricks will actually help you out.

10 Winter Hacks That Can Help Get You Out Of Deep Trouble

Anyone can write of list of things to put in your car before winter. We’ve written a list of hacks for winter circumstances for which you weren’t prepared.

A Car Buried In Snow

We’re not going to tell you to put a pair of socks and a vanilla-scented candle in your glovebox or wipe shaving cream on your windshield (who makes up this stuff?). What we have here are solutions to real problems for which you often can’t be prepared. All of them use the resources most people have around them to solve the problem at hand. And isn’t that the true definition of a hack?

Note: some of the procedures described are for home mechanics with moderate to advanced skills. If you have any questions you should read the disclaimer on the last page.

#01. Windshield Washer Hack

Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol

In winter it seems like you run through a gallon of the stuff in about a week. Any life is impossible, and totally dangerous, without it. Streaks block your view and driving becomes a white knuckle experience even on a clear day. In a pinch you can make windshield washer fluid from chemicals found around almost every household. Keep in mind that the windshield washer fluid you buy at the store is really made of just three components: alcohol, water, and blue dye.

So if you can live without the blue dye, all you need is tap water and alcohol to mix up a batch. Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol is the choice of professional window cleaners to keep their wash water from freezing, and is a product found in most medicine cabinets. Used  pure as a window wash is not encouraged, as it’s flammable, but it won’t freeze until -130 F.  A more sensible 50/50 mix of water and isopropyl won’t freeze until it gets to -5 F and is a much safer mixture (before sure you check the percentage on the label of the rubbing alcohol and account for it in your mix). Other options include diluted household window cleaner (i.e. Windex), and if you’re in a real pinch, a mix of Vodka and water. There are resources on the interweb that offer more complete information on those solutions.

#02. “Dead” Battery Cool Car Hack # 1

Car Ceiling Light

If your battery worked perfectly well the day before and then refuses to release enough current the morning after an exceptional cold night, it’s in a sort of suspended animation (but definitely not dead). It’s so cold that the molecules inside your battery that need to interact to generate a charge are so slow and lazy, they barely generate a spark much less a crank. Hack #1 is to switch off your car after you first attempt to start it, and turn on a single small item like your dome light. The battery should be able to provide enough juice to power the bulb in and doing so, the molecules start moving around, bumping into each other, and heating up your battery. Give it a few minutes and try starting it again.

#03. “Dead” Battery Hack #2

Battery Terminals On Car Battery

If the dome light trick didn’t work, go outside and raise the hood of the car. Jiggle each of the battery cables to make sure the connections are tight. Since the battery posts and the clamps are of dissimilar metals that can expand and contract at different rates with temperature, potentially causing a gap in contact, which will severely reduce the amount of juice the battery can push down the battery cable. If either is loose, clean and tighten the clamps and try again.

#04. “Dead” Battery Hack #3

Removing A Car Battery

If the first two hacks don’t get your car started, you’ll have to go to more extreme measures. It’s likely that your battery got so cold that there’s hardly any molecular motion inside, and the entire battery needs to be heated up. The best option is to remove the battery from the car and bring it into the house (away from pets and kids) until it’s no longer cold to the touch. Reinstall and retry. (At this point your significant other will point out that you could have jump started your car off of theirs. Explain you were just feeling “MacGyver” this morning to avoid embarrassment).

#05. “Dead” Battery Hacks #4 and #5

Power Socket

Two alternate versions I’ve heard of but can’t testify to their effectiveness is a hair dryer (make sure you’re using an extension cord that’s rated for outdoor use and plugged into a GFIC outlet), but I have to think that could take an hour or more. Another was a recommendation by a mechanic on the Denver AAA website, who suggested dumping hot water on the battery. We can’t recommend either method as we’ve not tried them, and unless you really (really) know what you’re doing you’re far safer just removing the battery from the car and bringing it into the house.

#06. Windshield Wiper Hack

Windshield Wiper Drawing

Okay, say you’re driving and your passenger side windshield wiper blade breaks off. You now have the bare blade scraping against your windshield. the problem is, you just can’t driver without the wiper in front of you on. So here’s what to do. Don’t bother putting a sock or glove on the wiper blades/wiper arm because it’s just going to fall off at some point and you’re back at the beginning. Pull over and get under shelter, like a gas station awning, and remove the entire wiper arm assembly.

