12 life-changing car hacks

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This post comes from Autoblog Open Road, our contributor network. The author is solely responsible for the content, and any opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Autoblog and its editors.

Door dings, spilled drinks, cluttered trunks, and broken belts: all of these are hassles that come with car ownership. For all the great things our cars do for us, sometimes they can be a real pain, and dealing with their various problems can use up a lot of precious time and money.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a variety of clever ways to delay or remedy the inevitable headaches car ownership brings. These 12 life-changing car hacks are simple, straightforward, and inexpensive – chances are you already have the supplies you need lying around the house.

  1. Keep Your Teeth (and Headlights) Clean: Your car’s headlights are likely to get scuffed up and clouded after a few years on the road. Full replacement is a costly option, but there’s a dentist-recommended way to get them clear again: squeeze some toothpaste onto a rag or brush and start scrubbing. The gentle abrasives in the toothpaste will remove the surface layer of the headlight housing, restoring them to a pearly bright condition. You only have to do this once every few years, but you should still brush your teeth twice a day.
  2. Fill Glass Cracks With Nail Polish: Chances are that someday a piece of road debris is going to hit your windshield and leave a nasty chip or crack. This can limit your visibility, and the damage can spread, making your windshield unusable altogether. Clear nail polish could come in handy here: carefully apply a thin layer to the crack on the inside and outside of the windshield. That can fill it in, preventing the crack from growing. Make sure to use clear nail polish here – save pink or red for your fingers or toes.
  3. Use an Old Shoe to Keep Drinks in the Cup: We remember the cupholders in our old E39 BMW 5 Series. As fantastic as that car was, the cupholders were among the worst-engineered items of all time. The slightest bump or corner would send drinks flying. A solution came when we stuck an old shoe between the seat and center armrest, providing a secure place to put our cup. It didn’t smell great, but that was a worthwhile tradeoff against yet another spilled mug of coffee on the morning commute.
  4. Wrap Stockings Around Your Windshield Wipers: Eventually, your wiper blades will wear out, and if they’re old enough they might even fall off. If that happens and you try to use them, the bare metal wiper arms will put some serious scratches in your windshield. Try wrapping some stockings around the wiper arms. The soft material will protect the glass, and provide a decent clean so you can see what’s ahead.
  5. Use Stockings to Remedy Snapped Belts: Older cars are prone to having worn out drive belts that can snap unexpectedly. These are super important in keeping your engine running, and a permanent solution isn’t always an easy fix. Stockings come in handy again if you’re in a tight spot: wrap them as firmly as you can around the engine’s pulleys, then tie the ends in a knot. It might be the trick to get you home so you can get a new drive belt installed.
  6. Organize the Junk in Your Trunk: If you spend a lot of time on the road, it might start to feel like you’re living out of your car – and all your stuff stored in the trunk will show it. Between driving to the gym, office, and grocery store, all your different items start to get mixed up back there. Here’s how to keep your trunk organized: get a few laundry baskets, one for each of the items that go together. Gym gear goes in one basket, snacks and extra shopping bags go in another, and office supplies go in a third. That will keep everything easy to find when you need it.
  7. Use Your Head to Extend Your Key’s Range: Have you ever lost your car in a giant parking lot? You know it’s nearby, but sometimes it can get mixed up with all the others. Try putting your key fobunderneath your chin. It’s proven that the fluid in your head conducts the signal, extending it’s range. That way, if your car’s a few rows over, you’ll have an easier time finding it.
  8. Squeeze Hand Sanitizer on Frozen Door Locks: During a cold winter, the trek through the snow from the front door to your car can be daunting. If your car’s door locks are frozen shut, you could get trapped outside. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to quickly melt the ice. That way you can jump in and get warmed up as quickly as possible.
  9. Keep Food Warm Using Your Car: When you drive to pick up food, it can get cold between the restaurant and home. That’s not great for you, but if anyone else is waiting on you to bring them dinner, you won’t hear the end of it. If your car is equipped with seat warmers, turn them on and put the food on top to keep it warm. With enough preparation, you could even put it in your engine bayto keep it piping hot. That way when you get home it will be like it just came out of the oven.
  10. Polish Your Dash With Olive Oil: Dust and grime can build up on your dashboard, leading to a not-so-nice appearance. Here’s a foodie tip: drizzle a little olive oil on it, then polish with a coffee filter to restore the dashboard to a shiny luster. Who knew you could detail your car with items from the kitchen?
  11. Protect Your Doors With Pool Noodles: When you’re lounging in the pool, those floating foam noodles are an essential accessory. But they’re also great for protecting from door dings in the garage. Secure them horizontally on the garage wall, next to where your door opens. That way if the door swings out too far, the soft foam will absorb the impact, protecting the paint on your car.
  12. Melt off Old Sticker Residue: Maybe at one point you put your favorite band’s sticker on your window, but their most recent album made you question your devotion. When you tried to peel the sticker off, it left a bunch of gunk on your car. Find a piece of newspaper and get it damp with water. Lay it over the sticker residue and let it sit for about 15 minutes. That will soften the leftovers up, making it much easier to clean off.

The road can be a wild place. From minor inconveniences like spilled coffee to major disasters like a snapped drive belt, you need to be ready for anything when you’re out on a drive. These car hacks will come in handy whether you’re simply commuting for work or gearing up for a cross-country road trip. With them, you’ll be ready to face whatever challenge your car might throw at you next.

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