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Chances are you rely heavily on your car. If your city doesn’t have good public transportation, a vehicle can be a necessity to get you from home to the grocery store, the doctor’s office and the kids’ school.
But, from gas to maintenance to repairs, owning a car can be expensive.
Here are some simple tips that will keep your car in tip-top shape, make driving more pleasant—and maybe even save you a few bucks along the way. This way you can save your money for something much more fun, like that karaoke machine you’ve been eyeing.
Clean Headlights With Toothpaste
To see things more clearly, clean your cloudy headlights with toothpaste. There are mild abrasives in your toothpaste (which is how it gets the plaque off your teeth) that clean the headlight, and it can also fill in small cracks. If only the toothpaste could fill in those cavities!
Use Your Head To Lock Your Car
Do you want to feel like a magician? If you’re too far from your car for your key fob to work, try using your head as a personal satellite. Yes, really. Your body’s fluids can extend the wireless signal from your key fob to the parked car. Just put your car key fob under your chin, open your mouth, and push the button on your keychain.
Defog Your Car By Turning On The Air Conditioning
It sounds crazy, but there is a reason this works. You can defog your car faster using this multi-step process:
- Turn the heat on full blast to eliminate moisture in the air.
- Turn on the A/C to make it more arid.
- Switch back to heat, and switch off the air recirculation button (the one with the arrow twirling around the inside of the car). Let that cold outside air come into the car while the heat is on.
- Open the windows. Not a lot, since it’s clearly cold outside, but enough to let cold air come into the car, drying it even more.
This works much quicker than just blasting the defrost when you first get in the car.
Cover The Windshield During Winter
In the summer, you may use a sunshade to prevent the smoldering sun heating up your car’s interior. In the winter, you can do the same thing, except put a blanket, tarp or plastic tablecloth over the outside of your windshield to protect it from snow and ice. This also keeps your windshield wipers from sticking to the glass.
Try This Weird, But Efficient Way To Cool Down Your Car
Instead of blasting the air conditioning (or if your A/C doesn’t work), try this instead:
- Roll down the driver’s side window.
- Go to the passenger side, and open and close the doors a few times.
This forces the hot air out of the car, cooling your car faster than simply relying on the air conditioning to cool down your hotbox.
Use Clear Nail Polish To Repair Windshield Cracks
You know the old trick where you put clear nail polish on pantyhose to stop a run from going all the way down your leg? Well, the same theory works on small cracks in your windshield. Instead of waiting for the windshield to completely crack, put some nail polish on it as soon as you notice a small fracture.
De-Ice A Frozen Lock With Hand Sanitizer
The alcohol in hand sanitizer will melt the ice right off your car door handle. Other ways to de-ice frozen locks in a pinch include breathing warm air onto the door handle, warming your key with a lighter or applying some WD-40.
Borrow The Kids’ Pool Noodles For Your Garage
Do you hit the garage wall every time you open your car door? Place a pool noodle along the side of the garage, and it will protect your car from getting door dinged on a daily basis.
Be Your Own Pizza Delivery Service
Get Directions From Delivery Drivers
Even with every square inch of this country mapped out thanks to Google, you could (theoretically) still get lost. Instead of asking the gas station attendant for directions, ask the local pizza or food delivery service. They have to drive the roads all the time, and they know where they’re going.
Remove Dents With A Plunger
If you have a minor dent, you may be able to repair it on the cheap with a plunger.
Don’t Buy Any More Air Fresheners
Instead of shelling out good money for those car freshener trees that you hang from the rearview mirror, simply use an herbal tea bag. Wrap it in a breathable cloth, and hang it on the mirror. Tea bags are much cheaper to replace, and there are plenty of soothing scents to choose from. If you’re prone to road rage, may we suggest some calming lavender?
Clean With Coca-Cola
Most soda is so acidic, it can ruin your teeth. So, instead of drinking it, why not use Coca-Cola on your car to get rid of rust?
Keep Your Cup Holders Clean With Cupcake Liners
Add some cupcake liners to your cup holders, and when they start to get dirty, remove and replace them! The Kids Activities Blog recommends silicone ones, which means you can pop them into the dishwasher when they’re in need of a cleaning.
