Whether you just got your license or have been on the road for years, learning more about cars is never a bad idea. Even if you're not looking to buy, lease, or rent something new, there might be some little-known features in your current ride that you're not taking advantage of. That's why we put together these essential auto features and driver hacks that will help make your experiences on the road even better. So buckle up, and let's get driving.
Most Cars Have A Gas Cap Holder
You never want to grab the back end of your gas cap that's been sloshing around in the tank and is all covered in gasoline. That's why when you stop to fill up, you should place your gas cap in the convenient holder located on the inside of the tank door. This keeps the cap out of the way and helps keep your hands clean while you're filling up.
Another trick is that you can jam your gas cap under the handle on the fuel nozzle to get it to automatically fill. Just keep an eye on how many gallons you've put in, so it doesn't overflow.
Backseat Sensors Will Remind You if Anyone's In The Car
Just a handful of decades ago, cars didn't even come with airbags. Now, we have safety features all throughout our vehicles to help keep our families and us safe. That's why backseat sensors are some of our favorite additions to a vehicle. They let you know when there is still weight in the backseat, which will stop you from forgetting any valuable groceries or, oh, we don't know, stop you from leaving your kids in the back seat.
Some cars also have motion detectors so that if a child gets up and out of their car seat, the parent in the front seat will be notified immediately!
Don't Sweat It - The Engine Parts Are Color Coded
While we still don't suggest doing any backyard mechanic work, if you don't know what you're doing, you can learn a little about your car by opening the hood and having a look around inside. Take your owner's manual and look at the diagrams so you can get a feel for each different part in the engine compartment. In many cars, certain parts and fuses will be color-coded to help you figure out what applies to what system.
For example, in the photo above, some parts have been color-coded shades of blue.
The Hidden Backseat Mirror
This feature is available on a lot of mini-van models because it helps a multi-tasking parent take care of the kids in the back seat without turning away from the road. The back seat mirror, usually held in a roof compartment right above the rearview mirror, does exactly what it claims to do: it provides a fisheye view of a car's back seat. Which, if you need it, can be really helpful.
Stopping kids from fighting with a stern look or making sure you didn't forget the baby are both possible if your car comes equipped with a back seat mirror.
Steering Wheel Heaters Are Awesome In Winter
Alright, so everyone has heard of heated seats, but have you ever heard of a heated steering wheel? It's an awesome new feature that some vehicles are offering, so you can keep your hands warm even on a winter's day. It definitely beats wearing gloves while you drive, so we're all for including this in more cars in the future. You probably wouldn't need it if you're driving around in a convertible though.
On top of heated steering wheels and seats, some vehicles also have cooling features in the upholstery. So, you can take your car to whatever climate you'd like and still be nice and comfortable inside.
How to Know Where Your Rental's Gas Tank Is
Have you ever been on vacation, and right before you go back to drop off the rental car, you realize you need to fill up the tank? That shouldn't be that big a deal; it's just filling up a tank of gas. But, if you don't know which side the gas tank is on, you might get stuck doing that embarrassing thing where you have to back out and repark at a different pump!
The arrow next to the fuel icon in a car indicates where to find the vehicle's gas cap. So in this car, the gas cap is located on the passenger side (assuming it's somewhere where people drive on the left side of the road).
Subaru's Genius Feature for When You're Stuck at a Light
We all hate it when you're just stuck sitting at an endless red light, especially if you have to use the bathroom or have already been driving for a while. That's why the designers over at Subaru decided to add a traffic light indicator to their vehicles. This awesome technology beeps at the driver when a light has turned back to green so that they know to focus back up and get driving.
This type of technology actually exists at the intersection of driver assistance and self-driving vehicles. It's an important feature that self-driving cars will need to be able to do, but it's also being used to help drivers now, which is pretty cool!
Trunk Sensors Make Grocery Shopping Easier
Have you ever been carrying something really heavy out to the car, and then you realized that you forgot to open the trunk? It's the worst feeling in the world having to put that object down, fish around for your keys, unlock the car, and open the trunk before finally re-lifting and placing that thing in the car. Thankfully, a few car manufacturers have started offering cars with a trunk sensor under the car, so you can wave your foot around and automatically pop the boot.
