We all face car trouble eventually. Whether it's a vehicle that won't start or a door that's been frozen shut, issues crop up. Proper maintenance can prevent a lot of problems, but if you end up in a sticky situation, it's important to know what you can and can't use to get unstuck. Here are some simple hacks all drivers should know.
1. The car won't start
We've all been there — stranded in a parking lot far from home. Whether it's because of poor battery maintenance, cold weather or a dead battery, it can be a real headache. Luckily, there are a few things you can do on your own to help get things going again, before you go looking for a jumpstart.
A Can of Coke
First, pop your hood and take a look at the battery. If the terminals are really corroded, you can use a can of Coke to clean them. Seriously. Coke. The reason? It's got a relatively low pH, carbonic acid, citric acid and phosphoric acid, as well as carbonation. When combined, they can break down the corrosion (as well as rust, tarnish and, if you aren't careful, your car's paint). It will make things a bit sticky, but it will remove the corrosion and help make a better connection between the terminals and the battery clamps.
Remember, this is only a temporary fix. You should invest in the right tools to clean your battery terminals, including battery cleaner spray and a wire brush. Once you've cleaned the terminals, check the battery connections. More often than not, the terminals have come loose and need to be readjusted. Tread carefully when doing this, though. A crossed wire can cause a fire or worse, an explosion. Try the car again.
If it doesn't start, it's time to think about getting a jump. You should always have jumper cables or even a small, portable jump starter. If you do decide you need a jump, be sure to follow instructions on your jump starter exactly. If you're jumping a car using a good samaritan's car, follow these steps to stay safe. The best option, as always, is to be prepared and have the right tools for the job. Do proper battery maintenance (especially if you live in a place with harsh winters) and make sure that your battery is fully charged before long road trips.
2. Frozen bits and pieces
If you live anywhere in the snowbelt, you know how troublesome ice and cold weather can be. Whether you have frozen locks, doors or get stuck on an icy patch, there are a few small hacks you can use to get sorted.
For frozen locks, hand sanitizer is your answer. Apply a small amount on the troublesome locks, and the rubbing alcohol in it will melt the ice. Be careful around rubber seals, plastic trim and paint, as the rubbing alcohol can affect these items.
If your doors freeze shut, you probably have a small leak somewhere along your door seals or gaskets. It's best to troubleshoot the issue before it becomes a problem. You can pick up replacement seals at your local Advance Auto Parts store. That said, the hack-y way to prevent doors from freezing shut when you can't make it to Advance is to use cooking spray on the gasket. Spray down the entire ring of the doors that you want to keep from freezing and then wipe down with a paper towel. When the icy weather comes, your doors should easily open.
If you find yourself stuck in an icy patch and unable to move, there are a few options you have before asking someone to tow you out. First, turn off the traction control. While it seems counterintuitive, traction control tends to cut power to wheels that slip. When you're stuck on ice, your wheels are slipping, so you need to shut it off.
If that doesn't help get you out, you can also resort to using kitty litter under your wheels. Be sure not to use the lightweight stuff, as it's often made of paper and won't do much for your grip situation. The heavy, standard stuff is a better option. Pour a bit of kitty litter under your wheels in the direction you'll be heading out. The little bit of grit should help you get some grip and get out of your icy jail.
In all these wintry situations it pays to be prepared. Always have items like an ice and snow scraper on hand to clear your car on snowy days. If you live in a place that is particularly snowy, it may even make sense to have a small snow shovel.
3. You're stuck in a ditch
If you get stuck in a ditch or snow bank, it makes sense to know a little bit about physics, according to a recent story over at Wired. Have a rope handy and tie your car to a nearby tree. By pulling on the rope at a perpendicular angle, halfway between the car and the tree, you can exert enough leverage to pull your car out of a ditch. The story explains the fascinating physics of it in depth, if you're interested in the why.
4. Your headlights are foggy
Say you're driving home late one night and you realize that while your headlights are on, you can't see a thing. It's time for a quick hack to clean those foggy lamps up.
Grab a tube of toothpaste, an old towel and a bit of water to rinse. Put some toothpaste on the towel or rag and put your elbow grease to work. Be careful not to scratch the chrome or the paint around the lights and stick to the headlight housing. Rinse and repeat if necessary! Toothpaste is just a temporary fix. To clean your headlights the proper way, pick up a headlight-restoration kit. The cleaning agents will do a better job of defogging your headlights and, in general, will be less messy than toothpaste.
5. A quick bumper hack
Plastic bumpers that have just been pushed in can be fixed by pouring boiling water over the dent. The heat will expand the plastic and pop the dent out. It won't always be perfect, but it will be a lot better than it was.
Got any hacks we don't know about it? Share the knowledge and leave a comment! And remember: hacks can be a life-saver, but they're only temporary. Proper maintenance and the right tools are essential when you do get stuck. As always, it's crucial to have an emergency kit on hand, just in case.