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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.