This innovative addition also helps because you no longer have to put your groceries on the ground before loading everything up.
Do You Have Hidden Storage Space?
A lot of vehicles have a hidden feature that owners seldom find out about, and it's located beneath the trunk. We don't mean under the car, but under the floor in the trunk. A lot of vehicles have an extra storage compartment back there where you can keep breakdown supplies and tools. In Jeeps, there's also a drain at the bottom of this compartment, so you can fill them up with ice and use it as a cooler!
If your car has this compartment and you're planning to use it, just make sure that the rest of your tools are accessible. The spare tire release latch is also located back there many times.
Anti–Lock Brakes Can Save Your Wheels - And Your Life
Back in the day, if you were coming into a situation where you needed to stop immediately, you were instructed to pump the brakes on your vehicle. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you fully slammed on the brakes in an old vehicle, there's a chance you could lock your wheels up, lose steering traction, and go sliding. But, with ABS, or the anti-lock brake system, that's no longer a problem.
Anti-lock brakes are an incredible invention because they pump the brakes for a driver, even while they're applying extreme pressure to the brake pedal. This is why you might feel your pedal popping or pushing back under your feet in an extreme braking situation.
Jeep Gives Their Cars Some Fun Surprises
Jeeps are well known around the world. They're classic-looking cars with a classic history rooted in the US army's need for vehicles during the Second World War. They've been featured in a host of films, including and maybe most famously Jurassic Park, and as you can see in the photos down below, the car's designers pay careful attention to make sure each vehicle that rolls off the line is as fun as humanly possible.
Even though Jeeps are fun, their safety record is pretty atrocious. Rollovers and mechanical issues plague these cars, so we'd only suggest buying one as a pleasure cruiser as opposed to an everyday driver.
Alertness Sensors Can Save You In A Pinch
Even though the whole concept is a little Big Brother-Esque, having facial scanners and alertness sensors in your vehicle is a great way to ensure that you never fall asleep behind the wheel. These sensors will buzz or give you a different type of notification if they sense that you're drifting, and in this way, they help to keep you and all of your passengers safe. Not all cars have this feature, though, so make sure to ask a dealer if it's something you're interested in.
Falling asleep behind the wheel is not only incredibly scary but very, very dangerous. Thousands of people pass away each year after accidents caused by drowsy drivers.
Headrest Hooks Make Great Storage Space
Most people know that the headrests in their car are adjustable, but many of them also have these handy hooks at the bottom that can be rotated to provide extra storage. These sturdy, plastic additions can hold a purse or grocery bags and stop car owners from having to play Tetris with all of their belongings jammed into the floor of the car. These are all manufactured as an aftermarket addition if it's something you think you could benefit from!
Websites like Amazon and eBay Motors are treasure troves when it comes to aftermarket car parts. Just be careful you don't get in over your head with any DIY mechanic projects.
This Is Way Cooler Than A Regular Old Air Freshener
In some newer BMW models, you can find a feature that allows you to preorder and enjoy a custom fragrance package inside your car. This additional feature works like a regular old household plugin, except the car distributes the scents for you, so you never have to worry about turning it on or off. The vehicle will also notify the driver when it's time for a refill, and then they can just head over to their local dealerships and pick up some more pods.
We're not sure if any other manufacturers than BMW offer this feature, but don't fret. There are plenty of other ways to keep your car smelling fresh.
A Seat Belt Cutter Could Save Your Life
With the improved technology in today's seat belts, your car knows to lock the belts and keep occupants in place after a serious impact or during a rollover accident. However, if this occurs and the car is significantly damaged, there's a chance the belts could remain locked, leaving you stuck until first responders arrive. Thankfully, you can buy one of these handy little tools, aptly named a seat belt cutter, and use it to free yourself after an accident.
Any loose item inside of a vehicle during a crash will turn into a projectile, so make sure to secure this tool in your center console.
Why Doesn't Every Car Have A Trunk Vacuum?
The person that thought of this idea is quite obviously a genius, but we're also assuming that they were a very, very frustrated parent. Why do we think that? Because it takes a parent to know just how useful this back seat vacuum can be! Whenever your kids make a mess in your car from now on, you can breathe easy and just handle it in the driveway once you get back home.
