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25 Car Hacks That’ll Make Driving So Much Better

Updated: Feb. 09, 2023

Whether you’re gearing up for a road trip or just want to make your daily commute less of a chore, these genius hacks will instantly improve your driving experience.

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Buckle up for a better ride

A car is a luxury, so you should treat it as such. That said, driving doesn’t always feel luxurious. We have to contend with traffic, potholes, seemingly endless car maintenance, surprise problems, and dangerous weather conditions, not to mention self-created (or kid-created) messes inside our cars. Plus, if you want to keep your car in tip-top shape, you have to keep it away from these everyday things that could ruin its exterior.

Yes, it’s an exhausting and exhaustive list, but dealing with these issues and more can be a lot easier than you think—if you know a few genius (and incredibly affordable) tricks. From ice-proofing your windshield to keeping food warm on long trips, these 25 car hacks will make your everyday driving experience so much better and, yes, maybe even more luxurious. You just might be so happy behind the wheel again that you’ll finally say yes to that family road trip!

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Keep food and drinks cold on long trips


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Want to pick up some local cheddar and chocolates on your trip? You need to figure out how to keep them cold. The same goes for certain road trip snacks and beverages. (No, keeping your drinks cold isn’t a necessity, but it sure is nice!) Instead of hauling a heavy cooler loaded with ice that will melt before you know it, opt for an electric cooler that plugs into your car. This model from Koozam, which hooks up to your vehicle’s 110V AC or 12V DC outlet in the trunk or backseat, will save you a bundle over time—just think of all those overpriced snacks at gas stations you’ll never buy again! Bonus: This cooler can also keep things warm if you prefer soup to yogurt on your road trip!

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child eating in the backseat of car with inset of cupcake holders
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Catch crumbs easily


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If you get jittery when you see crumbs, dirt, and fuzz collecting in your cupholders, this inexpensive hack will ease your mind while you drive. Simply put cupcake liners in your cupholder to catch all the debris that usually gathers in there, then toss them periodically and replace them with fresh ones. You can even have a little fun with this, adding a pop of color or fun patterns to brighten up neutral interiors. Find out the 15 things people who always have clean cars have in common.

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Windshield wiper with inset of panty hose to buy
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Extend the life of your wiper blades


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There are a few smart things you can do to extend the life of your windshield-wiper blades, but when the end is nigh and you’re out on the road in bad weather, a pair of stockings will do the trick. Simply wrap the stockings tightly around each wiper to prevent any of the wiper’s metal bits from scratching up the glass. Of course, is only a very temporary solution. Get home and get your wipers replaced ASAP. Aside from a pair of stockings, here are another 16 things you should always keep in your car.

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Add more storage to your car’s interior


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Take a tip from city planning by going vertical when there’s no space on the ground. While this kind of mesh netting usually helps to store extras on the outside of your ride, it can also help tidy up the interior. Simply attach it to your car’s ceiling handles to create overhead storage for sweatshirts, jackets, purses, and other lightweight items that would otherwise be crowding the cabin. Need a bigger ride for a long drive? These are the best cars to rent for a road trip.

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eating ramen noodles while driving with inset of insulated cooler bag
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Keep food warm while driving


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Whether you’re saving that pizza for the next rest stop or don’t want your last cup of New England Clam Chowder to cool down before you hit the Massachusetts state line on your way home, using your car’s seat warmer as a hot plate to keep your road munchies toasty is a genius car hack. Of course, if your car is packed with passengers, this trick won’t help you. In that case, go with a portable food warmer like this one from Real Nature that can also cook raw or frozen food while you’re on the go! Did you know that warming up your car before you drive isn’t necessarily a good idea?

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man buckling seatbelt in the winter with inset of seat warmer to buy
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Stay toasty in the winter


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Just because your car isn’t fancy enough to have built-in seat warmers, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a warm seat. This super-soft, after-market velour seat cover will help you thaw out while you drive. Plus, it has built-in lumbar support, which will your trips even comfier. Make sure you don’t commit any of these 11 driving mistakes that drive other drivers nuts.

