Category Curious Tricks for Cars

Tips for larger vehicles

  •  ‘Carpet’ a ute tray

Line the tray of your ute with an old carpet remnant to keep your cargo from rattling or being knocked around and damaged. The carpet will make the drive easier on your precious cargo and on your ears.

  •  Shower curtain-rod dividers

A good way to keep things in place in the back of a ute is to set up a series of movable barriers. Try fitting a series of spring-loaded shower curtain rails at strategic points, wedging them between the sides of the ute’s tray. You can then move them around to push against any cargo and keep it from rattling or breaking as you drive along.

  •  On board catch-ails for 4WDs

Sometimes the amount of stuff that rattles around in a four-wheel drive that is needed to accommodate a big family knows no bounds. Keep the stuff under control by wedging a plastic milk crate (with a padded rim, if you have very young children) or laundry basket in a central spot in the vehicle, and urging young passengers to store their playthings and books there when not using them.

  •  Carry-along car wash for motorhomes and caravans

If you travel in a motorhome or tow a caravan and often stay at parks where water to wash your vehicle isn’t available, make a batch of washing fluid and carry it with you. Pour ¼ cup (60ml) fabric softener into a 5-litre bottle and fill it almost to the top with water. Cap the bottle and shake well. When you’re ready to wash your vehicle, put the liquid into a spray bottle and spray the vehicle at 1-m sections at a time. Let it sit for 10 seconds or so, then dry the area with paper towels or a chamois. You can also rely on this mixture during water restrictions, since it uses far less water than a standard wash.

  •  Keep mice out of your caravan or motorhome using steel wool

The access slots where you hook up a motorhome or caravan to a cable or hose are ‘step this way’ entries for mice and other small creatures. To take up the welcome mat in one fell swoop, wrap the cable or hose in steel wool before connecting it, making sure that the scratchy material seals the surrounding gap. With their entry barred, mice and other intruders should leave you in peace.

Along for the ride

  •  Storage basket hold-all

If you tend to collect things in your car and are at risk of drowning in the clutter, here’s the simplest way to tidy up: keep a small plastic storage basket on the floor behind the driver’s seat and use it to hold magazines, DVDs, cleaning supplies, catalogues, maps and anything else you accumulate. The clutter will be confined to a single spot and when you give someone a ride, you won’t have to fight to make space for your passenger.

  •  Organize your record storage

It’s important to keep your car’s registration and records of mileage, maintenance and repair warranties where you can put your hands on them quickly. If they regularly get lost in the mess inside the glove box, store them in a self-sealing plastic bag.

  • Pillbox coin holders

Store spare coins in a used pill bottle and keep it in the drinks holder of your car. You will always have the correct change ready for putting into parking meters or for using in a vending machine on your travels.

  •  Keep garbage bags as a back-up

 Keep a number of large plastic garbage bags in your car for unexpected uses. You never know when you will need a container for things you acquire on the road or when you’ll need to wrap up something greasy to keep it from soiling your upholstery. In the same way, if you spill something on the driver or front passenger seat, simply pull a garbage bag over the seat if you have to drive off before the offending spill dries. The bags can also protect your upholstery and carpet if children or pets pile into the car with wet or muddy feet.

  •  From briefcase to toolbox

If you have a worn, hard-framed briefcase, don’t throw it away; put it to good use. Fill it with the tools that you need to carry in your car and store it in the boot. If you get a flat tyre or engine trouble on the road, the tools will be neatly packaged and readily at hand.

  •  A mini spade to the rescue

If you’re likely to be driving through snowy conditions, keep a spade handy in case you have to dig out your car. Rather than a classic heavy shovel, your best bet is a sturdy toy spade, which will work better than you may think for digging out your car — and will take up less room in the boot.

  •  A drink tray for auto fluids

Make a convenient carrier for the various fluids that you need to keep on hand for your car, such as bottles of motor oil or antifreeze. Recycle a small cardboard box with collapsible dividers, like a wine bottle carrier, and reinforce the bottom with gaffer tape. It will ensure that all of the containers stay in one place and also keep them from sliding around in the boot.

  •  Washing powder as air freshener

Keep your boot smelling fresh even on hot summer days when these enclosed spaces can turn into ovens. Simply place a small open box of washing powder against the spare tyre and the boot will smell fresh in any weather. Keep the box no more than half full to prevent spills.

