Modern cars are packed with technology to make our lives more convenient, safer and fun, and the various manufacturers go to great lengths to promote their latest innovations and bright ideas.
But while all eyes are on revolutionary drivetrains and futuristic digital systems, simple but clever features contained throughout your car can go unnoticed.
Here are the top-ten unsung hero tricks you might not know your car can do.
Safety side lights
If you’re leaving your car parked on the side of the road somewhere after dark, making it stand out to other road users is a good idea.
Leaving all four corners illuminated with park lights is probably overkill but many vehicles will allow you to illuminate just one side of the car.
After switching the ignition off, flick the indicator stalk to choose which side you want to make more visible at night and only those park lights will stay on until you return to the car.
Electric handbrake emergency stop
Increasing numbers of modern cars are adopting a simple switch instead of the traditional lever-operated park brake. The move frees up more space for storage and is easier to design a car for both left and right-hand drive markets, but do you worry that there’s one less option in an emergency?
Well don’t worry. Many cars with electric park brakes will allow an emergency stop function while in motion. Simply lift the brake switch as you would normally apply the park brake and hold. The vehicle will begin to slow down without touching the brake pedal.
Fuel gauge arrow
How many times have you pulled into the servo with the bowser on the wrong side of the vehicle? The next time you are uncertain which side of the car you need to fill up on, glance at the fuel gauge.
The little arrow on one side of the pump graphic will clear up any uncertainty. If there’s no arrow than it’s likely the hose on the bowser icon will tell you which side to fill from.
This won’t apply to drivers of some classic Jaguars and even some early Minis, which had fuel fillers on both sides!
Global opening and closing
If you’ve ever locked your car and started to walk away, only to realise you have left a window or the sunroof open, this little known feature will be very welcome.
Global closing allows all electric windows to be closed even after the vehicle has been locked using the remote central locking key.
Simply press and hold the lock button and all the glass panels will be secured. If your vehicle has global opening you can use it to open all the windows on very hot days, venting the stifling air before you climb in. That’s certainly a cool feature.
You may not even have noticed these small but very handy hooks located in the boot or passenger footwell of your car but so-called ‘curry hooks’ are an ingenious solution to a frustrating problem.
Simply pop the handles of a loaded carrier bag over the hook and the contents will stay where it’s meant to be even if you take your favourite driving road home.
Here’s a top tip: If you are using the hooks for their named purpose and transporting hot takeaway food, don’t be tempted to put the foot warmers on full blast. Unless the car’s heater air is hotter than the food, it will actually cool your dinner down faster.
Rear window and door deactivation
Any feature that keeps young passengers safer is a great thing to have especially for young families. Cars with rear electric windows often have a button to stop little fingers rolling the window up and down until something gives.
But many cars also have child locks which prevent the rear doors being opened from the inside. With the door open and look at the catch. It’s likely there will be a little plastic slot which can be turned with the tip of the ignition key to activate the feature as and when you need it.
Automatic hazard lights
As a courteous road user, it’s a good idea to let other drivers know about potential hazards with a flash of the hazard lights, but if you are braking hard to avoid a collision, reaching for a switch might be the last thing on your mind.
Many new cars will automatically activate the hazard lights if the ABS is needed during heavy braking, allowing people behind you to prepare and react early, and potentially avoid nose-to-tail bingles.
Parking ticket holder
You’ve just grabbed the ticket from the boom gate machine and you need to drive off, but what do you do with it to stop it blowing around or getting lost under the seat?
Many cars have a little clip cleverly incorporated into the driver’s sun visor which allows safe storage until you are ready to leave the car or pay at the barrier on exiting the car park.
For pay-and-display car parking, some models even have a special transparent plastic clip built into the edge of the windscreen to securely display the ticket.
Rear view mirror dip
If you have a high-specification modern car, it’s likely its rear view mirror has a self-dimming function which prevents the headlights of a following vehicle dazzling the driver, but older more affordable vehicles also have a lower-tech solution.
A small lever under the mirror allows the glass to be temporarily tilted to a different angle, but clever mirror construction allows a ghostly image of the following vehicle to still be seen.
Cup holder notch
Not all coffee cups are equal. Any cup holder will allow the secure storage of a round disposable paper cup or reusable plastic version, but what if you are attached to your favourite mug from home?
Look for a curious notch in the middle of the cup holder in your car. If you find one, that’s where the mug handle sits.
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