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See out of your windshield better


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There are few things more crucial than good visibility while driving. But while you probably clean your windshield regularly, you might be neglecting your windshield wipers, which also need some TLC so they don’t dry out, crack, and do a subpar job. To help prolong their life, simply soak a clean white rag with your favorite glass cleaner, then wipe it up and down the length of your wiper blades. Learning these car dashboard signs will also make your life easier.

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Keep your car clean—for good!


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Keeping your car clean can be difficult. There are dirt roads, messy trees, pet hair, food crumbs, and wrappers. And there’s likely trash on the car’s floor, under the seats, and in the seat cracks. Keep your mess contained by gathering garbage in a sturdy trash can made just for your car. All you need to do is line a plastic cereal container with a grocery bag. To keep the container upright, apply a strip of self-adhesive hook-and-loop fastener to the bottom of the container so it’ll stick to your car’s carpet. Here are some more tips on exactly how you should clean your car’s interior.

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Have a record of your trip


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A dash cam is a great investment to provide you with a video record of a wreck, hit-and-run, or theft. Discreetly place this Wi-Fi-enabled model from Rove on the inner windshield and you’ll have high-quality video when you need it. It even lets you sync footage to your phone! Know these things you shouldn’t be doing in your car.

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Make your own air freshener


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Freshen your car with scented candle wax. To make this DIY air freshener, punch holes in the lid of a mason jar using a hammer and a large nail. Add wax to the jar and replace the lid. When the temperature in your car rises, the wax will melt, filling your car with a lovely fragrance. Of course, for those who run the other way from arts and crafts, these Febreze car air freshers will also do the trick.

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Get a parking assistant


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If you constantly get out of your car only to find you’ve botched your parking job, consider a wireless parking assistant. It can be especially useful for parking in smaller garages because you’ll know if you’re about to pull up too far and tap your front bumper. This Wagan parking assistant will also help you avoid bumping into other cars, trash cans, and children by detecting the distance between your vehicle and rear obstructions. Here are more car gadgets that make driving safer.

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Stay safe on icy, snowy roads


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When there’s snow and ice on the roads and you’re finding that you don’t have enough traction to get up hills or you fishtail going around curves, it’s a sign that your car could use more weight. Adding a few dozen pounds of road salt in the trunk of your rear-wheel-drive vehicle will add weight to the backside of your car. This helps you get traction on ice and snow during the nightmarish winter driving season. However, please note that this tip does not hold true for front-wheel-drive vehicles. Still, having some emergency salt in the back of your car is a good idea since it will help with urgent icy situations. Don’t make any of these winter driving mistakes that could put you in danger.

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Keep your floors clean


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One simple way to keep your car clean is to cut scraps of old carpet to fit on the floor as mats. You can find carpet scraps for less than $2 at Home Depot. And when the DIY carpet scraps inevitably get dirty with mushy winter snow or summer sand, you could either give them a wash or toss them out and make more. One word of caution: Do not put these DIY car mats on the driver’s side of the car unless grippers are attached on the bottom to ensure that the mat does not slip forward while you’re driving. For a ready-made solution, try these Armor all-season rubber floor mats, which can be trimmed to fit your car. Their deep tread pattern holds in mud, snow, and water, and the anti-slip cleats keep them firmly in place. Find out the secrets car mechanics won’t tell you for free.

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Instantly modernize your car


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Viper’s SmartStart is the top of the line when it comes to remote car starters. Use your smartphone to control your car while you’re in a restaurant, your home, a store, or on your way as you walk toward it. You can start your car remotely through the app, locate where your car is, tell how fast the car is going when someone else is driving, receive alerts if the vehicle has been moved without your knowledge, unlock the doors, and more.

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inside of car
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Stop losing stuff in your car


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Cut pieces of foam pipe insulation to the length of the gaps between your seats and the center console, and then wedge them in. That way, small items such as keys or your cell phone won’t fall into the black hole of the gap! Does your car have these 13 weird (and super useful) features?