  •  Put on some weight

If you have a utility truck or a car that doesn’t have four-wheel drive, you may need to keep something heavy in the tray or boot to prevent slipping and sliding on wet or icy roads. If your boot isn’t full of heavy tools or something similar, fill a couple of pairs of thick pantihose with bricks and store them in the boot over the car’s rear wheels. The pantihose will keep the bricks from sliding around, making a noise or from scattering dust throughout the boot.

Your car’s interior

  •  An odour-eating pair

Deodorize the interior of your car by sprinkling bicarbonate of soda over everything but the electronic equipment. Take a soft-bristled brush and work the bicarbonate of soda in well. Close the car up for an hour or so and then thoroughly vacuum the interior. To keep the car smelling fresh and clean, place a small open container filled with freshly ground coffee beans where it won’t get knocked over. The grounds will absorb any strong odours that you bring into the car.

  •  No butts about bicarbonate of soda

Make good use of the ashtrays in your car by placing about 2cm bicarbonate of soda in the bottom of each one. If you smoke, it will keep cigarettes from smoldering and stinking up the car even after you’ve put them out. If you’re a nonsmoker, the bicarbonate of soda will also absorb other stale smells.

  •  Baby-wipe your dash

If your car dashboard gets sticky from spilled drinks or greasy hands, clean it with baby wipes. Once it’s clean, you can bring a shine to the dashboard with a little baby oil.

  •  Sweeten bad smells with vinegar

To remove the odour left when someone is carsick, wipe down vinyl upholstery (all of it) with a cloth soaked in a 50:50 solution of white vinegar and water. Then place a bowl of vinegar on the car floor and keep the car closed up tight overnight. In the morning, wipe everything down with a damp cloth.

  •  Hold taping sessions

Carry a roll of tape in your glove box and use it for the following jobs, among others:

  1.  Tape your garage door opener to the under-side of the visor on the driver’s side of the car. It will be handy, yet out of the way, and it won’t fall into your lap as you drive.
  2.  Tape a pen to the dashboard just in case you need one; taping it will keep it from rolling around and getting lost.
  3.  Whenever you park in a busy supermarket car park, temporarily tape a distinctive paper or cloth flag to the top of your car’s antenna. When you come out laden with bags, you should be able to spot the car without going on a lengthy hunt.
  •  Magic carpet cleaner

No matter how meticulous you are, somehow or other greasy stains seem to always appear on car carpet. Luckily, they’re not hard to fix. Mix equal parts salt and bicarbonate of soda and sprinkle the mixture over the grease spot. Use a stiff brush to work the mixture into the spot and let it sit for 4-5 hours. Vacuum it up and the stain should be gone.

  •  Prevent a flat battery with a tennis ball

If for some reason you need to keep a car door open for a while — and the internal light is one of those that you can’t switch off — turn to a tennis ball. Just wedge the ball between the door and the switch. The switch will stay off, your battery will stay charged and your jump leads will stay where they belong — in the boot. If you don’t have a tennis ball, substitute any soft-surfaced small object, such as a triangular wedge of scrap wood padded with rags.

  •  Bag a steering wheel

 If you have to park in the sun on a really hot summer’s day, tear a 30-cm strip from one side of a large paper bag and slip it over the top of the steering wheel, securing it with a piece of tape if necessary. When you return to the car, the wheel should still be cool enough to touch.

  •  Adjust air temperature with tape

 If you have difficulty keeping your car’s heating or air conditioning from blowing directly into your face, cover the part of the air vent that’s directed at you with gaffer tape. Just be careful not to cover the entire vent.

Checking under the bonnet

  •  Prevent corrosion

It’s not unusual for a car’s battery terminals to become so corroded that you can’t get a proper connection to jump-start the car. So take a little preventive action. Occasionally coat the terminals with a bit of petroleum jelly to keep them from corroding. Alternatively, tape a copper coin — if you have one — to the top of the battery so that the corrosion is drawn to the coin and not the battery terminals.

  •  A cola loosener-upper

If you need to get at the engine of your car but the nuts and bolts under the bonnet refuse to budge, pour a little cola over the connections or loosen them with a few squirts of WD-40. Give either substance 2-3 minutes to penetrate, after which you should be able to loosen the hardware with a wrench. Most jammed metal fixings respond well to the cola trick; if you can soak the seized-up object, so much the better. Sponge off the cola once you’ve loosened the hardware.

  •  Clean corrosion with bicarbonate of soda

If you don’t keep your battery terminals clean, you will have to deal with corrosion. To clean the terminals, stir 1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda into 1 cup (250ml) water, then pour the solution over the terminals. Leave for 4-5 minutes, and then rinse with clear water.

