You probably spend a significant amount of time in your car, but how well do you really know it? Whatever make and model you drive, you can bet there’s a feature you’ve never discovered. Sometimes, that’s because it’s literally hidden (as in, you really have to search to find it), but in other cases, it’s something right in front of you.
From keeping you safe to helping you keep your car clean, these hidden features are worth shouting about.
Color Coding Under The Hood
You don’t have to be a mechanic to know your way around a car engine. Many modern cars have color-coded engines to make it super simple to know what you should keep an eye on between services, such as the dipstick, oil cap, coolant, brake fluid and washer fluid. That way, you know you can pretty much leave all the black and gray stuff to the experts. Although the color-coded bits tend to be yellow or blue on many cars, some engines have red and green parts too.
Jeep’s Easter Eggs
Okay, this one is just for fun. Lots of car manufacturers hide “Easter Eggs” around their models — most of which serve no real purpose other than aesthetics. Vauxhall, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Chrysler are some of the manufacturers that have put hidden messages in their models, which they don’t advertise. Jeep is especially well known for slipping well-hidden etchings into its vehicles.
Car and Driver found 30 Easter Eggs in the Jeep Renegade, several of which pay tribute to the company’s original iconic model, the 1945 Willys Jeep. If you drive a Jeep, take a close look and see if you can find an outline of this classic ride hiding somewhere.
Volkswagen’s Beetle Flower Vase
Perhaps in a nod to the car’s “flower power” heyday, for many years the Volkswagen Beetle came from the factory with a tiny, partially hidden flower vase, known as a “blumenvasen,” attached to its dashboard. If you weren’t a flower fan, it was a handy place to store pens, toothpicks, lipstick or anything else that could fit in the small space.
“Though we’re sad that the little flower vase is no longer available for the Beetle, it doesn’t mean that the iconic model doesn’t still retain elements of its past. Though the flower vase made way, extra storage has been made available with the Kaferfach glovebox, another nod to the past,” wrote a Volkswagen dealership in Santa Monica when the vase was discontinued.
Honda’s Magic Seats
Lots of economy cars are small, but many models have hidden load space. For instance, the Honda Civic and Jazz boast a “Magic Seat” system, which lets you fold up the back seat bases to increase load space. This lets you transport anything from beach chairs to a large potted plant, as demonstrated on the Meridian Honda website. The 2018 Honda Fit, shown here, made it possible to sit in the back seat and have maximum legroom, thanks to the Magic Seats in front folding down.
BMW’s Brake Drying
Car designers are constantly trying to find new ways to improve a car’s performance and safety. To improve braking performance in wet weather, BMW came up with the Brake Drying system, which is activated by the windshield wiper‘s rain sensor. It moves the brake pads closer to the rotors to keep them dry and improve stopping power in wet weather conditions. You might not even realize your “bimmer” (yes, this is the correct nickname for a BMW automobile) has such a nifty feature included.
Nissan’s Easy-Fill Tire Alert
Having the correct tire pressure improves your vehicle’s performance but it can also save you money on gas. Yet many drivers probably don’t even realize that their car is fitted with a tire pressure monitoring system, which has actually been a legal requirement on all cars since 2008.
Every manufacturer has its own system and Nissan’s Easy-Fill Tire Alert is particularly cool. You simply start adding air and when the tire reaches the ideal pressure, the vehicle’s horn goes off. And if you over-inflate a tire, the hazard lights will flash three times to let you know you need to release some air.
Heated seats are a well-known feature of lots of modern cars, but some manufacturers take their commitment to driver and passenger comfort even further. Several BMW models, such as the 4 Series Convertible, offer neck warmers, which are available with different heat settings and integrated, independently-controlled air outputs. Mercedes-Benz also offers neck-warming via its Airscarf system, which the company says is “designed to extend the so-called ‘convertible season’ beyond the summer months.”
