Take a look at all the devices in your life, and which one seems the most resistant to DIY improvements, repairs and useful tweaking? The answer, most likely, is that four-wheeled gadget resting just outside. But while many of us lifehack fans aren't as comfortable in our driveways as our desktops, there are lots of cheap and (mostly) simple ways to get more from your vehicle and make driving and owning it a bit more enjoyable. Today we've rounded up 10 of our favourite car-related tips and tricks that work whether you're at one with your engine or regard your ride as a mysterious four-wheel transporter. Photo by World Resources Institute Staff.
10. Make your own storage space
Just because your car's designer was uninspired by the driver's-side space doesn't mean you can't have convenience and easy storage within arm's reach. Using some duct tape, yoghurt cups, and other common items, you can put together your own DIY car console, or spend a bit more time and care to craft something a bit more slick-looking. And, while not technically all-the-way-DIY, adhering a sticky pad to your dashboard can serve as seriously convenient, no-stick place to keep your gadgets.
9. Clean your engine (and other parts) for better service
Apologies in advance if this comes off like an over-bearing, car-obsessed relative, but a little time spent with soap and water saves you a lot of ruined clothes and grunt-inducing frustration later on. Cleaning out your engine compartment, for example, makes it easier for mechanics (and yourself) to find leaks, belt and hose breaks, and other problems, and you'll also get a cooler-running motor from your efforts. Check out 74 more wise tips on keeping your car running in tip-top shape.
8. Find your car anywhere
Few things feel like wasted time more than wandering a vast parking lot, searching out a car that looks just like all the others. To prevent the problem, take a picture of your car and its notable surroundings to quickly re-orient yourself when you come back. Forget to grab that pic? Hold your fob up to your head to boost your alarm-inducing signal and find your ride. Still can't spot your wheels? Try a few other tried-and-true tips. Hate the idea of using your "panic" button for anything, much less a game of parking lot Marco Polo? Feel free to simply and quickly disable it.
7. "Hypermile" for better fuel economy
We're never going to recommend shutting down your engine and riding a tractor-trailer's draft, but you can learn a thing or two from the folks who take their gas mileage very, very seriously. Here are a few tips gleaned from Wise Bread's take on hypermiling:
- Track your mileage: You can't tell if your efficiency efforts are working unless you're keeping track. Try resetting the odometer every time you refill your tank, rather than trying to note and guess mileages individually.
- Leave lots of space ahead of you: It not only shows you paid attention during driving lessons, it gives you more time to gradually slow down instead of slamming on your brakes and losing all your momentum.
- Use cruise control more often: Accelerate gradually over a distance and you save on all the gas eaten up by lead-footed acceleration.
6. Clean your windshield with a razor blade
If you live near a gas station with a freely-available (and relatively clean) squeegee bin, you're in luck. If not, don't settle for a view crusted and hazed over with dirt and bug guts. Keep a covered razor blade in your glove compartment for a quick means of dealing with noticeable blotches, and it might just come in handy in other situations, as well. Photo by Antediluvial.
5. De-ice a lock with hand sanitzer
As pointed out by a commenter and others, a tiny tube of water-less hand sanitizer does more than keep germs away—its heavy alcohol content can also break down ice. Squirt some in a resistant lock, and spend less time in the cold, fumbling with cold metal keys.
4. Remove coffee and other tough stains
It's the basic math of the morning commute: Hot liquid + Velocity + Distraction = Stains. Take a few minutes and some household items, however, and you can save your car's interior from looking like the break room carpet. Check out this eHow guide to get started, and then consider using less cream in your java to prevent similarly tough stains in the future. If oil or gasoline hitch a ride on your shoes and onto the carpets, try dryer lint or dish detergent, respectively, to banish them.
3. Fix cracks and scratches with nail polish
Nail polish can do many, many things, and its clear variety is no less an amazing solve-all. Need to slow a crack in a windshield or window before you can get to the glass shop? Nail polish has you covered. Got a little ding you want to prevent from rusting? Clear nail polish does the trick. Better still, if you can find a nail polish shade that (closely) matches your car's paint job, it can work as less-expensive touch-up paint, since the two paints are eerily close in nature. Photo by wrestlingentropy.
2. Connect your MP3 player, no transmitters involved
There's no end to the ways you can integrate your iPod, iPhone, or other portable device into your dashboard—if you're willing to shell out for that top-shelf car or after-market stereo. But break out your screwdriver and you can easily tap into, or add, an auxiliary jack to your stereo. Wired's How to issue shows you how to plug into existing jacks (scroll down to "Wire your car stereo ..."), while Make magazine offers a simple soldering solution to add your own line-in connection.
1. Fix a dent yourself
Hitting another car almost always means a trip to the body shop, but what about that little ding from the mailbox, the garbage can, or the really inconvenient parking sign? Grab yourself some dry ice, or a hair dryer and a can of compressed air, and you've got two cheap solutions for popping your car's body back into shape. It might not work with serious body repairs, but it saves you a hefty labor charge for fixing cosmetic flaws. Photo by tylerkaraszewski.
A lot of this stuff (most of it, in fact) has been covered before in previous posts, and we're always on the lookout for clever and low-cost ways to make owning and driving a car more convenient and, well, fun. What's the neatest or most elegant car hack you've seen or made yourself? Share your successes in the comments, and we'll consider them for future posts (with credit!).
Kevin Purdy, associate editor at Lifehacker, hopes to keep his Sentra running until the next version of Windows debuts. His weekly feature, Open Sourcery, appears every Saturday on Lifehacker AU.