  •  A sporty shock protector

When you are working on your car and have to disconnect the negative battery cable, don’t let the cable come into contact with the car’s metal frame or you may suffer a shock. One safe way of handling the cable is to make a slit in a tennis ball and push the ball over the end of the cable.

  •  Foot powder leak-spotter

If oil is leaking from your engine and you can’t find the leak’s source, clean the engine with an aerosol degreaser, such as a silicone spray like WD-40, and then spray its sides and bottom with spray-on foot powder. The leak will reveal itself by turning white.

  •  Dislodge a stubborn oil filter

If you are quite happy to change the oil filter yourself but find that for once it won’t budge, a screwdriver and hammer could do the trick. Hammer the screwdriver right through the filter about 5cm from the engine block. Then take the screwdriver and use it as a lever to turn the filter anticlockwise. Once you get it started, remove the screwdriver and spin the filter off, making sure that there is a tray underneath to catch the leaking oil that inevitably ensues.

  •  Gum up the works

If the radiator hose in your car springs a leak while you are driving, chew a piece of gum and stick the wad over the leak. Secure it with a bit of strong adhesive tape. It will hold until you can have a proper repair made, but get the car booked in for repair as quickly as possible.

  •  First aid for a fan belt

If the fan belt in your car becomes dry, lubricate it with a little petroleum jelly. With the engine off, dab the inside edges of the belt with the jelly, then start the engine and let it idle for a couple of minutes. Not only will the petroleum jelly lubricate the belt and keep it from cracking but it will eliminate squealing and slippage.

  •  Extend a wrench handle with pipe

Some socket wrenches are so short that it takes a muscleman to turn them. If you prefer not to waste a lot of energy when you tighten a bolt under the bonnet, slip a short length of slender metal pipe over the wrench handle and you will get more than enough leverage to use the tool without straining.

  •  Tape a noisy horn

If your car horn gets stuck and won’t stop bleating, tap the horn button a few times. If that doesn’t stop the din, a piece of tape is the solution. Open the bonnet, disconnect the wire to the horn and tape down the terminal screw. You should enjoy blessed silence until you have the horn repaired.

Wave goodbye to winter worries and cares

  •  Gain traction with bleach

If your car has become stuck on an icy patch and can’t get enough traction, pour a small amount of undiluted chlorine-based bleach over the tyres. The bleach will react chemically to soften both the ice and the rubber, thereby improving traction. Wait for a minute to let the chemical reaction take place and then try driving away. You can also get traction by spreading sand, salt or cat litter over snow in front of the tyres. (Because bleach accelerates the wear on tyre treads, you should only do this in emergency situations.)

  •  Shovel snow with a hub cap

If your car gets stuck in snow, ice or mud and you don’t have a shovel handy, take off a hubcap and use it to dig the car free.

  • Use oil to prevent stuck doors

Prevent car and boot doors from freezing shut in winter by spraying or wiping the rubber gaskets with a light coating of WD-40 or vegetable oil. The oil will seal out any water that could later freeze, while causing no harm to the rubber gaskets.

  •  Tape a door lock in a car wash

Put a strip of tape over your car’s door lock before going through a car wash in cold weather. This will keep out water that could later freeze and make the lock inoperable. Once you’re out of the car wash, remove the tape.

  •  Thaw door locks with a straw

If the lock on your car door freezes and you can’t insert the key, don’t get left out in the cold. Try blowing your warm breath into the keyhole through a straw. The ice should quickly melt, after which you can unlock the door.

  •  Flame frozen locks

If the lock on your car door is frozen, hold the key in your (ideally gloved) hand and heat it with a match or cigarette lighter. Press the key into the lock and turn it gently without forcing.

After a few seconds, the hot metal key will melt the ice and you will be able to open the door. Better still, if you have electrical power handy, use a hair dryer to direct hot air into the lock to melt the ice and free it up.

  •  Keep ice off wipers

To keep ice from forming on the blades of your car’s windscreen wipers and from stopping them working in cold weather, wipe each blade with a soft cloth soaked in full-strength surgical spirit.

  •  Raw onion windscreen rubs

To avoid the tedious job of scraping ice off your windscreen on a chilly morning, slice an onion in half and rub the cut sides against your windscreen and car windows the night before to stop frost from forming.

  •  Shield a windscreen with rubber bath mats

To keep your windscreen from frosting over-night, position inexpensive rubber bath mats over the glass. Hold them in place with the windscreen wipers.

  •  Yogurt-tub scraper and scooper

Scrape ice from windows and the windscreen using an empty yogurt tub. When you scrape with the edge of the rim, the pot will scoop up the ice. As you scrape, empty the ice onto the ground with a quick flick of the wrist.