This invention probably saved some families a lot of trips to use the gas station hose. It probably also got rid of a handful of french fries that the kids were saving for later though.
Sunroof Vs. Moonroof
So, we've got a question for you. What's the difference between a sun roof and a moon roof? Having trouble? So, let us break it down. A sunroof is an opaque panel that either tilts open or comes off completely when you want to get some air. A moonroof, on the other hand, is a glass panel that either tilts open or slides back in between the roof and headliner of the car when you want some air.
You can think of a sunroof like the old t-tops on a Thunderbird. Not many manufacturers use them anymore because a seethrough moonroof has become much more desirable.
Built-In Ice Tools Come In Handy After A Storm
If you grew up in a snowy area, you know there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you and your automobile stay safe during the wintertime. One of the essentials is to make sure that you always keep ice tools in your car. You don't want to be stuck without a scraper or drive with an iced-over windshield. That's why the engineers over at Skoda decided to start attaching ice tools to the fuel door on their vehicles.
Another good trick for winter driving is to keep a bag (or three) of kitty litter in your trunk. The extra weight will give your rear wheels more traction, and if you get stuck, you can pour the litter out to give your wheels a surface to grab onto.
Heads Up Display Keeps Your Eyes on the Road
The heads-up display, or HUD, is a great new feature that a lot of cars are using. It utilizes the area on your windshield just above the dashboard as a separate place to display speed and road information so that you don't need to take your eyes off the road and check your gauges. A lot of cars will make this programmable, too, so your HUD can display whatever information you want to see.
This is a great way to monitor your speed since there's no way not to notice when you're rapidly accelerating. Still, make sure to keep checking your other gauges, even if you have a HUD, just so you're sure that nothing else is going wrong.
These Types of Blindspot Detectors Can Save Your Life
We all like to think of ourselves as safe drivers, but truth be told, everybody makes mistakes on the road. Still, one of the costliest mistakes you can make is forgetting to check your blind spot before switching lanes on the highway. That's why we're so grateful that cars come with blind-spot monitors now. By illuminating an icon on your side mirror, these little sensors can stop you from moving over into somebody and causing a big accident.
You can also sometimes customize how the blind-spot monitors in your car will work. For example, you can toggle whether or not there will be a beep when someone is in your blind spot.
Lane Keep Assist to the Rescue
While we agree that old cars look cooler, it can't be denied that today's vehicles are much, much safer. The feature we've included down below is just one of many examples of this. Lane keep assist is a tool that many cars have that uses small cameras to look for road markings so that the car can tell where one lane ends, and another begins. Then, if you're drifting, the car can gently correct you back.
This feature also works well with the blind-spot monitors that many new cars have in their side-view mirrors. Combined, we're sure they've helped reduce blind-spot and sideswipe accidents on the highway immensely.
Adjustable Back Seats Make Storage Easy
Each different car manufacturer has a different strategy when it comes to maximizing storage space, but these adjustable back seats that you see below are one of our favorite methods of handling that problem. By utilizing a seat design where the seat can fold up into itself, the entirety of the rear compartment – from floorboards to headliners – becomes available. So, you can start stacking in the suitcases, bicycles, and whatever else you'll need!
If you're an avid biker but don't have this feature in your car, there are also a number of options for easy roof racks and trunk racks that you can use.
Exterior Cameras Help You Drive Safer
New cars today all come with varying levels and systems for driver assistance. These systems operate through the use of a series of cameras that are used to monitor a car's surroundings. This way, while you're driving, your car is analyzing who's behind you, how close the car next to you is, and all of that good stuff. These are the same cameras we use for assistance with backing up and parallel parking, so they're really more useful than we realize!
Here's a funny question about cameras– does anyone still turn around when backing up? Even with a backup camera in the car, we have some friends that still turn all the way around.
Rain Can't Stop Us
We've only seen this on Skoda and Rolls Royce vehicles, but did you know that some cars come with a built-in umbrella holder? Never again will you be left without an umbrella or stuck sprinting across the parking lot because you forgot to get the umbrella out of the trunk. This stylish and innovative design utilizes unused space in the door panel and puts it to use with maximized efficiency.
To be fair, we don't usually use umbrellas anyway. They just bring water into the house and get everything else around them wet! Plus, how are you going to explain to someone that you lost the umbrella out of their $300,000 Rolls Royce?