Put Ziplocs On Your Side Mirrors During Winter
If you park outside during winter, add a Ziploc to your side-view mirrors and you’ll have two fewer surfaces to clear snow and ice from in the morning. If you don’t have a Ziploc-style bag handy, you could use a single-use plastic grocery bag — just tie it as tightly as you can to keep the snow and ice at bay!
Tame Your Mess With A Remote Control Caddy-Turned-Organizer
If you’re tired of finding pens, toys, books and other odds and ends all over your car, get a remote control caddy and affix it to the side of one of your seats. Tame that clutter!
A Paint Brush For Your Air Vents
The Family Handyman came up with a brilliant way to clean those hard-to-clean car vents … with a little paint brush! Genius, right?
Cleaning Your Car Seats
What’s the best way to clean your fabric car seats? Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, dish soap, and hot water. That’s it.
How To Clean Those Little Crevices
Once again, The Family Handyman came to our car-cleaning rescue by sharing his tip on cleaning small crevices in our cars. All you’ll need is a flathead screwdriver and a cloth to cover it with.
You can then spray a cleaner on it, or a natural cleaning agent—if you read our pieces on all the amazing things vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice can do—and clean all your car’s hard-to-reach spots.
A Cargo Shelf Will Do Wonders For Your Trunk
The Kids Activities Blog also recommends adding a cargo shelf to your trunk to save space and help organize your car or SUV. Whether you have kids or not, your trunk could probably be a bit more organized, right? (Mine sure can!)
“Scour Off” For Your Hubcaps
If hosing down your hubcaps isn’t cutting it, trying this trick I came across on the Ring Around the Rosies blog, where Jaima used Scour Off to clean her tire rims. Clean, shiny hubcaps can make such a difference for the overall appearance of your car.
Club Soda For Your Windshield
Got some tough-to-remove sticky spots on the windshield? Trying scrubbing them off with a rag and club soda. You’d be surprised what those bubbles can do.
Dryer Sheets For The Front Of Your Car
There’s almost nothing worse than those pesky bugs that seem to decorate the front of your car, right? The Sugar Spice and Spilled Milk blog figured out the solution: Dryer sheets. She wet the car, then put the dryer sheet in a bucket of warm water before using it to remove the bugs. So easy!
Dryer Sheets As Air Freshener
Traditional car air fresheners can have an overwhelming scent. Dryer sheets make an ideal air freshener. You can attach one to the heating/air-conditioning vents or hide them under the seats to keep them out of sight.
Prevent Your Wipers From Freezing And Cracking
Not only is it tricky to pry frozen wipers from an ice-covered windshield, doing so can actually cause the blade to crack or rip. You could buy wiper protectors for $20 but if you want to save some money or need blade covers in a pinch, look no further than your sock drawer. Slip a sock over each blade, and voila!
Quick Fix For A Missing Wiper Blade
If you can’t make it to the mechanic to get a new wiper blade or happen to lose one on a long-distance drive, here’s a quick fox for you: Find yourself a woman’s stocking. Wrapping pantyhose tightly (keyword: tightly!) around your windshield wiper can offer a quick fix in a storm and prevent a bare wiper from possibly scratching your windshield.
Use These Tricks When You’re Low On Gas
When you see your gas tank nearing “E” for empty, it may be tempting to speed up to find the nearest gas station. Don’t! According to car experts interviewed for Cars.com, the first thing you should do is pull over and look up the closest gas station and fastest route to getting there to avoid wasting any precious drops of fuel on a wrong turn. Next, turn off your heat or A/C, if possible, your stereo and unplug anything you’ve been charging. Finally, try to stick to a slow and steady speed (ideally going 35-45 miles per hour) until you reach your refueling point.
Know How Far Your Car Can Drive On Empty
The “empty” indicator often comes on well before your gas tank is empty. But how can you be sure how many miles you have to go before you actually run out of gas? While some cars will give you a miles-to-empty estimate, it’s still just that: an estimate. Because the distance-to-empty could vary based on traffic and speed, Your Mechanic put together a handy chart that reveals how many miles certain makes and models really can go while on empty (based on 2015 models).
