(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)
The automobile — it makes getting around a breeze, but comes with plenty of problems of its own. You have to wash it, keep it filled with gas, and avoid crashing it into things. Plus, we spend more time in our cars than you might realize. According a study from the Federal Highway Administration, in 2009, the average driver logged nearly 30 miles a day. That’s over 10,000 miles of driving a year.
If you’re going to be spending that much time in your automobile, take some time to make it work harder for you. Here are some 10 simple things you can do to “pimp” your ride. No actual fix-it experience required!
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Who knows how old this trick is, but it works. Worried about pulling your car too far into the garage, creating a collision with garbage cans, old magazines and who knows what else you keep in there? To pull your car into the garage perfectly every time, attach a tennis ball to a string and hang it from the ceiling so the ball just touches your windshield. Now you’ll always know exactly how far to pull in the car!
Is your garage a tight squeeze? Stop banging the edges of your car doors against the wall when you open them with this simple pool noodle trick. Slice a pool noodle in half lengthwise and affix it horizontally to the offending wall to create a soft, foamy buffer. Use nails, bolts or strong glue to secure it at the exact height where the door usually hits the wall. Protecting your car’s paint job will be far more satisfying than watching your grandkids fight over who gets to float next in the pool.
Frozen locks can be more than just frustrating; they can literally leave you standing out in the cold. Here’s a surprisingly simple solution: Squirt some hand sanitizer on the keyhole or put sanitizer on your keys before inserting them. Let it sit for a minute and then try opening the door again. The high alcohol content in the sanitizer should melt the ice. Plus, it will help your keys from catching the flu.
Nighttime driving can be hard enough on the eyes, but years of wear and tear on your headlight covers can make headlights hazy, to boot. There’s an easy fix: Give those plastic covers a fresh polish with toothpaste. (Avoid “whitening” toothpaste and other extra ingredients that may cause additional damage.) Toothpaste is a mild abrasive, which allows it to remove buildup from your headlights just like it cleans plaque off your teeth. Rub in small circles with a soft cloth until the plastic once again looks clear.
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Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an app on your phone that allowed to you find where you parked your car? Though a number of apps attempt to provide this service, a perfectly decent one is already installed on your phone: the camera. Simply take a picture of any easily recognizable landmarks near your car such as a lot number or cross streets. (This also works well for addresses, hotel room numbers — all sorts of stuff.)
All it takes is one sharp turn or hard stop to shake up your entire trunk. A shockingly simple solution: use a laundry basket or other small storage container to keep your trunk clutter in one place. Just think of your trunk as your “car closet” and start organizing.
Another way to prevent car clutter: Create additional backseat storage by draping over-the-door shoe bags (like this one from Amazon.com) over the back of the front seats. Sure, it’s not the most visually stunning of organizational hacks, but it keeps junk from piling up on the seats and floor.
If your car interior is hot from baking in the sun all day, try this trick from Japan. Step one: Roll down the passenger side window. Step two: Quickly open and close the driver-side door about five to 10 times. You’ll force cooler outside air into the car while pushing the hotter interior air out. It’s science!
(MORE: New Auto Technology Helps Drivers With Limitations)
Clutter isn’t the only thing holding back your car’s cleanliness. Ever since the invention of the ashtray, people have lamented how cars don’t have enough room to dispose of garbage. A grocery bag is a good temporary solution until its contents spill back onto the floor. So try this: Take a plastic cereal container (like this one from Amazon.com), stuff a plastic bag in it, and the put the lid back in place. The opening intended for pouring should provide enough room to squeeze in most trash and then can be easily snapped shut.
Grabbing a pizza on your way home? Here’s a fun idea from Mike Dash, President of CarPartKings.com: “Use seat warmers to keep your pizza hot while driving home.” Sure, you can’t fry an egg with this comfort feature, but it’ll certainly keep a pizza box from freezing.
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