Cleaning & Organization

Strange But True Car Tricks Every Driver Should Know

Why you need toothpaste, pool noodles, nail polish and a toilet plunger for your car.

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 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.

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:

  1. Turn the heat on full blast to eliminate moisture in the air.
  2. Turn on the A/C to make it drier.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

bierdoctor/Flickr

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.

Tina Franklin/Flickr

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:

  1. Roll down the driver’s side window.
  2. 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.

Porsche 914 _swap-1
Flickr | wbaiv

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, many experts say to put nail polish on it as soon as you notice a small fracture.

However, others (like windshield repair companies) say nail polish won’t cut it if you have a crack in your glass. But as a temporary fix on a small fracture, clear nail polish might be worth a shot until you can get your car to the shop!

jganderson/Flickr

RELATED: The Simplest Way To Keep The Interior Of Your Car Clean

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.

stevensnodgrass/Flickr

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 door from getting dinged on a daily basis.

ashleigh290/Flickr

Be Your Own Pizza Delivery Service

Who says you have to hurry home before your takeout gets cold? Why not use your seat warmer to heat up the large pizza sitting next to you?

Results will probably vary, depending on how hot your seat warmers get and how long your drive is, but hey — it can’t hurt to try next time you’re stuck in traffic with takeout for dinner.

beleaveme/Flickr

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.

athomson/Flickr

Remove Dents With A Plunger

If you have a minor dent, you may be able to repair it on the cheap with a plunger.

Nick/Flickr

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?

Tony Alter/Flickr

RELATED: 10 Tricks To Get Your Car Cleaner Than Ever Before

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?

jeepersmedia/Flickr


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.

Kids Activities Blog

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!

Ikea Hackers

A Paintbrush For Your Air Vents

The Family Handyman came up with a brilliant way to clean those hard-to-clean car vents … with a little paintbrush. Genius, right?

The Family Handyman

Get Fabric Seats Clean

You already know how useful baking soda is for keeping the house clean. It can be used for everything from deodorizing kitty litter to cleaning grout. But have you heard of baking soda’s cousin, washing soda? It’s a white odorless powder made of sodium carbonate, and it can be used for all sorts of cleaning projects. Case in point: To get fabric car seats clean, scrub with a mixture of washing soda, dish soap and hot water.

Adobe

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 (such as vinegar, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice) — and clean all your car’s hard-to-reach spots.

screwdriver photo
Flickr | chefranden

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!)

Amazon

Make Hubcaps Sparkle With Dish Soap

Dish soap is another household workhorse. It makes your plates and cutlery shine, and it can do the same for your hubcaps. Mix up a teaspoon of dish soap in hot water, and scrub the hubcaps until they are sparkling clean.

 

Club Soda For Your Windshield

Got some tough-to-remove sticky spots on the windshield? Try scrubbing them off with a rag and club soda. You’d be surprised what those bubbles can do.

Adobe

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!

Sugar Spice and Spilled Milk

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.

Adobe

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. Just grab a long pair of old socks, put your wipers in the upright position and slip the socks over them.

Adobe

 

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 metal wiper arm from possibly scratching your windshield.

windshield wiper photo
Flickr | woodleywonderworks

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 to 45 mph) until you reach your refueling point.

However, some experts caution that turning off the air conditioning — and driving with the windows open — can actually create wind resistance that causes the car to use more fuel. So, if the weather is mild, keep those windows closed and head straight to the nearest gas station.

flickr / chrismetcalfTV

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).

Your Mechanic

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.

dog car photo
Flickr | Bennilover

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.

After you’ve driven through water, test your brakes to make sure they’re working properly. But again, the best way to prevent damage is to avoid driving through standing water in the first place.

car flood photo
Flickr | Andrew Kalat

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 applying a coating of cooking spray before taking off on a bug-filled journey will help to keep your car clean and insect-free.

Adobe/Flickr User Conagra

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.

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.

Blogger Brooke Ulrich of All Things Thrifty recommends pre-treating the mats with this homemade stain remover before washing them.

All Things Thrifty

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.

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.

Your Sassy Self

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.

Endlessly Inspired

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.

The Mandagies

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!

Instructables

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.”

Keeping It Simple Crafts

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.

Mommy Footprint

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!

wwarby/Flickr

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.

Don’t believe us? Here’s the science behind this cool hack:

 

 

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