Tackle Dog Hair With Rubber Gloves
If you’re a dog owner, driving with your canine companions is often (OK, mostly!) unavoidable. To combat the fur they leave behind, try this simple hack: Fill a spray bottle with water and lightly spritz the interior of your car. Throw on a pair of rubber gloves and rub your hands over the seats, floor and doors. The hair should stick to the gloves, and you can rinse them off as you go.
Drive Through Standing Water The Right Way
The best way to drive through a flooded section of road or massive puddle is to NOT drive through it at all. If going forward is your only option, hold steady on the gas and drive slowly. If you drive a manual, don’t change gears. You want to avoid water meeting the air intake on your engine, so the higher your car is off the ground, the better. But, again, the best way to prevent damage is to avoid driving through standing water in the first place.
Use Pam To Fight Bugs
As mentioned, removing bugs from the front bumper and grill of your car can be tough. Some savvy car owners have found that using a cooking spray like Pam helps them wipe off easier. Others swear that applying a good coating of cooking spray or car wax before taking off on a bug-filled journey will also help.
Remove Stickers With Wet Newspaper
Maybe you got a little overzealous with the political bumper stickers when you were feeling fired up, or your car is still boasting that your kid is an honor roll student even though she’s now a college grad.
Whatever the reason, sometimes you need to purge your car’s bumper of old stickers, but anyone who’s ever attempted to do this knows that it’s easier said than done.
A simple way to remove old stickers without damaging your car is to use damp newspaper. Just wet a piece of newspaper and lay it over the sticker for about 15 minutes. This will soften the adhesive residue and make it easier to wipe off. It works for stickers on the windshield as well.
— Burien Toyota (@BurienToyota) June 6, 2018
Clean Floor Mats In The Washing Machine
The floor mats in your car can really take a beating, especially if you have kids or pets (or both!). Even vacuuming them doesn’t take care of the ground-in dirt and grime, nor does it remove stains.
The solution? Throw them in the washing machine.
Reduce Food Mess With An Organization Bucket
Meals on the go are a fact of life for many families, but trusting kids with fast food in the car can lead to a big mess. Next time you swing through a drive-thru, come prepared with an organization bucket for stashing the food. This prevents fries from getting lost in the crevices and helps protect against spills.
Check it out in action — using a $1 bucket from Target, no less — on the blog Lookie What I Did.
DIY A Car Seat Cover For Your Dog
If you’re headed out on a road trip with your pooch, you can protect your back seat from becoming covered in fur and keep your pup comfortable at the same time with a DIY seat cover. This tutorial from Your Sassy Self does not require any sewing. You can use a twin-size bedsheet or the fabric of your choice.
Make A Travel First-Aid Kit
It’s important to keep safe while on the road. In addition to driving defensively and buckling up, you should have a first aid kit at the ready in case of emergency. Endlessly Inspired recommends tossing in everything from painkillers to bandaids to allergy meds.
Turn Your Car Into A Camper
Think you need an actual camper to camp on the go? Think again. Whether you’re traveling in an SUV, a crossover or a van, you can lay the back set of seats flat and set up a cozy nook that’s perfect for catching some z’s.
The Mandagies, a blog about a Pacific Northwest couple’s outdoor adventures, recommends a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, extra blankets, a hat to wear at night and an eye mask to make your night as pleasant as possible.
Wax Your Car With Hair Conditioner
Next time you want your car to look shiny and new, just head to your shower. Turns out, hair conditioner can make your paint job just as smooth and silky as your tresses. The trick is to dilute it with some water first.
Park Perfectly With A Tennis Ball
Do you ever struggle to figure out how far to pull in when parking in your garage? There’s a simple hack to prevent you from running into your storage boxes. Simply hang a tennis ball from the ceiling at the point where it will hit your windshield when you’ve pulled in to the exact right spot. Genius!
DIY A Backseat Garbage Can
If you frequently have little passengers in the back seat, you know they can make quite the mess. Craft a garbage can to hang over the front seat to encourage them from littering all over the car. They can even make a game of it by trying to see who can “score the most baskets.”
Polish Your Dashboard With Olive Oil
Dashboard looking dingy? The solution may lie in your cupboard. You can use some olive oil (plus a little elbow grease!) to polish up the dashboard and make it look shiny and new again.