If you’re one of those people who finds ingenious solutions to everyday problems, you’re probably the envy of all your friends. “Why didn’t I think of that?” is a phrase you hear a lot. If you can come up with fixes for cars using everyday products, consider yourself a car hack (that's a term of endearment by the way).
Here are some ways to use everyday items to make your car experience more enjoyable, or maybe save your life:
If your car’s V-belt breaks, you’re not going very far. A V-belt connects a car’s pulleys with other components such as the alternator, hydraulic pump, power steering, air conditioning, fan, and water pump. In other words, a V-belt is really important.
Sometimes they snap. However, if you happen to have a woman’s stocking on hand, you can use it as a temporary fix.
Remove the broken V-belt (you might need to cut it or use a socket wrench to loosen a few bolts) and tie the stocking as tight as you can around the pulleys. Once you’ve wrapped the stocking around the pulleys, tie the two ends into a very tight knot. This quick fix might get you to the nearest gas station or auto parts store, but don't expect this solution to last for miles and miles.
A windshield wiper blade falls off
The trusty stocking comes to the rescue again. If one of your windshield wiper blades falls off and you need to clean your windshield, the bare metal will scratch the heck out of your windshield. To fix it, wrap a stocking around the wiper that’s missing the blade. The stocking will keep your windshield from getting scratched, and your window clean.
An otherwise immaculate car can have a horribly disorganized trunk. Sports equipment, baby gear, bags of stuff that you’ve been meaning to drop off at the recycle center, can make your trunk look like a teenager’s room. There’s a quick way to organize your trunk - buy two or three laundry baskets, and put items that go together in the same basket. For instance, put all sports related items in one basket, kid stuff in another and so on. Before you know it, your trunk will be organized. And if you’re lucky you might even find something you’ve been looking for.
Your fob is out of range
Say you’re in a parking lot and you’re not sure if you locked your car. You try using your fob, but it appears you’re out of range. You have two options. You can walk all the way back to your car to make sure it’s locked. Or you can hold your fob under your chin to extend its reach. Sounds totally ridiculous right?
Tim Pozar, a Silicon Valley engineer told the New York Times that the fluid in your head acts as a conductor. He says that placing your fob under your chin can extend its range by a few car lengths. Don't argue with engineers from the Silicon Valley. They know arcane stuff.
Late model cars generally come with dual front seat cup holders. If you’re driving an older car, however, you’re probably out of luck. If you’re driving an old car, that bottle of water you’re drinking is either sitting between your legs or rolling around on the passenger seat. What’s an owner to do?
Try putting a tennis shoe between the seats. You might need to secure it with a rag or two so it won’t slide around, but it will work. If the thought of using a stinky gym shoe as a cup holder disgusts you, check out a boating store and buy a drink holder that can hook onto your door.
Clean your headlights
After a few years on the road your headlights will start to fog up and turn yellow. Short of replacing the entire light what can you do? Use some toothpaste (on a brush or cloth) and scrub the light clean. Likely you’ll need to apply some elbow grease, but the result will be a clean and clear headlight.
If you have stickers stuck to a window, they can be a pain to remove. Take a newspaper (remember those?) that has been soaked in warm water, place it over the sticker for 10-15 minutes, and the offending sticker should come off easily.
The primary use for seat warmers is to keep your bum warm when it’s cold outside. Seat warmers are also a good way to keep pizza (or any other type of take out food) warm while you travel home.
Use your noodle to protect your door
Garages can be narrow, especially if you’re trying to fit two cars into a small space. At some point you’re going to bang your car door against the wall. The resulting damage may or may not be significant, but why take the risk? Buy a couple of those styrofoam noodles that kids use when they’re learning how to swim and fasten them (the noodles, not the kids) to the garage wall where your car door hits. If you accidentally open your door too hard, no problem, you’ll be hitting foam.
Hand sanitizer can unfreeze your door locks
When it’s cold outside anything can freeze. If you find yourself with frozen door locks, squirt some hand sanitizer into the lock. The alcohol in the hand cleaner will thaw the ice.
At some point during your driving career you’ll probably experience a cracked windshield. If you’re far away from home or can’t get to a repair shop quickly, use clear nail polish both inside and outside the glass to prevent further cracking.
Coffee filters and EVOO
Want to restore the luster of your dashboard? Take an unused coffee filter, and add a little extra virgin olive oil. Rub the coffee filter over your dash to refresh your interior. If you’re not so hot on using olive oil on your dash, it’s perfectly fine to wipe it down with a coffee filter or rag without the oil. Try to avoid dryer sheets, however, as they contain some harsh chemicals.
Cars aren’t perfect. After you buy a particular model you’ll probably say, “I wish this car came with a ….” There’s no reason for buyer’s remorse. With a little ingenuity, and the ability to think outside the box you can solve just about any problem.
Some problems, such as creating a makeshift cup holder or using a seat warmer to keep a pizza warm, won't alter your life. But knowing how to use a stocking to replace a busted V-belt can save it, and you'll be known as the car hacker among your friends.