Cars

13 Car Hacks You Probably Aren't Doing (But Should)

There are a slew of high-tech hacks you should be doing to your ride. Some are obviously cool, others exceedingly helpful. What follows are 13 of the very best. They run the gamut of skill levels, from the incredibly easy to the super complex, but they're all well worth the effort. 

1. Use Google Maps by mirroring your phone on your in-dash screen

Some manufacturers will let you do this right off the bat, but others...not so much. Fortunately, you can buy quite a few aftermarket radios that can mirror your Android phone, duplicating everything shown on its screen. The benefits range from truly using your car as an extension of your phone to being able to utilize Google Maps instead of the never-quite-as-good systems that most manufacturers use.

Want the benefits of hooking up your phone but have an iPhone or don't care about Google Maps? Many of those same radios are Apple CarPlay-compatible.

2. Put an iPad directly into your dash

You could also skip all the phone mirroring and go straight to installing an iPad in your dashboard. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but it is a much easier prospect now than it used to be. There are even companies out there that offer pre-made iPad mounts to make it that much easier for you to have Siri as a full-time co-pilot.

3. Make your engine sound better

Active sound (i.e. that digitally-reproduced sound carmakers love to use these days) is one of those things you either love or view with unbridled hatred. You can change the pre-recorded sound of your engine, though, if you know someone that's good with computers. Renault even debuted an idea where you can just select different engine sounds at the touch of a button. Or, you know, just turn it off altogether.

4. Transform your glovebox into a mini-fridge

This one's actually easier than you might think, but it's not for the faint of heart. You don't need to spend a couple hundred bucks on a kitschy electric cooler, either. All you need is some knowledge about physics and the willingness to take several sharp instruments to your car's interior. Take a look at the handiwork of someone who did it on their old Toyota, here.

5. Use a Bluetooth converter in your tape deck

If your car is old enough to still have a tape deck, the technology to pair your phone and stream music is very affordable. You can build a Bluetooth cassette tape yourself, or buy one for under $30.

6. Create a power strip in your center console

If you need to charge a lot of different things, you can make your own power strip and hardwire it into your car. It's a serious DIY job, but it's a lot simpler than much of the stuff you'd do around the house. 

7. Use an old smartphone to expand your dashboard

The instrument clusters in a lot of cars these days don't give you much information about what's actually going on, so you get little to no warning if your car is dangerously close to overheating in the middle of rush hour traffic. But, if you have an old phone you don't use anymore, you can get apps that read your car's signals and convert them into a proper set of gauges, so you can know exactly what's going on at all times.

8. Swap your lighter for a USB charger

It's strange that so many carmakers still make cars with a cigarette lighter. So if yours has one, there's literally no good reason keeping you from swapping it out for a USB charger.

9. Never lose your car again

You could get an app that helps you remember where you parked, or you could just take a photo that tells you all the relevant details for free.

10. Install a custom garage door opener

If your car doesn't have its own garage door opener, all you have to do is connect your garage door remote controller to a $5 button from somewhere like Radio Shack, hide the remote inside a panel, and mount the switch on your door. It's really simple, and there's an excellent how-to guide, right here.

11. Give your car Spidey-sense

If you're one of those drivers who catches yourself periodically drifting into oncoming traffic or not noticing pedestrians until the last second, it's not a bad idea to add something like Mobileye, which is a camera-based system that works just like most car manufacturer's warning systems—because it's behind those, too.

12. Have your windows automatically close when it rains

If you like the idea of having your windows go up once your automatic windshield wipers sense rain, it's worth the five minutes on Google to see if other people with your car have done it. Most modern cars are a lot more customizable than you might think, and a lot of options you've never heard of are hidden within the car's computer system, waiting to be activated along with a bunch of other cool stuff that varies greatly from car to car. If you know anything about computer coding, this is simple to do yourself. If you don't, a shop can do it for you, usually in under an hour.

13. Make your own heads-up-display

Constantly looking to your nav screen to see if you're turning left in 200 yards, or if it was supposed to be 200 yards ago, isn't so safe, especially compared to a heads-up display unit. There are actually a number of ways you can make your own HUD, from apps that setup your phone to reflect off the windshield, to much more involved DIY jobs that can display anything you want. Or, you can grab one of the new professionally-designed units entering the market.


Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. He’s going to do a couple of these this summer.