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woman looking out sunroof with inset of sunroof screen
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Enjoy the sunroof without the sun


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Picture the scene: It’s a beautiful day on the open road with mild temperatures, and when you pull over for a quick bite or to nurse a baby, you roll down the windows and open the sunroof. The only problem is the bright sun overhead, which can hurt eyes, burn skin, and make it impossible to watch movies in the backseat because of the glare. That’s where this mesh UV Sun Protection Cover will come in handy. You’ll still get fresh air, but without simultaneously getting too much sun. Bonus: It’s magnetic, so it attaches and detaches easily. Just remember to take it off before driving.

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Give your car the gift of Bluetooth technology


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A Bluetooth adapter is a high-tech choice for streaming crystal-clear music from your device when your older-model car doesn’t support wireless technology. It also features a built-in mic for hands-free calling. This is a great way to make an older model car feel up to date without spending a bundle—this UGreen adapter is under $17! In case you were wondering, this is exactly how Bluetooth technology works.

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Ice-proof your windshield


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When you’re expecting heavy frost overnight, fill a spray bottle with three parts vinegar and one part water, and then, right before it gets dark outside, shake up the mixture and spray it evenly on your car windows. The acetic acid in the vinegar will prevent water from freezing on your windows overnight, making your morning a whole lot easier. Make sure you know these 8 other winter car fixes, too.

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Make eating on the go easier


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Eating in your car can be dangerous, messy, and sad, especially if you’re alone. But if you insist on doing it, at least make it as safe as possible with a car swivel tray, which is also great for pit stops and passengers. This model from Zone Tech is height-adjustable, features a non-slip surface, and doubles as a useful storage tray.

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Rejuvenate your car


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While a shiny, clean, and buffed car doesn’t technically change the way you drive, it can make driving your car feel better. You can rejuvenate your car’s finish yourself and get it pretty darn close to the factory shine with an affordable polisher and supplies. At the same time, you’ll save a fortune when you make polishing a DIY job instead of paying for it to be done professionally.

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Clear up cloudy headlights


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Clear your fogged or yellowed headlight lenses with something you already have in your home: toothpaste. Simply apply whitening toothpaste to the plastic light lenses with a cloth and rub it all over. Rinse off completely with clean water, then dry, and like magic, your lights will sparkle and shine again. These are 11 things your car says about your personality.

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Have eyes in the back of your head


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Many new cars have backup cameras and detectors to protect your car, as well as the other cars on the road, but if yours doesn’t have this feature, you can add it. The DoHonest Digital Wireless Backup Camera Kit comes with a camera you place on the car’s back and a screen you mount to your dashboard, acting as an extra set of eyes while you back up. This car hack just might save your life—or the life of someone else near your vehicle.

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Check tire pressure every month


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All tires lose air, but you don’t need an auto professional to check your tires. Pick up this $11 tire pressure gauge and check the air pressure first thing in the morning at least once a month. (Don’t perform this task after you’ve driven or when your car has been sitting in the hot sun.) Inflate to the pressures listed on the carmaker’s decal (on the driver’s door or jamb), not the maximum pressure listed on the tire. The recommended tire pressure is based on the weight of your particular vehicle, not the tire brand or tread style. By the way, your tires are your car’s most important safety feature—here’s why.

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Diagnose your own car troubles


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Wish you could figure out what’s ailing your car without going to a mechanic? You can! All you need is an auto code reader. Simply plug it into the car’s computer system through the OBD plug, and it will quickly help you read your engine’s fault codes. You’ll find out what’s causing the check engine light to illuminate (and be able to turn it off), locate a bad oxygen sensor, have access to emissions readiness status, reset the monitor, read enhanced data, and retrieve the VIN of your car.

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Stop brushing snow and ice off your windshield


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No one is ever actually in the mood to brush snow or scrape ice off their windshield. With this hack, you won’t have to. Just put a waterproof car cover on your vehicle before the snow starts falling, then pull it off and shake off the snow and ice. Yes, that’s it! Sure, an ice scraper is a little cheaper, but when you consider the lack of back pain, the time you’ll save, and the fact that you’ll stay warm and dry every morning, this product will pay for itself quickly. Next, learn the 27 things you should do to get your car ready for winter.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman