We live in a world of few absolutes, where politicians jump parties just to keep a job and celebrities get divorced more often than some people change underwear. It’s getting so that nothing is certain, save the old cliche death and taxes. If this gets you down, let me give you something to believe in, some automotive absolutes.
I carry a lot of shit in my vehicles, all of it for some purpose and all of it tucked safely away in covered storage areas. I have enough first aid supplies in my truck to handle a plane crash, I have enough tools to get me out of anything I get myself into and I have plenty of tie downs for hauling just about any cargo you can think of. I even carry tools and first aid supplies in the Miata: sure, it adds weight, but it beats waiting by the side of the road for a tow truck. Or an ambulance.
Below are five things that you’ll never find in one of my vehicles. I’ll skip the obvious stuff (like dead hookers and goats in the trunk) and go directly to the less obvious. If you have any of these items in your own car, it’s time to re-assess how seriously you take driving.
OK, I’ll come clean: I once owned a pair of driving gloves, given to me as a gift. I will admit to wearing them once and feeling like a total tool, so they got thrown in the back of a drawer. Turns out that they work great for raking leaves.
If you drive a vintage car in road rallies, feel free to wear string back driving gloves. If you’re tossing around a wooden Nardi steering wheel on a car without power steering, you probably need them to maintain grip. They serve a purpose, and actually do make driving safer and more enjoyable.
If you’re driving a modern car, with a leather or plastic wheel and lots of steering boost, you don’t need driving gloves. Ever. Lose them or save them for raking, just don’t use them for driving.
An Air Freshener
Unless you regularly haul passengers from third world countries (or France) with an aversion to bathing, punt the air freshener. It doesn’t actually make the car smell better, it just makes it smell like pine-scented vomit. Or vanilla-scented rotting food. Or floral-scented nicotine. Keep your car clean (or choose a better class of rif-raff to hang around with) and you won’t need an air freshener.
I suck to take road trips with, because I don’t generally allow eating or drinking in my car. Why? Because I can’t stand sticky plastic from spilled soda, or the delicate aroma of rotting food from a long forgotten french fry buried deep in a seat cushion. I hate sesame seeds ground deep into my floor mats, and greasy potato chip crumbs in my center console are enough to drive me full bore nuts. I don’t have a steering wheel on my kitchen table, so why the hell do I need a cup holder in my car? I do make exceptions for bottled water, since spilling it is only going to make the car cleaner.
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of refuse that most drivers haul around in their car. Stuffed animals on the rear deck, for example, Or “NYPD” ball caps, purchased at an airport gift shop but hauled around like some magic talisman to ward off evil (or speeding tickets). Door pockets are crammed full of CDs, tissues, Advil bottles, tools and every possible combination thereof.
Here’s a hint: lose the detritus, Why? Because you’re giving people a reason to break into your car; if they can see all this crap out in the open, what valuables are you hiding under the seat or in the glovebox? Also, anything not tied down in a crash becomes a projectile; that Statue of Liberty snow globe may look cool on your dash, but it is definitely going to leave a mark when it hits you upside the head at 20 Gs. That bottle of Maalox may help you get through traffic, but it’s really going to suck when it slides on your floormat and blocks your brake pedal.
If you really need to haul around more shit that Patton took to invade North Africa, it may be time to re-evaluate your commute. Or your choice of vehicle.
Here’s your chemistry lesson for the day: Plastics, when hit with UV radiation, go through a process of decay called “off gassing”. The stuff that comes off of the plastics forms a film on the inside of your windshield. Some cars are worse than others, just as some climates are worst than others, but all cars parked in summer heat go through this. Why is it bad? Because as the film builds up, it blocks your visibility, especially if the weather is damp or the sun is low in the sky. If the film is bad enough, you may have almost no visibility when driving into the sun (like at rush hour). I don’t know about you, but I find it helpful when I can see the brake lights of the cars in front of me.
Forget about using a household glass cleaner on a paper towel, since this will just smear the film around. Instead, get yourself a microfiber towel and a good automotive glass cleaner (like Invisible Glass). Wait until the glass is cool, and then clean the inside of your windows. Done? Good, now do it again. Amazing, isn’t it?
So there you are: five things you’ll never find in my car (seven if you count the goat and the dead hooker). What are your top five?