Titanium Frames And Other Fuel Efficient Building Materials
Over time, we've started to use lighter and lighter materials to create the frames of our vehicles. With less weight rolling down the road, that means cars will have higher fuel efficiency and won't require as much power. However, you still have to use something strong in order to protect passengers. That's why Ford has opted for titanium bodies on all of their brand new F-150 trucks, and they'll be using the same construction in sedans as well.
If you ever get to see a car from the 1940s or 1950s up close, you can tell just how heavy they are. Those things were practically made out of pure steel.
Backseat Massage Chair Anyone?
Don't we all just wish we could live in the lap of luxury? When you get to go on vacation and really kick back, there's nothing like it. But, if you've got some extra money lying around, maybe you'll want to invest in one of these to give yourself the same type of feeling. These back seat massage chairs are perfect for the working professional who also is battling a little bit of sciatica!
These contraptions are probably out of the question for most people. But, as vehicles become more technologically advanced, maybe this will become a standard feature for all vehicles at some point down the line.
A Feature You Don't Often Hear About
If you were to ride in a very old car and then a very new car, there are a few differences you would immediately notice. Obviously, the materials the cars were made out of, the way they drive, and the way they look will be different. But, you'll also probably notice that the newer car is a lot quieter as it goes down the road. This is because of years of improving soundproofing technology.
Soundproofing material, also called sound dampening material, is placed between the body and the car, and the interior surfaces, so it insulates riders from as much road noise as possible.
Smart Keys To The Rescue
The technology in our key FOBs over time has gotten so complex that we're not even sure how it works. By the way, if you're not even sure what a FOB is, it's that little keyless entry remote you see down below. They used to just be able to lock and unlock the doors of a car if you were standing close by. Now though, they can start your car and even roll up your windows for you if you forget!
These little feats of technology are why we love cars so much. The whole vehicle only works if all of these little pieces are made correctly, and when it all comes together, it is really a marvel of modern engineering.
Interior Lights Will Make The Mood Just Right
You're not going to find this feature in all cars, and definitely not in most old ones, but did you know that some vehicles are now including LED light panels on the inside of the car so drivers can change the color and set mood lighting while they drive? This is especially great if you're working as a limo, taxi, or Uber driver and you really want to cater to your clients.
If you already have a vehicle but it doesn't have this feature, don't sweat it. LED strips are pretty cheap to buy and easy to find, and you can power them from your car's cigarette lighter.
We Introduce You To The Citroen Picasso
This handy dandy little contraption was only available on one model of Citroen, called the Picasso, but we think it's a feature more manufacturers should consider adding to their vehicles. It's a shopping cart in the trunk that can be removed and used for your groceries, which then folds right back up and can be placed into the trunk. Unfortunately, after a few years, the feature was discontinued because nobody other than us really seemed to get into it.
There are a number of other features that have come and gone in cars with time. Some vehicles used to offer rear-facing seats or telephones, but technology has made those, for the most part, obsolete.
Anyone Want Some Backseat Champagne?
There's nothing cooler than a really fancy car. When money isn't an issue, people take the time to create incredible features that are not only functional but designed to benefit the vehicle overall. This isn't just some "Pimp My Ride" stuff going on here; this is the real deal. This Rolls Royce carries a price tag that is well over $100,000, and if you're privileged enough to be riding around in one, you might as well pop a bottle.
Alternatively, if you don't have enough money for a Rolls Royce, you could always buy a regular sedan for less than $100,000 and keep a cooler of some Andre in the back. Just don't drink and drive!
Under-Glow Lets Everybody Know
This used to just be a feature that you would see in the Need For Speed and Fast and The Furious movies, but nowadays, cars have started coming out with different types of under-glow. The one you see here, from Genesis, illuminates the area under the driver's door and gives them an idea of where to put their feet. Still, we think it would be cooler if it was neon green and running all around the entire car.
When playing video games like Saints Row and GTA, you can customize vehicles, and we always used to add under-glow to ours, so as you can imagine, we're pretty fired up about it.
Coming Soon To A Street Near You: Autopilot!
