14 car hacks every driver should know

(Photo: Thinkstock)
(Photo: Thinkstock)


For as long as there have been cars on the road, there have been innovative car owners who have thought of some truly ingenious solutions to their car woes.

We came up with 14 awesome car hacks that may make your next car ride a little more pleasant (thanks to Farmers Insurance for the idea).

(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

1. De-ice your locks with hand sanitizer.

Car locks can ice over in the winter. So squirt a little waterless hand sanitizer on your key and insert it in the lock. The same alcohol content that kills germs on dirty hands also melts away the ice in the lock.

2. Remove dents with dry ice.

The extreme cold of dry ice can help pop out dents. Pick some up at your local grocery store. Remember to pick it up with gloves, since dry ice can hurt your skin. Then apply it to the dent repeatedly until it’s gone.

3. Clean your engine with soap and water.

A spotless engine is easier to service. Clean it often with water and a little dishwasher detergent (degreaser works well, too). First, cover all the sensitive areas (electrical parts, battery, air intake, and distributor) with plastic bags, then scrub and rinse the engine with a soft rag. Remember to remove all plastic bags once you’ve cleaned all the necessary surfaces.

4. Fix scratches with nail polish.

Touch-up paint always works best, but if you’re in a pinch, clear nail polish helps to fill in scratches and cover up exposed metal to avoid rust.

5. Unlock your car with a shoelace.

Locking yourself out of your car is always frustrating and a little embarrassing. But don’t let it ruin your day. Tie a loop in a shoelace large enough to wrap around your door lock. Work it into the space between the car and the door, then move it until the loop fits around the door lock. Lasso it, and lift up the lock. This only works for cars with upper lock mechanisms. You can always call a roadside assistance service to help get your door unlocked, too.

6. Substitute a scented candle for an air freshener.

Place a scented candle in an unused cup holder on a hot day. As the candle melts, it will slowly release its scent. Be sure to use a candle in a glass container to avoid destroying the cup holder and other parts of your car's interior (via reddit user churninbutter).

7. Improve fuel economy by “hypermiling.”

Like clipping coupons and scoping out deals, there are thrifty ways to save on fuel economy, too. Try giving the car in front of you more space. Then you can coast to a stop instead of slamming on the brakes. You can also turn off your engine whenever you’re stopped for more than a few minutes, and use cruise control to maintain your speed.

8. Remember where you parked with smartphone photos.

Parking lots and garages can be endless mazes. So take out your smartphone and snap a few pictures of your location and markers around your car, and you’ll find it again in no time.

Tesla Roadster headlight (Photo: Robert Scoble | Flickr)
Tesla Roadster headlight (Photo: Robert Scoble | Flickr)

9. Clean foggy headlights with toothpaste.

Over time, headlights get oxidized and dirty. But the same stuff that makes your teeth shine can help make your headlights bright again, too. Slather plenty of the toothpaste on your headlights, buff it in with a dry cloth, rinse with water, and wipe clean for clear headlights on the cheap.

10. Use a staple remover on tough key rings.

We have all had to deal with difficult-to-open key rings. One way to get around that is to use a staple remover to prop open the key ring as you slide the key on or off. Be sure not to stab yourself.


11. Clear your windshield with a razor blade.

Dead bugs, sap, and other gunk can spot up your windshield. Sticky stuff like that won’t come off with washer fluid, so scraping it off with a razor blade. Be extremely careful not to cut yourself or others in the process.

12. Lighten your keychain to protect your ignition.

A heavy keychain can weigh your pocketbook down and make your jeans look bulky and awkward. But it can also weigh down your ignition switch, causing premature wear and tear. Keep your keys lean to protect your car's ignition.

(Photo: Marcin Wichary | Flickr)
(Photo: Marcin Wichary | Flickr)

13. Clean out the mess in your trunk to increase gas mileage.

Many of us live out of our cars. But you may not know is that all of the "stuff" in you car is costing you money. According to the EPA, every extra 100 pounds of weight can reduce your fuel economy by 2%, or roughly seven cents per gallon ( at $3.70/gallon). Seven cents may not sound like a lot, but it can add up to as much as $73 a year for someone who fills up 20 gallons a week.

14. Keep kitty litter on hand for icy roads.

If you are ever stuck on an icy road, spread some kitty litter around the drive wheels of your car for added traction. Since most kitty litter is made of a mixture of either bentonite clay or silica, it will give a car's tires something to hold onto. For those in rear-wheel-drive cars, the added weight of a big bag of kitty litter in the trunk will also help improve grip on a slippery road.