Whether your car is in pristine condition or it's a disaster area, you can do a number of simple things to keep it organised, well-maintained, and working its best. Here's an easy approach to getting things in order and make your car do more for you.
I used to treat my car like a dumpster because I saw it as a means of getting from point A to point B when walking wasn't an option, but I changed. I changed for two reasons: 1) it got to a point where the mess was causing problems (as in, my friends didn't want to sit on a pile of garbage), and 2) I realised that you don't actually have to like cars or driving them to render a little organisation beneficial. A more organised car saves you time and effort, and a well-maintained car is good for resale value.
First we're going to take a look at ways to take the pain and cost out of servicing your car, then how you can keep it organised to make your driving experience better and easier.
I take no pleasure in keeping my belongings in pristine condition, but the same goes for making a mess. There's a reasonable middle-ground where you don't have to spend tons of time neurotically caring for your car and can still keep it in great condition. Here are some tricks to help you keep it running great and looking good while saving you time and money.
Get a Synthetic Oil Change
A regular oil change will let you drive 5000km before you need another one. Pure synthetic or synthetic oil blends (meaning synthetics combined with petroleum) are not only better for your car (unless your car is pretty old or has a high-mileage engine) but you can get a lot more mileage before needing a change when using them. This means that if you pick the right one, you'll rarely have to change your oil and save yourself some money.
So how do you know you're getting the right stuff? Before you get your oil changed, call the place up and ask if their offer a pure synthetic option, a blend, or just the standard petroleum. There aren't many pure synthetics and they're generally pretty costly (because you can get up to 40,000km before a change in some cases), so there's nothing wrong with choosing a blend if it'll save you money. Not all blends are created equal, however, so make sure you ask how long it'll last you and what it will cost. You may also want to ask for the type of blend so you can look it up and verify any claims. If you call a few places and compare, you should be able to figure out the most cost-effective method in your area so you can get your oil changed less often and save yourself some cash.
Plan Your Car Washes Around Trips to the Petrol Station and Service Visits
Larger petrol stations offer car washes, and if you buy one you'll occasionally get a discount on your petrol bill or other freebies. Several service providers - especially dealerships - also offer a free car wash with things like an oil change or general tune-up. You probably have a decent idea of how much you drive, so estimating when you'll need petrol or a service visit is pretty easy to estimate. How often you wash your car will depend on a lot of factors, like the weather or if you often park underneath a bird poop factory, but a good average is once a month. If you fill up on petrol once a week, you can make every fourth fill-up also be the time you wash your car. You probably need to take your car in for service every three months, so you can save four of those yearly car washes for those times. Your schedule may vary, and you'll have to figure that out for yourself, but in general if you just schedule things together you can save yourself some time, money and effort.
I enjoy organising my stuff because I enjoy problem-solving and I know it saves time in the long run, but I wouldn't call it fun. If you're reading this section it's probably because your car is a mess (or you're just curious). The good news is that this isn't very hard to do and will only take you a couple of hours or less. Once you're done, your car will not only be cleaned and organised but you'll have a system in place to make sure it stays that way.
Take Out the Trash
Before you can even start you need to get rid of the garbage in your car. If you don't have any, good for you - you can skip this part. If you do, get a garbage bag and start throwing things out. While you're doing this, however, make note of what you're throwing away and where it was in your car. Keeping your car cleaner in the future is going to depend on knowing your weak points. Do you throw soft drink cans in the back seat? Do you shove used tissues in the storage compartment on your door? Whatever it is that you do that you ought to avoid, you're going to need specific solutions. Let's take a look at some examples.
If your passengers leave stuff in the back seat, add a mobile trash bag. If you have the aforementioned tissue problem, keep a kit with tissues and a case for the used ones so they don't end up all over your car. While you shouldn't eat in the car, for - at the very least - safety reasons, keep a lunch box or bag around so you can isolate any food. Never take the box/bag out of the car - just remove the excess food/waste when you leave. This way, if you forget the bag it will keep the food inside and prevent the smell from soaking into your car's fabric.
Whatever your problem may be, there's generally a pretty simple solution. Figure out what you do that causes problems and why. Once you can identify the lazy tendency that's causing you to make a mess of your vehicle, you can think about solutions that cater to that laziness. A good solution is one that will still allow you to continue your slothfulness without causing its associated disorganisation.
Add New Storage and Compartmentalise
There are a lot of handy storage tools you can use to keep your car nice and organised so you're not letting your stuff freely flow in the trunk, on the floor, or all over your extra seats (which may or may not contain other humans from time to time).
One of the most helpful things you can do is create compartments, which work best in the trunk. You can buy trunk organisers designed for any purpose, or for something more specific like holding groceries. These things are just topless fabric cubes with Velcro on the bottom, however, so if you're concerned more about cost and less about appearance you can just add some adhesive velcro to the bottom of a few cardboard boxes and call it a day.
If you take papers and other items with you to work (or wherever) on a regular basis, you have a few options. The easiest is to just keep them in your bag rather than in your car, but if you actually did that you wouldn't have a problem. For those documents you just have to keep in your car, you can get a document organiser that hangs on the headrest of a seat. Again, if you don't want to cough up the cash and aren't particularly concerned with looks, you can make the same thing out of an old sweatshirt. Just sew up the bottom (the part where your torso ends and your legs begin), cut the neck hole a bit wider, and then tie the sleeves around the headrest. Put some folders in it and you've got the same thing, just uglier.
Keep Your Coins Handy
Obviously. If you need to feed a meter or pay a toll, it's useful to keep some in your car where they're easily accessible. You know this, but you're probably keeping your coins conveniently in one of your cup holders or more safely in the glove compartment. If this is the case, there's a better way. Instead, get a velcro pouch for your coins that you can adhere to the underside of any place in your car that you find convenient. This way they're out of view but you can still access them just as quickly. If you're concerned about adding Velcro to any part of your car, you don't need to. Velcro should stick all on its own to most car mats and surfaces on the floor, and you can hide your coins there.
Alternatively, you can always pick up one of these motorised coin sorters and dispensers that fit in your cup holder. That still means using your cup holder for coins, but since it kind of looks like a cup it's unlikely going to draw anyone's eye.
Manage Your Gadgets Better
Cars are slowly learning to accommodate your gadgets but many aren't all that good at it yet. That said, there are a few things you can do to keep everything in its place and coexist harmoniously with your vehicle.
Our favourite DIY project for the car is this smartphone car dock made out of office supplies. We all made one and use it regularly, think it works better than what you'd actually buy, and it costs you absolutely nothing if you can slip out of the office with a binder clip and some string.
You've probably seen these non-slip grip pads that let you toss your phone, sunglasses or whatever on top of them without the need to worry about them falling on the ground while you drive. These work and they're great, but when you buy one you're basically paying for a small piece of standard grip drawer liner and you can get an entire roll for the same price. That roll is enough to last you through every car you own, plus you can cut it into exactly the shape you need.
Lastly, you're going to need some USB ports to charge things from time to time. This USB car converter goes for as little as 45 cents on Amazon and gives you two USB ports. When you can buy these things for so little, there's really no excuse to not charge your gadgets in your car. (Just be sure to unplug them when the car is off if your car provides constant battery power.)
Got any other great tricks for maintaining and organising your car? Share ‘em in the comments.