Subaru’s Traffic Light Watcher
For the more impatient drivers out there, waiting for a traffic signal to change can feel like forever. But Subaru came up with a neat solution. The automaker’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology uses a small beeping sound to tell the driver when traffic starts moving again. It also automatically adjusts your speed to maintain a pre-selected distance between you and the car in front, and detects objects in front of the vehicle that you are likely to hit — a feature that more and more modern carmakers are starting to integrate.
Even if you take regular breaks and have a steady supply of coffee on the go, you can still struggle to keep your eyes open during a long drive. That’s fine if you’re a passenger, but a drowsy driver is a very dangerous person. Several car companies, including Nissan, Honda, Mercedes, Toyota and Volvo, have developed their own drowsiness detection systems to detect the onset of sleep. For instance, the Mercedes Attention Assist system vibrates the steering wheel when it senses the driver is swerving and guides the vehicle back into its lane.
A Secret Vacuum
Normally, vacuuming a car isn’t the most enjoyable chore. The electric cord isn’t long enough, and the style of the vacuum itself might not work for all those nooks and crannies where dust and debris accumulate. And how do you get between the seats? Well, the Honda Odyssey has tried to solve the problem with a hidden, built-in vacuum with a long-range hose. To empty the HondaVac, as it’s called, you simply press the button on the face of the vacuum, pull out the canister, pop the tabs holding the lid and remove the filter.
The materials a car is made of make a huge difference when it comes to energy efficiency — which should be just as much of a concern these days as fuel efficiency. One of the best ways to make a vehicle more energy efficient is to make it lighter. Because aluminum can be forged to be just as strong as some steel, but at a much lower weight, it’s often chosen by automakers today.
Ford’s 2015 line of pickup trucks are a good example, as they were 700 pounds lighter than the previous year’s F-Series models. According to Ford, its lighter F-150s were up to 29% more fuel-efficient than the models they replaced, depending on the engine variation.
A Hands-Free Trunk
Trying to open your trunk when you have your hands full of groceries or sports equipment is the definition of a first-world problem. To reduce the risk of you dropping everything or resorting to an awkward display in the parking lot, some cars automatically open the trunk when you wave your hand under a sensor or when they detect your smart key in your pocket. For example, the Hyundai Hands-Free Smart Trunk opens as soon as it senses that the driver fob is approaching.
A Handy Fuel-Tank Location Reminder
Most drivers have looked at the little fuel pump icon on their car’s gas gauge hundreds of times without even noticing the arrow that sticks out of it. As soon as you know what this handy icon means, it makes the whole gas station experience a lot easier. The direction the arrow is pointing is the side of the car where the gas cap is located. If you’re someone who rents a lot of cars, this is a godsend.
Road Condition Indicators
Although cars have come with engine malfunction warning lights and open-door indicators for years, a warning for dangerous driving conditions is a relatively new addition. It’s an important one, because fog, rain and ice can make roads too treacherous to drive on. The road condition indicator — which shows up as a road with a snowflake on it — is controlled by a temperature sensor located near the front bumper and warns the driver that the temperature outside is low enough for roads to freeze.
Computer Driving Assistance
When you buy or rent a car, it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn about the Computer Driving Assistance features it comes with. While some of them are automatically activated, others require an action from the driver. For instance, downhill assist is an option to automatically prevent a car from accelerating during a descent. Other features include sensors to detect pedestrians and other obstacles, and parking assistance.
Lots of cars have storage areas that are so well hidden, you could never discover them unless you knew where to look. For instance, the Dodge Journey has a hidden compartment under the passenger seat, two pockets with removable bins under the floor behind the front row and a storage compartment running the full width of the rear cargo floor. And the Land Rover Discovery has a storage area for hiding valuables behind a climate control panel. Who would think to look there?
In minivans and SUVs, a standard rearview mirror just doesn’t provide a good enough view of what’s going on in the backseat. The answer is a small, convex overhead “conversation mirror,” which is often designed to be pulled down from a compartment in the headliner. It helps drivers keep an eye on all their passengers without taking their eyes off the road ahead for more than a couple of seconds. The Kia Sedona, Hyundai Palisade and Toyota Highlander are several examples of family vehicles with this feature included.
Adaptable Ambient Interior Lighting
Many cars offer ambient interior lighting as a standard or optional feature. Depending on the model, this lights up the center console of the vehicle, as well as its door handles, cup holders, dash and footwells. Many high-end car makers even let customers choose the lighting color. While ambient lighting doesn’t improve vehicle safety, research has shown that it may increase a driver’s perception of safety.
One study, published in the journal Lighting Research and Technology in 2010, found that ambient lighting intensifies space perception, enhances the perceived quality of materials and design, helps drivers find controls and with their orientation in the car, and makes them feel safer while driving.
The trunk is the obvious place to store an umbrella — out of sight and out of the way. But when it starts raining, you want it to be within reach before you get out of the car. A couple of car manufacturers have given their drivers a neat solution to the umbrella storage problem. Both Škoda and Rolls Royce have a space in the door panel to ensure this rainy day essential is right at your disposal.
Bose doesn’t just make cutting-edge headphones. The tech giant also helps reduce noise in cars, thanks to its QuietComfort Road Noise Control (RNC). The movements and vibrations that create noise in a car are monitored by accelerometers mounted onto the vehicle, and the Bose RNC technology uses that information to send an acoustic cancellation signal into the cabin via the vehicle’s sound system. The bottom line? Less noise and a much more peaceful, enjoyable ride.
Dipping Rearview Mirror
If you didn’t know it was possible to tilt your car’s rearview mirror to reduce headlight glare, you’re not the only one. You simply use the tab below the mirror to move between “day” and “night” settings. This feature increases safety by stopping the driver from being dazzled by rear traffic. Some manufacturers, like Seat, make cars with auto-dimming rearview mirrors as standard.
Electronic Stability Control
You’ve probably seen the little icon of a skidding car somewhere in your vehicle but you might not have known what it signifies. Since 2011, all cars sold in the U.S. have been equipped with stability control, but many drivers are unaware when this feature is activated. When the electronic stability control on a car is activated, you’ll see the little skidding car somewhere on the dashboard. This feature engages the car’s brakes (on one or more wheels) to control a turn, and is an important safety system during sharp turns or when traction is lost in wet weather conditions.
To make highway travel safer — and more tolerable — many car manufacturers are adding self-driving features to their models. For instance, lane-departure warning (LDW) and lane-keep assistance systems (LKAS) rely on a camera mounted behind the windshield to read the lane lines ahead and ensure a vehicle stays in its lane while driving. LDW systems signal to the driver via an audible warning or vibration when they have to take corrective action. LKAS systems correct the driver’s steering to automatically keep the car in its lane.
These systems often have to be turned on via dashboard buttons, so be sure to read your manual to see if yours has them.
Some of the best hidden features in cars are the simplest ones. Who doesn’t need a hook — or five? Look around the interior of your car, and you might just spot some handy places to hang your shopping or takeout bag. In SUVs, hooks are often found in the cargo area, but they can also be found near the headrests and above rear doors.
A Sophisticated Braking System
You’ve probably heard of the anti-lock braking system (ABS) that’s been standard for years, but most car owners don’t know how it works. Basically, when the system is activated, wheel speed sensors determine if one or more wheels might be about to lock up during braking. If they identify a lock-up, a series of hydraulic valves are activated to limit the braking on that wheel. ABS is triggered only in slippery conditions or when the driver slams on the brakes to prevent skidding and maintain steering control. In the U.S., ABS has been a requirement on all new cars built since Sept. 1, 2013.
Even with advancements in car technology and dashboards, people still sometimes feel the need to take their eyes off the road. Whether it’s checking the speed you’re driving or even just to see what song’s playing in your car. Fortunately, there has been a particular advancement that can help you take your eyes off the road at least a little bit less. And that’s a heads-up display. Like in fighter jets, information relating to your vehicle is projected onto your windshield. That way you can look forward and stay appraised of the situation on the road while still finding out this important information.