  •  Bag your side mirrors

On cold nights, slip plastic bags over the car’s side mirrors and hold them in place with clothes pegs. In the morning, remove the bags and your mirrors will be ice-free.

  • Don’t get steamed up

Winter driving can be dangerous when the inside of a windscreen keeps steaming up. Here are three ways to deal with foggy glass:

  1.  Use a clean whiteboard eraser to wipe the inside of the windscreen clean.
  2.   Squirt a little shampoo onto a cloth and wipe the glass with it.
  3. Use ‘outside air’ instead of ‘recirculated air’ and run the de-froster.

Dealing with dents and scratches

  •  Pop goes the dent

If the body of your car has a dent, but the surface is otherwise unblemished, you may be able to pull out the dent with a little suction. Look around your house and find anything that has a large suction cup attached — a sink plunger, for example. Place the cup directly over the dent and push it in straight so that the suction engages the metal. Then pull gently but firmly outwards. If you are lucky, you should hear the popping sound that is a signal that the dent is gone.

  •  White-out scratches

If you have a white car and it gets scratched, use correction fluid such as Liquid Paper for a quick touch-up. If your car is another colour, try to find a correction fluid or nail polish colour to match and apply it as a temporary fix.

  •  Brush out scratches

You can often polish out small scratches in a car’s finish with a bit of non-gel toothpaste. Squeeze a dollop onto a clean soft cloth and work the paste into the scratch. Buff the area with a clean cloth.

  •  Brighten old paint with scouring powder

If your car is old and painted with oxidized paint that’s looking dull, try washing it with a low-grit bathroom cleanser such as Jif. Apply the cleanser, wet it with a light spray and then rub gently with a car-washing mitt. (Test this first on a small area of the duco that isn’t prominent, to check that it doesn’t remove the paint.) When you have finished, wash the car well and wax it.

Get gleaming metal trim

  •  Rid chrome of wax

It’s easy to get so excited about waxing your car that you go too far: wax can spoil a shiny chrome bumper with smudges that harden and won’t come off. Use a bit of WD-40 to fix the problem. Spray a little of the lubricant over the dried wax, then wipe it off with a clean soft cloth. The wax will dissolve like magic.

  •  De-wax metal trim with ammonia

Car wax mistakenly applied to metal trim can spoil the effect that a keen car cleaner strives for. To rid the trim of wax, wipe it with a rag dampened with household ammonia. The trim will soon sparkle like new.

  •  Oil the trim

When the metal trim on your car is still not shiny enough, squirt a little baby oil onto a paper towel and polish the metal for a shine worthy of a sterling silver trophy.

  •  Get wax off rubber with peanut butter

If you are waxing your car and accidentally get white wax on black rubber trim or mouldings, wipe the area with a bit of peanut butter. The rubber will revert to its original blackness.

  •  Make chrome glisten

Brighten chrome trim on your car by wiping it with a small amount of nail varnish remover. (Just be sure to keep it away from the paint.)

Superb solutions for a sparkling car

  •  Bicarbonate-of-soda car cleaner

Prepare in advance for your next few car washes by making your own condensed cleaner base. Pour ¼ cup (45g) bicarbonate of soda into a 4-litre bottle, then add ¼ cup (60ml) washing-up liquid and enough water to fill the bottle almost to the top. Screw on the cap, shake well and store the concentrate for later use. When it is time to wash the car, shake the bottle vigorously and then pour 1 cup (250ml) of the cleaner base into an 8-litre bucket. Fill the bucket with warm water, stir to mix and your homemade cleaning solution is ready to use.

  •  A no-wax wash for the chassis

Get rid of tar and road debris that sticks to the underside of a car by washing with a kerosene solution. Add 1 cup (250ml) kerosene to a 12-litre bucket filled with water and then sponge the solution onto the chassis. You won’t have to rinse or wax it once you’re done. And the next time it rains, you’ll find that water beads up and rolls off, decreasing the likelihood of rusting, which can be a problem on the chassis because it’s not easily visible. Caution: kerosene is a highly flammable liquid, so make sure that you use it away from a direct source of heat, and don’t smoke while washing your car.

  •  Hair conditioner for shine

Next time you wash your car, think about using a cheap hair conditioner containing lanolin. You’ll be amazed by the freshly waxed look and how well the surface repels rain. And it costs a lot less than commercial car cleaners.