Self-driving cars aren't a thing of the future anymore, they're here, and they're being tested right in front of our very eyes. A number of American cities are already running trial programs with self-driving vehicles, and many of the Teslas you see driving around have a limited autopilot feature. But, in the coming years, we expect to see major autopilot programs from the major automotive corporations, which will hopefully be an effective way to keep people safe.
It's pretty scary to think about relinquishing control behind the wheel and trusting a robot to get you home safely. But, this is quite possibly what everyone will be doing in a few years, so it's probably better to get over the fear now.
Keep A Tire Pressure Gauge In Your Glovebox
Nowadays, a tire pressure gauge isn't as useful of a tool as it used to be, but we still like to keep one around just in case. These handy little pocket tools can be used to measure the air pressure in your tires, which will help you inflate them to the right PSI in case you get a flat. Still, most cars nowadays have internal sensors that have made these little tools obsolete.
We've even seen some air pressure machines at gas stations that have digital screens with PSI displays recently. You can just enter your desired PSI– most passenger vehicles run in the 32-35 range– and hold until finished.
All New Vehicles Have This Feature
Even though you see it in a lot of action movies, stuffing someone into the trunk of a car isn't exactly the most viable thing to do anymore. Since 2001, the US government has been mandating that car companies include a trunk latch so that the trunk can be opened from the inside. There's also an LED light that is supposed to be illuminated when a trunk closes so that a person who was in there can find the latch.
Now that we've told you this, we hope it doesn't ruin action movies for you going forward. Just pretend the trunk latch isn't there next time!
Now Every Car Is Practically a Smart Car
Remember Kitt, the famous car in David Haselhoff's hit 80s show, Knight Rider? The car could do everything: talk, give directions and help Hasselhoff out of tough situations. But nowadays all of our cars can practically do that! With smartphone features implanted into most of today's vehicles, a big screen gives us the opportunity to place calls, set up the GPS, or play music right from the driver's seat, which is incredible.
Just a few years ago, if you wanted to listen to your iPod in the car, you had to go buy a cassette adapter or a Bluetooth transmitter or rig up a whole system in the car. Now, it's all right in the palm of your hand.
Adjust Rearview Mirrors To Cut Out Glare
Have you ever been stuck on the highway driving in front of someone who just won't turn off their brights? If you have, then you know how much strain it puts on your eyes and how difficult it can be to focus. Thankfully, a lot of cars have an adjustable rearview mirror that allows you to cut down on that glare while still seeing the road behind you. Just flick the toggle switch at the bottom of the mirror, and it should be in position.
If that's not working, and you really need to avoid some bright lights, just pull into the right lane and slow down for a bit. Better to let that person by and avoid any road raging.
Hazard Lights Are A Must Know For Any New Driver
If you're just getting your license or taking driver's ed, make sure you talk to one of your mentors about the hazard lights. Every car has them, and they can save your life in a pinch. These lights let other drivers know that you are in distress so that they can avoid the vehicle or offer assistance. Use hazards if you're stuck on the side of the highway or having mechanical problems.
A lot of the time, in bad weather conditions, especially in heavy rain, people will turn on their hazards to make their vehicles more easily visible to other drivers.
This One Is Pretty Self-Explanatory
Even though the snowflake symbol on a dashboard is fairly self-explanatory, many people won't know what to do if they see this. A snowflake icon means that the road conditions are cold and possibly icy. In order to protect yourself, shave about five to ten miles per hour off of your straight-line traveling speed, and make sure to start braking and slowing down for corners much earlier than you normally would.
Another good tip is that if your car starts to skid, you must turn the wheel against the direction you're skidding. And, don't slam on the brakes because this will lock up all four tires and send you sliding with no traction at all.
Traction Control Can Save Your Tail
Traction control is an awesome feature on cars that's helpful for both emergency situations and everyday driving. This system helps you keep your vehicle going straight by constantly monitoring all four wheels. It can detect if a loss of traction occurs, which means if one or more wheels are starting to slide, and then the system will modulate power between the other wheels to compensate and help you straighten the vehicle out.
Traction control is especially helpful when it's raining or snowing because this is when your vehicle is most likely to slide out. If you're worried about this kind of thing, though, go on YouTube and check out a few tutorials on how to deal with traction loss, it should settle your mind.