How much does your heart rate increase whenever you change lanes? You can adjust your mirrors to get as much information as possible, but you’ll always have a blindspot that you can’t see without turning your head. And some driving instructors tell you to never do that. Well, these blind-spot monitors will hopefully remedy your worries. They use radar and other sensors in order to determine if there are any obstacles to your left or right or behind the vehicle. And if there are, it’ll flash a warning light. There might even be an audible warning if you turn on your turn signal.
Back Seat Reminders
How many stories have you heard of parents leaving their children in the back seat of a car for hours. Well, automakers have taken steps to try to stop this from ever happening again. If the car detects a rear door having been opened, either right before or right after starting the car, the system will make a chime or some flash on the dashboard when the car stops and is put in park. Something to remind the driver of what they left in the back seat. It might not even be a child, but food or drinks you just shouldn’t leave in the back for too long.
People use their smart phones for just about everything nowadays. So integrating that technology into our vehicles seems like a no-brainer. Apple and Android have both developed applications for integrating phones with cars, called Apple CarPlay and Android Auto respectively. They allow you to connect your device to your vehicle and use certain features while still being safe while driving. Most notably, you can more easily take advantage of navigation tools. You can even look at your phone’s screen on your dashboard.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Cruise control lets you maintain speed more easily and its pretty useful when driving on the open road. But when you run into another car on the road, your cruise control speed may not be helpful anymore. Fortunately, newer vehicles have begun taking advantage of adaptive cruise control. That utilizes the sensors on the car to scan the road ahead and change the car’s speed automatically, based on what’s on the road. It’ll even slow down to stay a safe distance away from other vehicles. These systems can even work in stop-and-go traffic.
Long car trips can be really taxing for the driver. However, there are some cars that can make the experience a little more enjoyable. They have built-in massage features into the chairs. They help to loosen muscles and relax tension. The massage could even improve one’s circulation. Regardless, it definitely reduces the amount of stress you’ll be feeling while driving.
Heated Steering Wheel
Heated seats are good enough. But what about a heated steering wheel? If you need to scrape the ice off of your windshield before driving, your hands will likely get cold. And if you have to spend time digging out your car, they’ll probably feel numb. And that’s why a heated steering wheel has so much use. To turn on the steering wheel’s heating system, there’s a button on the dashboard. It’ll start to warm up your fingers in no time.
Fuel Door Ice Scraper
The Czech Republic has a varied landscape, but it can still get pretty cold there in the winter, leading to plenty of snow and frost. That’s why Skoda, a Czech car company, decided to include ice scrapers with each of their sold vehicles. They’re not particularly large, hidden in the fuel door, but they can get the job done in a pinch. Check your car for this addition if you live in the Czech Republic. Or if your car was made there. You might have a Skoda vehicle.
Jeep Easter Eggs
This one isn’t so much an advancement to help make your life easier, but it is an interesting thing that may happen to be on your car. Jeep tends to leave a lot of easter eggs on their cars on their newer models. Some include silhouettes of older Jeep models. They can be found on the body, tired, or even the bumper. The Jeep Renegade in particular even has a spider that says “Ciao Baby!” next to the gas cap.
Hyundai Puddle Lights
Have you ever wondered why some high-end cars have lights on underneath them? Well, they’re not just for show (although the color and lighting often appears pretty showy). As it turns out, these are puddle lights. They’re designed to illuminate the ground underneath you at night. That way, when you get out of the car you don’t accidentally step in a puddle. A minor thing, but helpful nonetheless. This is most notable in Hyundai’s Genesis line of cars.
Subaru Eyesight Assist
Subaru’s EyeSight Driver is the culmination of a lot of the different safety driving equipment discussed before. It monitors traffic around the car and your position within a lane. It can then alter the speed of the car or move the wheels depending on your location. This is how it optimizes cruise control and lane centering. It also includes a pre-collision braking feature.
BMW Ambient Air
Sometimes your car may just start to smell bad, so you get an air freshener. Well, BMW thought about that in advance. Their cars come with built-in air fresheners called Ambient Air. The scent cartridges are installed in the glove box and you can swap the scents or refill the system easily. It comes with eight different scents based on your personal preference.
Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-Safe Sound
The Pre-Safe sound is a feature in Mercedes-Benz cars that’s intended to protect your hearing during collisions. If the car detects an unavoidable collision, a special noise is played over the car’s sound system at 80 decibels. That, in turn, activates a reflex in your ears that will protect your eardrums from the sound of the collision. You might not get out of the accident unscathed, but at least your hearing won’t be affected.
Internal Trunk Release
This is actually a safety feature that’s been mandated in all cars made since 2001. You’ve probably seen it before, but just didn’t think much of it. And why would you? Most people don’t need to get out of their car from the trunk. This is the trunk release cable. Ordinarily it glows in the dark, but even in circumstances when you can’t see it, it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Just pull it towards the front of the car and the trunk will pop open.
Citroen’s Shopping Cart
Citroen’s car the Picasso has an interesting feature. And that’s that they come with a shopping cart, or, as the company calls it, a shopping trolley. It folds up to fit inside the trunk for easy storage. It wasn’t a particularly popular feature, as most people rarely find themselves in need of their own shopping cart, but it was still free. So there wasn’t much of a point in just discarding it.
Rolls-Royce’s Champagne Cooler
The Rolls-Royce Phantom has a bunch of hidden luxury features. But some of those have already been discussed. The interesting one here is the champagne cool. The Phantom actually has one in the backseat. Of course, it makes sense it’s in the back as opposed to the front seat. The driver shouldn’t be drinking alcohol anyway, so the drinks are for the passengers.
Mini Cooper’s Openometer
Have you every wondered how long you had been driving with the top down on your convertible? Well, even if you haven’t, Mini Cooper gave you a way to find out anyway. The Openometer in Mini Cooper Convertibles tracks how many miles you have driven with the top down. Not a necessity when it comes to driving, but an interesting feature nonetheless.
Automatic Hazard Lights
Hazard lights are incredibly important for drivers. They alert others on the road if you’re driving well below the speed limit or are otherwise stuck on the road. However, it can be easy to forget to turn them on in the first place. Some cars have hazard lights that turn on automatically when they detect damage to the vehicle, such as flat tires or engine problems. You won’t have to worry about pushing the button if it happens immediately. You just have to worry about getting out of the way.
Mercedes’ Drive Pilot
People are aware of Tesla’s autopilot system, but Mercedes has actually been working on one of their own. It’s called Drive Pilot and has already been implemented into some of their vehicles. While the goal is to create fully automatous cars, they aren’t quite all the way their yet. When you have Drive Pilot engaged, make sure to still keep your eyes on the road just in case.
Your car fob, or your keys, are obviously used to unlock your car. But what if you just want to pop open or close a window you for forgot to roll up? A lot of cars actually have something to take care of that. Hold the unlock button on your car fob for five seconds and it should roll up. It’s a feature that isn’t well-advertised, but it even works on some older vehicle models.
Fuel Cap Holder
When you take the cap off of your gas tank you often have no idea what to do with it. Some of them are attached to small cords so you can sort of let them hang, but others are completely unattached after you screw them off. Try looking a little more closely at your car’s fuel door next time you need to refill some gas. As it turns out, a lot of vehicles actually have gas cap holders built in. So, there’s no need to worry about where to place it after all.
This handles are very obvious in cars and everyone knows that they’re there. But do you know why they were put in cars in the first place? They’re not for steadying yourself in the car, they’re actually for handicapped and elderly people. They’re supposed to grip onto them to help them while getting in the car and stay safe while riding.
Parallel parking is one of the most difficult things to do while driving. It’s certainly the most difficult way to park. It’s not even a required part of some driving tests. Fortunately, some cars come with computer assistants to help when parallel parking. They sense the surroundings of the car to ensure you don’t hit anything while backing in. And that lets you park with much less difficulty than normal.
Tire Pressure Indicator
Ever seen this exclamation point inside of a U-shaped symbol? Well, if you haven’t before, and you’re not a car junkie, you probably don’t know what it means. But if you have seen it before, that means you’ve had low tire pressure. When this indicator comes up, it’d be in your best interest to get more air in your tires as soon as possible.