By Lauren Reid
Last updated on: November 7, 2017 at 1:40 pm
Shortcuts, life hacks, handy hints – whatever you call them, we're all looking for answers to those little recurring annoyances in our lives. Here are our solutions to 11 common car-related niggles. Illustrations: Pip Kruger
1. Ease a tight squeeze
Do you end up having to suck your stomach in and wriggle out of your car to avoid your door hitting the garage wall? The answer may be simpler than you think – enter the humble pool noodle. Just chop it in half and secure it to your garage wall at the height where your door would usually hit.
2. Under pressure
We open and close our car doors countless times, but how much attention do you actually pay? Did you know there’s a placard in the door frame telling you the recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle? Check these numbers closely, because there may be a difference between the front and rear tyres. Then it’s just a matter of matching the PSI (pounds per square inch) on the label to the PSI on the inflator at the service station. In some cars, this placard may be in the glove box instead. Check your owner’s manual if you’re still unsure.
3. Know your distance
Many modern car bonnets fall away on a steeper angle than they used to, making it hard to judge how much further you can edge into your garage.
There are a few potential solutions to this – and they’re a whole lot cheaper than buying yourself a set of sensors and a stop light (though you can do that, too).
1. Hang a tennis ball from the ceiling so that when it comes to rest against your windscreen, you know you’ve driven in far enough;
2. Put a piece of tape on the right-hand wall to line up with the driver; or
3. Put a little woodblock just in front of where your tyres will need to end up.
4. Custom-speed wipers
We all know windscreen wipers have a few speed options, but did you know you could customise the wipe intervals within those options? Just pop them onto the intermittent setting, and twist the little dial on the same handle to speed up or slow down the intervals. Your car may only have a few speed options, or it may have a larger sliding scale. Some new cars even automatically adjust the speed based on how much rain hits the windscreen.
5. Secret message in your tyres
Driving with low tyre tread can be dangerous – not to mention illegal – so how do you check if you’re getting close to needing a replacement? Look inside the grooves of your tyre and you’ll find raised rubber bars (see picture) called tread wear indicators. If any part of your tyre has worn down to this level, your time is up. We recommend replacing them before they get to this point, and to check at least once a month – at the same time as you check your tyre pressure.
6. Not-so-keyless entry
Most newer cars have keyless entry, but what if you’re caught in a situation where that’s not working, and you find yourself longing for the simple days of keys and locks? Well, look inside your remote – there might be a spare key hidden in the casing. Check for a button that releases the cap of the remote, or you may be able to slide it open (see your owner’s manual for help).
Don’t forget, RAA Road Service can replace batteries in most car remotes too.
7. Sticky situation
WD40 has a seemingly endless list of applications, but here’s our favourite: use it to soften the gum that attaches decals or bumper stickers to your car, so they peel off with ease.
8. Load up
We’ve all been there. You load your car up with groceries only to arrive home and find the contents of your shopping bags have been strewn through your boot en route. A simple way to keep everything together is to pop a laundry basket or two in there, so that your bags are packed together, nice and cosy, and on a flat surface. This also makes it easier to carry multiple bags inside at once. Also look for small hooks in the front passenger foot well or in the boot that you can loop bag handles around so they don’t slide.
9. Point it out
This one seems too simple to be true – but it is. In many cars, the little arrow next to the bowser symbol on the dashboard tells you what side your fuel filler is on.
10. Not just for painting
Cars are full of hard-to-reach nooks and crannies that can collect dust and dirt. You could buy specialised cleaning tools – or you could buy an ordinary paintbrush to do the job. Just make sure the bristles are the right size for where you need to clean, and you’re good to go.
11. Does your car fit its driver?
Did you know most modern cars not only let you move the steering wheel up and down, but in and out too? There should be a lever under or to the side of the steering column that’ll let you adjust the wheel to the right spot for you. What’s more, you can even adjust the height of your seatbelt. This is usually as simple as two buttons on the belt panel on the door frame – squeeze them together to move the belt anchor up or down so the sash sits comfortably across your shoulder.
If you need some help setting up your driving position properly, you can book an RAA CarFit session. Together with an occupational therapist, an RAA expert will give your set-up a once-over to keep you safe on the road.