Owning a piece of sh*t car is a rite of passage for many young men. Heck, some of the more frugal among us choose to drive sh*tboxes even after we have jobs and money. There’s no more efficient way to burn money than buying a brand-new car — some say that half of a new car’s value disappears into thin air the moment it’s driven off the dealership lot.
But piece of sh*t cars can be, well, sh*tty to own. They rust out and break down, often at inopportune times (as if there’s an opportune time for a breakdown). There are some things you can do to preserve the life of your sh*tty car, though. Below, we outline six simple “hacks” that can keep your sh*tbox on the road longer than it has any right to be.
1. Clean your engine, so your mechanic doesn’t have to
Before you take your car in for service, give its filthy engine a quick bath. When your engine is cool (never when it’s hot!), open up the hood and clean out the grime by giving it a good spray-down. This will save your mechanic the hassle of doing it himself — and it will make it much easier for leaks and broken hoses to be spotted.
Here’s a video that walks you through the process of cleaning a car’s engine. It’s not very hard, but there are a few things you want to make sure you do:
2. Fix dents with a plunger, hairdryer or dry ice
You don’t have to take your car in for service every time you muck up your bumper — in fact, you’re wasting your money if you do. You don’t want to drive around in a pockmarked piece of sh*t, though, as dents can cause rust to grow.
Perhaps the easiest way to get dents out involves a tool that’s no stranger to sh*t: your plunger. First, wash your plunger off. Sterilize it with bleach. Then, press it against your car around the dent (this won’t work with very large dents) until you feel some suction. Pull back (and watch for flying sh*tbits if you didn’t clean the plunger before starting). Goodbye dent!
Here’s a video that shows this method in action:
The smart folks over at Wise Bread have identified two more ways you can pop a dent back into shape. The first is to buy some dry ice (try local party stores) and basically just rub it on the dent until it pops back into place (be sure to wear gloves). It’s not really clear why or how it works, but it seems worth a shot.
Here’s a video that explains it a bit more clearly:
The second Wise Bread method involves a hairdryer and a can of airduster. Your mileage may vary a bit with this one (topical metaphor!) and some people say that it only works in cold climates, but it might be worth trying if the other methods came up empty. Again, we’ll let the video explain the steps you need to take:
3. Slow the spread of windshield cracks with nail polish
If your windshield is cracked, there’s nothing you can do to fix the problem. You have no choice but to take your car to an auto glass specialist and let them work their magic. Don’t delay; small chips and cracks can be repaired inexpensively, but cracks have a way of rapidly growing to a size that requires you to buy a whole new windshield — which isn’t cheap.
To slow the spread of a crack until you can take your car to the shop, park in a cool, shady area and apply clear nail polish to the crack on both sides of the glass. Be generous with the nail polish — it’s a lot less expensive than a whole new windshield. When you’re done, leave your car in the sun until the nail polish dries.
Nail polish can also be used to cover up scratches on your car’s body, preventing them from rusting.
4. Clean your headlights with toothpaste
Headlights not as bright as they once were? You probably don’t need new bulbs, you just need to clean the plastic casings that house them. The plastic gets dirty over time, reducing the amount of light that gets through.
Grab an old toothbrush (or your brother’s toothbrush) plus some toothpaste and get to work. You’ll be surprised at how much better a car looks after its headlights have been cleaned — and how much more you can see when driving at night.
5. Get rid of the heavy crap on your keychain
Some people keep so many trinkets on their keychain it’s ridiculous. Get rid of the flashlight, pocket knife, bottle opener, rabbit’s foot or whatever other crap you have on there. It’s bad for your ignition to have so much weight pulling down on it all the time. Got for a more minimalist approach — only the keys you need to use on a daily basis should be on your chain. Store the rest of that stuff in your car’s console or hang it from the rear-view mirror.
6. Go to another gas station if you see the tanker
If you see a tanker truck at a gas station, keep driving. Never fill up while the underground tanks at a gas station are being filled, or just after. When the trucks fill the tanks, it stirs up sediment that’s bad for your engine.