Keeping your car running smoothly can cost you hundreds of dollars, but try some of these simple tips to save you time and money at the mechanic.
Keeping your car running smoothly can cost you hundreds of dollars, but try some of these simple tips to save you time and money at the mechanic.

Car hacks: 35 ways to avoid getting ripped off

Tis the time of year many of us contemplate a family road trip to visit loved ones for Christmas or simply get away.

But getting to and from your destination does not always come cheap.

A trip to the mechanic or panel for a quick fix can easily run into hundreds of dollars, while car detailing can end up costing three figures.

But there is a way to cut your maintenance costs and still keep your car in tip top shape. Here are 35 hacks for cleaning and repairing your car.

Former Bachelor, Matty J, has some helpful advice on how to keep your family safe on the road this holiday season. Picture: Toby Zerna
Former Bachelor, Matty J, has some helpful advice on how to keep your family safe on the road this holiday season. Picture: Toby Zerna

1. Raid the kitchen

Underneath your kitchen sink there's a fantastic solution to keeping windows and windscreens clean and streak free. Steel wool pads - which usually come filled with soap, do a fantastic job of cleaning without scratching the glass.

2. Or the pantry

Other do-it-yourself car maintenance experts swear by vinegar and newspaper for a thorough, streak-free clean.

Toothpaste and a toothbrush can revitalise your headlights.
Toothpaste and a toothbrush can revitalise your headlights.

3. Wipe the wipers

Windscreen wipers can leave streaks and even scratch windscreens if left unattended. A quick once over on the blades with rubbing alcohol will prevent this happening.

4. Pack the tape

If you have a roll of packing tape left from your last move, it can work wonders in removing cat and dog hair from cloth upholstery. Simply pat the seat with the sticky side of the tape and the hair will cling to it. A wet squeegee also works well. Both are more effective than trying to vacuum the hair off.

5. Repair surface scratches

Clear nail polish will seal off minor scratches and stone chips, preventing rust down the line. You can also try to match coloured polish to the car, but check the glovebox before resorting to this method. Most cars come with a small tin of paint these days.

Small dents can be repaired with a few common household appliances.
Small dents can be repaired with a few common household appliances.

6. Prevention is better than the cure

On old cars the ignition lock can become damaged over the years if your set of keys is too heavy. Resist the temptation to keep all your house keys on your car key ring.

7. More prevention

A lot of dings and scratches - especially to doors - happen in the garage. Stick a couple of pool noodles to the walls in strategic places and it will stop the kids banging the doors on the brick work.

8. And more

If certain members of the family are spatially challenged, it's a good idea to hang a tennis ball from the roof, lined up short of the garage wall. It's like an old-fashioned parking sensor - when the ball hits the windscreen it's time to brake.

9. Scrub with the screwdriver

Drape a thin cloth over the tip of a screwdriver and go hunting for grime in all those hard to reach places.

 

10. Dust buster

Get a small paint brush and attack the dust in your air vents with it. If you hold the vacuum near the vents as you do it, it's even more effective.

11. Beat the cold

In the colder months, it's not uncommon for ice to form overnight on the windscreen. A towel, tarp or newspaper over the glass will protect it from the cold and allow you to simply peel off the layer of ice rather than spending ages scraping it off. Don't use hot water, as it could cause the glass to crack.

12. Prevention is better than a cure

If you spray your windows with a light film of vinegar and water it will stop ice from forming as quickly on your windows. You can use the same spray to break down any ice that does form.

13. Park facing the sun

If you park car facing the east, the sun will have more time to melt the frost on your windscreen before it's time to leave for work.

 

14. Lights off

Some experts say that if you turn the lights off before you switch the car off, your battery will last longer. If the car is switched off first, the battery needs to rely on its own reserves to keep the lights on. This is more relevant for older cars and many modern cars deliberately delay the lights turning off to give you some light to find your house.

15. Spray the bugs

Cooking spray or WD40 will soften those caked on bugs you get after a long drive in the country. Spray and leave for about four minutes and you'll find them much easier to remove.

16. Every now and then treat your car to premium

Premium fuels have cleaning additives that can keep your engine running smoothly and more efficiently. You don't have to use them all the time, unless the manufacturer demands it, but once in a while is a good idea to stop build-up of soot and deposits.

17. Diesels need to stretch their legs

If you own a diesel vehicle and you live in the city, make sure you give it a good half-hour run on the freeway every month. Short journeys don't get the catalytic converter hot enough to burn off potentially damaging soot.

make sure your key ring isn’t overloaded, the excess weight can put stress on the ignition lock.
make sure your key ring isn’t overloaded, the excess weight can put stress on the ignition lock.

18. Mint condition

You don't need to splash out on a wash and polish kit for the car. Add some hair conditioner to a bucket of warm water and you'll be surprised by the paint finish it provides.