  •  You can see clearly now

Add ¼ cup (60ml) household ammonia to 1 litre water, pour it into a plastic bottle with a watertight cap and keep it in your car for washing the windscreen and windows. As soon as your windscreen starts to look dirty, take out the solution and apply it with a sponge; then dry the windscreen with a soft cloth or paper towels.

  •  A one-step window cleaner

Clean your windscreen and car windows by rubbing them with baby wipes stored in your glove compartment. What could be easier?

  •  Clean your blades

 If your windscreen wiper blades get dirty, they’ll streak the glass instead of keeping it clean and clear, which can be dangerous if your visibility is compromised while driving. Make a solution of ¼ cup (60ml) household ammonia to 1 litre cold water. Gently lift the blades and wipe both sides with a soft cloth or paper towel soaked in the solution. Then wipe the blades with a dry cloth before lowering them into place.

  •  Fizz windscreens clean with cola

When there’s a storm after a long dry spell, car windscreens often end up being completely filthy, attracting dirt and leaf debris. An easy way to get rid of the streaks and blotches left behind after a storm is by pouring cola over the glass. (Stretch a towel along the bottom of the windscreen to protect the paint on the bonnet.) The bubbles in cola will fizz away the grime. Just make sure that you rinse the sticky cola off thoroughly or your cleaning efforts will end up attracting more dust and dirt. A quick hose down should finish the job properly.

  •  Shine your headlights

Keep your car headlights polished (and yourself safe at night) by spraying on some window cleaner, then rubbing vigorously with an old pair of pantihose.

  •  Vodka on the job

When the windscreen-washer reservoir needs filling, raid the drinks cabinet to make your own washing fluid. In a screw-top 4-litre bottle, mix 3 cups (750ml) vodka with 1 litre water and 2 teaspoons washing-up liquid. Screw on the cap and shake well, then pour as much fluid as needed into the reservoir.

Insects, noxious smells and other sticky issues

  •  Counterattack on insect splats

If you’re constantly at battle with insects getting splattered on the front of your car, try a preventative strategy instead and spray the front of your car with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil, or wipe it down with baby oil. Most insects won’t stick around and the ones that do can be hosed or wiped off more easily.

  •  Mesh away insect mess

Get rid of the dead insects on your car by squirting a little washing-up liquid over the spot and scrubbing with a mesh bag — the kind that onions are sold in. The mesh is sufficiently rough that it will remove insects, but not so rough that it will scratch the finish or windscreen. Once you have scrubbed away the bugs, wipe the surface with a clean cloth.

  •  An easy debugger

To get rid of dead insects on your windscreen or bumper, use an old, balled-up pair of pantihose dipped in washing suds. Remove the insects by rubbing gently, then wash off the mess with a cloth soaked in soapy water.

  •  Keep a radio antenna clean

 If grime is clogging your radio antenna and it becomes stuck in an up or down position, try to extend the antenna to its full height and rub along its length with waxed paper. It will be so smooth that it should glide up and down as cleanly as the arm on a trombone.

  •  Rub Christmas tree sap off the car roof

If you’ve had a fresh Christmas tree strapped to the roof of your car, you’ll probably end up with sap stuck to the surface — and soap and water won’t do the job. Pour a few drops of surgical spirit over the sap and rub it with your fingertips. Then wipe it off with an alcohol-dampened rag and let the area air-dry.

  •  Freeze the sticky stuff

Another way of getting rid of sap is to press an ice cube over it for a minute or so. When the sap hardens, simply peel it off your car, bicycle or other surface.

  •  Oil away a sticker

To remove a sticker from your windscreen, spray it with vegetable oil or WD-40 and let he spray soak in for a while. Then scrape the sticker off using the edge of a credit card. If bits of it stick fast, heat the area gently with a blast from a hair dryer and then try again.

  •  Removing tar

Tar can be difficult to remove from your car, but you’ll win the battle over black goo fast when you try one of these removal methods, rinsing and drying after each one.

  1.  Try spraying the tar with a laundry prewash stain remover. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and then wipe it off thoroughly.
  2.  Wet a cloth with linseed oil and apply it to the spots of tar. Let the oil soak in for about 10 minutes. Once the tar softens, douse another cloth with linseed oil and wipe the tar away.
  3.  Rub the tar with a bit of peanut butter, leave it on for 10 minutes and then wipe it away with a soft cloth.
  4.  Spray the spots with a squirt of WD-40 and let it soak in for 5 minutes. Then wipe the tar away with a soft cloth.
  5.  Pour a cup of cola on a clean cloth and rub the tar off the car surface.
  6.  Mix 1 cup (250ml) kerosene with 5 litres water and scrub the tar away with a rag soaked in the potent solution.