You might be able to reverse around a corner and shuffle a steering wheel like you are at the helm of the Titanic, but passing your driving test is just the start of a long journey.
If you want to climb the motoring food chain, there are many more skills which can help your budget, save you time and make every journey more pleasurable. We’ve chosen some of our favourites, that you’ll never find in the Highway Code.
How to cool your car instantly without air-con
If the sun is beating down on your parked car, turning it into an expensive greenhouse on wheels, which can exceed 40 degrees. Horrible isn’t it? But there is a solution. When you get to your car, fully open just the front passenger-side window, and then open and close the driver’s door five times while standing next to your car. As you do this you’ll create a powerful airflow which expels the hot air out of the window, making life more bearable until you get on your merry way. It’s just a shame doing so makes you look as if you own a really smelly car.
How to remember where you parked
If you have a smartphone with built-in GPS, there are lots of apps which can save your blushes. Simply fire one up, tell it you’ve chosen a spot and it will save your coordinates. Then, when you’re ready for home it will plot directions to your car. If you’ve not got a smartphone or it’s on the blink, we recommend attaching a streamer to your aerial, or even tethering a colourful box kite to your roof rail if there’s a steady breeze (last tip not advisable for airport parking).
How to plug-in everyday gadgets in your car
The 12V cigarette lighter might seem of little use when you want to hook up a PlayStation or charge your iPad, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. USB chargers which plug into your lighter are now seriously cheap and available at tech stores and online. If you want to use 240V gadgets every now and again, you can also buy an inverter, but they are more bulky and expensive, starting at around £25. If it’s a more serious installation – think Pimp My Ride – an extra car battery and wiring will be required, but we’d recommend you consult a professional auto electrician before getting your wire cutters out. Another tip, don’t forget to run the engine occasionally while watching Avatar, or you won’t be going anywhere when the credits roll.
How to get to places on the cheap
If your car doesn’t have a sat-nav, or you’re buying a new motor and don’t want to pay car dealer prices, try a free sat-nav app for your smartphone. All the popular operating systems come with respectable free mapping like Google Maps, but our favourite is Waze for Android and iOS. This free app from a tiny start-up company has excellent maps plus all the bells and whistles you’d expect, but its killer feature is a community of 50 million users (worldwide) who vigilantly alert other users to everything from bad traffic and speed cameras to bad potholes and roadkill (yes, really). It’s rather good, so much so in fact, Google just bought the company for a rumoured $1.5bn. All you need to get going is a cheap hands-free phone cradle.
How to enjoy Bluetooth audio in any car
When your car is about 15 years older than your phone, it can be tricky listening to your favourite tracks, especially over Bluetooth. While it’s possible to upgrade the entire audio system to an aftermarket one, this can be expensive, is hard to transfer to other cars and can ruin the OEM look of curvy dash designs. The simplest solution could be a Bluetooth speaker like the £49.99 KAOS CS10. It has a non-slip base, so it can sit on your dash, or in a cup holder. It also has a battery which lasts around four hours and can be charged via USB, while the sound is surprisingly punchy and bass-rich.
How to park in your garage with precision
Just a bit further. Just a little… Crunch! We’ve all been there; you misjudge your garage and cause a tiny scratch which is shockingly expensive to repair. To get around these woes, simply get a friend/relative to help direct your car into the best position possible. Now attach a tennis ball to some string and hang it from the garage ceiling so the ball hangs just above a target on your windscreen. This could be a small sticker, or the rear-view mirror. Next time, just drive forward until the tennis ball rests back on the target. You can imagine you’re a fighter pilot mid-air refuelling, but maybe that’s just us… If you get really good, this might even free up extra storage space in your garage.
How to improve the performance of any vehicle
Any vehicle can go faster and use less fuel, guaranteed, no matter what engine it has or how old it is. And no, this isn’t a cheesy advert, just physics. Remove as much unnecessary weight from your car as you can and it will be more efficient. First the simple stuff: the road atlas you never use, spare shoes, assorted food and drinks, coats etc. Then we can get more serious. If your journeys are mostly in your local area, you can consider swapping the spare wheel for a can of tyre repair foam. Similarly, if you don’t ever carry more than one passenger, why not take out the rear seats, which are incredibly heavy? A strict diet can shed as much as 50kg from your car with an hour’s work. Still want to eat that pie?
How to save money on your new car
It has long been a fact that car makers make a slim profit on the car itself, with most of their revenue coming from dealer-fit options and aftercare. While some dealer accessories are genuinely bespoke for your car, more often, many good alternatives are available for far lower prices. Manufacturers can charge around £100 for fitted luggage nets, when there are universal ones available online for under £15, and we’ve already explored free sat-nav for your smartphone. Another example; Expensive protective treatment for your paintwork and upholstery costing hundreds can be done yourself with some car wax and a product like Scotchgard Fabric Protector for under £20 with a little elbow grease.
How to save pennies parking
Did you know you can save money by always reversing into parking spaces? Yes, we know it sounds crazy, but the logic is sound. Your engine is at its thirstiest in the seconds after you start it from cold, so manoeuvring out of a space backwards several times each day uses more fuel than driving straight out. You’re also more likely to be involved in a blind-spot collision when reversing out of a space, costing money, time and even putting you in harm’s way.
How to bag yourself cheap car parts
Manufacturer car parts can easily break the bank, so why not give your local scrapyard a ring? If a similar model to yours has been written off or simply failed its MOT, it will normally be stripped for parts, and they could have just the thing you need. If you are prepared to consider second-hand parts and don’t mind a bit of oil under your fingernails, this can bring huge savings. Just be careful to inspect every item you buy carefully for signs of damage before handing over the cash, as some scrap dealers operate on a sold-as-seen basis.
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