19. Bugs on the windscreen

Sometimes a car wash and chamois isn't enough to get rid of bugs from the windscreen. It's a bit labour-intensive but an old school razor blade will remove the bugs without scratching the windscreen.

20. Demist more quickly

Turn your airconditioning on. It will dry out the cabin and remove moisture from the air, allowing your demister to clear the screen more quickly.

21. Cool your wheel

If you've got a plastic or rubber steering wheel, keep a spray bottle and cloth in the glovebox for those days when the car has been baking in the sun. It will cool the wheel quickly.

22. Plug a leak

If your radiator springs a leak, try cracking an egg in it. The hot water will cook the egg and water pressure will push it into the cracks. Just don't try to open the radiator cap when the car is still warm. That's dangerous.

23. Fix that bingle

Small carpark dents are inevitable but if they're minor, they might not require a visit to the panel beater. Try pouring boiling water onto the ding and it may pop back out. The hot water expands the plastic on the bumper, allowing it to snap back into place. A hairdryer can also do the job in some cases, as can dry ice.

24. Take the plunge

If you don't have access to any of the above, a humble plumber's plunger could also do the trick, sucking the dent out of the panel.

Spraying hairspray on clean alloy wheels can stop them collecting brake dust.
Spraying hairspray on clean alloy wheels can stop them collecting brake dust.

25. Raid the bathroom

Headlights pick up all sorts of road grime and bug splatter and one of the most effective ways to clean them is to use toothpaste and a toothbrush. The abrasive qualities of toothpaste cut through the grime without scratching the surface of the lamp.

26. Clean the engine bay

Coca Cola is an excellent way to degrease engine parts. It cuts through and lifts the grease off surfaces. It's acidic, corrosive nature means it can also be effective in getting rid of surface rust.

27. Pull out the powder

Baking powder can prove an excellent cleaning agent for getting stains off car seats. Mix four tablespoons of baking soda in a quarter cup of water and use a toothbrush to scrub the stain. You may have to apply and leave it to soak for 30 minutes to remove stubborn stains. Some people add lemon and vinegar to the solution.

28. And use it to deodorise as well

Baking soda mixed with a couple of drops of scented oil can keep your car smelling fresh. Put a couple of tablespoons in a small jar, add the oil and pierce the lid. Then pop it in the glovebox.

29. Clean your alloy wheels

That mix of baking soda, lemon and vinegar will also do a great job of getting brake dust and grime off your wheels. Put the solution in a spray bottle and get to work with a sponge or cloth.

30. And keep them clean

After you've cleaned the alloys, spray them with hairspray. It stops the wheels from collecting brake dust. Cooking spray also works.

31. Keep the leather soft

There are a variety of expensive leather car products on the market for maintaining leather but some swear by olive oil, which keeps the leather supple and smelling fresh.

32. Change your own oil

Oil changes are the single most important ingredient for engine reliability. Treat yours to one halfway through its normal service schedule. They're an easy DIY project and YouTube is full of instructional videos.

33. Travel light, save fuel

Unload the boot. Don't leave the boot full as it will make your car heavier and use more fuel as a result. Also inflate your tyres, as flat tyres provide more rolling resistance and hurt fuel economy.

34. Save time at the petrol station

If you're always forgetting which side your fuel cap is on, look for the fuel symbol on the dash. It will have an arrow pointing to the right side for filling up.

35. Cool down quicker

The airconditioning won't work as well if it's having to cool down hot air. If the car's been parked in the sun, leave the windows open for a while when you drive off and let the breeze blow the hot air out.

Matty J and partner Laura Byrne pictured with daughter Marlie-Mae and their Volkswagon Tiguan at Bondi. Picture: Toby Zerna
Matty J and partner Laura Byrne pictured with daughter Marlie-Mae and their Volkswagon Tiguan at Bondi. Picture: Toby Zerna

TREAD CAUTIOUSLY

Former Bachelor Matthew Johnson is looking forward to his last road trip before the arrival of his second child.

But before Johnson, wife Laura and daughter Marlie-Mae head off to the NSW south coast there are a few simple car maintenance issues he needs to take care of.

The most important piece of equipment on your car is the tyres, they are the only contact point between you and the road. And according to Johnson there is a simple hack to make sure you've got enough tread to get you to your destination safely.

"A great trick I learnt from Continental Tyres is to grab a 20-cent coin and place it into the tread of your tyre," said Johnson. "If your tread doesn't reach the bill of the platypus, it means that your tyre tread is at a low level and it might be time for a new set of tyres."

He also said to make sure you have the correct tyre pressure because over or under inflated tyres can result in reduced grip and an increased chance of an accident. If you aren't sure what the correct tyre pressure is for your car, Johnson said it can generally be found on the pillar inside the driver's door.

 

 

 

Originally published as Car hacks: 35 ways to avoid getting ripped off



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