At the base, on many cars the arm connects to the wiper motor by a series of splines and is only push-fit together, on others there’s a retaining nut of a fairly standard size which you can probably borrow a wrench to remove (your car’s tool kit may even come with pliers, which should do the trick). First, release the retaining clip, then take out the wrench for your spare tire jack. There should be a flattened end on one side. Place a block of something sturdy but won’t mess up your car to use as a fulcrum (a small piece of 2×4 would be ideal, but there won’t be any. Look for something similar). Use the block as the fulcrum and slip the flat end of the wrench under the wiper arm. Move it around a bit to try to loosen evenly until the wiper arm comes free.

#07. Frozen Lock Hacks

Lloyd From Dumb And Dumber Using Breath Spray

Frozen locks are one of the most common yet easiest solved winter car problems. What’s happened is that water has gotten into your lock cylinder, probably during a freeze-thaw-freeze cycle, and it’s now in the freeze phase. There are two basic solutions: heat or alcohol. Heat because it will thaw the frozen water and is basically accomplished by heating the key and sliding it into the lock. Nicely warm will do it, no need to heat it to glowing. The other solution uses the lower freezing point of alcohol to dilute and thaw the ice. Back to vodka, you could blow a little through a straw into the lock, or squirt in mouth spray (does anyone still use Binaca?) or even hand sanitizer.

#08. Frozen Windshield Hack

Scraping Ice From A Car Windshield

What’s the advice you always hear when told what to do to clear ice off your windshield and you don’t have an ice scraper? Use a credit card!, right? Are you insane? What happens when you crack or split your credit card?  You have no access to the ATM,  “no pay at the pump”, and your girlfriend’s buying dinner until the credit card company sends you a replacement. Use the Blockbuster card you insist on still carrying in your wallet, or the club card for the grocery store you shop at every week and know your member number by heart. And if this situation is truly, honestly a one-time-only, “I promise I’ll go buy an ice scraper right away” circumstance, you can idle your car for a few minutes to speed along the process and help melt the ice. But just this once, because we’re all responsible for the Earth.

#09. Frozen Parking Brake Hack

Blow Torch Flame

If you grew up in an area where snow and cold are commonplace in the winter months, you learn not to set your parking brake in certain situations – primarily when it’s above 32F outside during the day, so the roads are wet and slushy, and then drops below freezing a night. If you’ve set the parking brake in those circumstances you may wake to find them frozen. If that’s the case, you have a few options. First, if you’re just outside a garage space that’s available, you can push the car by lifting the rear axle with a wheeled floor jack of appropriate capacity and let it thaw inside the garage. Other solutions we’ve heard of include using a propane gas hand torch (like a BernzOmatic) or even a hair dryer (using an outdoor rated extension cord and plugged into a GFIC outlet, of course) but we’ve used neither ourselves, so we can’t vouch for their efficacy or tendency to burn down your car..

#10. Overnight Parking Hack

Car Parked Facing The Sun

Of these insanely cool car hacks, make sure you remember this one most! If you have to park outside, do so with your car facing East if possible. This isn’t some Feng Shui thing, what you’re looking to do is have your frozen windshield meet the first rays of morning sunlight, thus starting the thawing process at dawn. A study done in Canada stated that facing your car into the morning sun raises the temperature of your windshield by three degrees Fahrenheit, which is a pretty good start considering you didn’t really have to do much to make it happen. This is a trusty car hack that will pay off big time.

Disclaimer

Proper service and repair procedures are vital to the safe, reliable operation of all motor vehicles, as well as the personal safety of those performing repairs or maintenance procedures.  Safety procedures and precautions (including use of safety goggles, proper tools, jacks and equipment, and proper exhausting and ventilation) should be followed at all times to avoid personal injury, illness, death or property damage, and to avoid compromising the safety of the vehicle or third parties.  The information on this website is not intended as a substitute for the professional advice of a qualified automobile mechanic who has personally inspected the vehicle for purposes of diagnosis or repair.  You should always seek the advice of the automobile manufacturer, the dealer where the automobile may have been purchased, a qualified mechanic or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding automobile safety, maintenance, or repair.  You should not delay, avoid or disregard the advice of the manufacturer, dealer or qualified auto mechanic because of anything you may have read, seen or heard on this site.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.