How do you make a new (used) car feel like it's your own?
June 11, 2007 10:33 PM   Subscribe

Just got a new (used) car! Looking for suggestions on ways to "make it my own." What's the first thing you do to a new car?

This ('97 Mitsubishi Montero in great condition) is the first car I've owned myself (all prior autos have been shared with siblings). I've already started to fall in love with it, but somehow it still doesn't really feel like it's mine. I want to make it my own, give it some personality, that sort of thing. I'm not looking to "pimp my ride" or anything, just looking for little things I can do now to make me enjoy my car more for the rest of its life.

I'm already taking it in to have the seats re-upholstered, and also I've given it a name. The Hovertank!

Yes, I know, it's a stupid name.

Anyway, how do you officially "christen" a new automobile? I'm looking for anything, from purely psychological suggestions (I've already named it, and decided it's MALE), to purely decorative suggestions, to more practical ideas (any cheap ideas on how to improve an older factory stereo, for example?) All suggestions welcome.
posted by raygan to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Stickers indicating your favorite sports team, underground punk band, political cause, and/or school, of course!

One or two of the nice vinyl stickers on the back window displays your personality while retaining a touch of class, or you can stick bumper stickers and stuff all over it for effect.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:36 PM on June 11, 2007

For something less obtrusive, a hanging charm or talisman of some kind for the rear-view mirror. My girlfriend, for example, is a Pisces, so she has a Hello Kitty with a mermaid tail dangling from hers.

Dangling from her rear-view mirror, that is. Not from her tail.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:38 PM on June 11, 2007

Spend a weekend afternoon cleaning it. REALLY clean it. Then put on a coat of wax by hand. Assuming you are one of the gazillion people with an ipod or ipod-like device, a decent FM transmitter or FM modulator lets you play your tunes in the car without too much hassle.

Maybe get a bumper sticker, if you are that kind of person. Just as long as it doesn't involve Calvin peeing on something.
posted by jtfowl0 at 10:41 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Rent "Army of Darkness" - because this is what the trunk of a Real Man's car looks like. Should a Real Man find himself in any unexpected situation, say, his right hand cut off and fighting a limitless horde of zombies, he knows that all the gear he'll need for the job is already in the trunk of his car.

Ok. Maybe you think that's a bit much - maybe it detracts from that New Car cleanliness. In that case, at least put a decent first-aid kit in the trunk (every car should have one).

Does your job/hobbies/recreation/expertise lend itself to any kind of tools or equipment? Buy a small pelican case and put some top-notch gear in it. Then put it in the trunk. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:47 PM on June 11, 2007

(any cheap ideas on how to improve an older factory stereo, for example?)

If it has a cassette deck, put a cassette adaptor in there, and wire it to some RCA or 3mm stereo sockets that you mount into the dash to tidy up the wiring, thus creating a docking for an mp3 player.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:51 PM on June 11, 2007

- change every fluid, including transmission fluid, and every filter, including the fuel filter. It's pricey to do all at once, but then you'll feel much better about the whole thing. Do as much of this as you can, to get your hands dirty and feel like it's yours.

- change every belt, including the timing belt, if there's even a tiny chance that you're past the first maintenance window for the original timing belt. If it's a timing chain, nevermind.

- change your battery if you live in a cold place.

- clean, clean, clean! By yourself, ideally, not dropping it off at the detailer, so that you get familiar with every inch of the car.

- note the mileage the next time (first time!) you fill up, then calculate your gas mileage at the next fillup.

- remember that a car is just an appliance, but if you feel emotionally attached to it (and so keep it well-maintained and don't abuse it) you will get a lot more out of it than just basic transportation. So enjoy!

And congratulations. There's nothing quite like your first car, eh? My first was a 1980 Buick Regal with a Pontiac 301 V8 in it; piece of garbage, but I *loved* that car, no matter how many problems it had, and not just because it had a maroon velour interior and a huge back seat. Two years (and three minor accidents) into it, got t-boned and spun into another car; my girlfriend ended up in a neckbrace, and even though you couldn't open the passenger door any more or roll down the window (from above it looked like something huge had taken a bite out of the car) that car still outlasted my relationship with that girlfriend...
posted by davejay at 10:52 PM on June 11, 2007

Back it into something?
posted by pompomtom at 10:54 PM on June 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Congrats on the "new" car! My first was a 1987 Plymouth Sundance. It wasn't stylish, but a lot of people called it my "sexy car." I drove it until the radiator hated me.

Anyway, my suggestions: Keep stuff in it. Not a LOT of stuff, but maybe a spare pair of sandals or sunglasses. I keep my hair ties (being a girl) around the gear shifter in case I need one before the gym.

Also, maybe go out with some friends and be the driver? Then you can say "Oh, we can take my car" which will reinforce the idea in your head that, hey, this is YOUR car now!

Go shopping with it, too; even just to the grocery store. The more trips I took to my car and back, the more I had to consciously think "new car! It is different from your old one! Must look for NEW car, not OLD car."

Congrats again :)
posted by Verdandi at 11:18 PM on June 11, 2007

The first thing is a general inspection, to check for any obvious problems. Get the tires reinflated to their proper pressure, add assorted fluids as needed.

I then clean the car, scrupulously, right down to the ashtray and using Q-tips for any cracks where gunk might have collected from the previous owner. I carefully place any required safety gear in the trunk, as well as anything for emergency needs: flashlight, wiper fluid, antifreeze, motor oil, a couple of blankets, a tire reinflation kit, a jack, a tire pump that plugs into the lighter plug, and so on.

Sit in each seat, in turn, and adjust them as needed. Put the manual and registration in the glovebox, as well as proof of insurance. Adjust all mirrors until you have a clear view, and try to get an idea of where the blindspot is. Hang an air freshener, one of those little tree-shaped thingees, to keep the new car smell.

Then I slam a CD containing the twelve inch single to Ministry's "Stigmata" into the sound system, crank it up so that the bass shivers my sternum, and scream, "YOU RAN OUTTA LIES! YOU RAN OUTTA LIES! YOU RAN OUTTA LIES!" until I'm hoarse.
posted by adipocere at 11:32 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Then I slam a CD containing the twelve inch single to Ministry's "Stigmata" into the sound system,

posted by infinitywaltz at 11:43 PM on June 11, 2007

Have sex in it.

No, really.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:34 AM on June 12, 2007

New license plate frame, seat covers, stash lots of snacks and maps into every compartment.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:35 AM on June 12, 2007

I'm so glad someone finally said "have sex in it"! I thought I was the only one thinking that.
posted by misha at 12:55 AM on June 12, 2007

Giant fuzzy dice that match. (I have striped red ones. Quote my friend: "I like your dice. They're obnoxiously large.")

Also, have sex in it.
posted by disillusioned at 1:34 AM on June 12, 2007

Also, clever/amusing vanity plates are fun.

(Yes, that's my car.)
posted by disillusioned at 1:35 AM on June 12, 2007

I LOVE these answers so far. Thanks everybody! Keep 'em coming. Adipocere, I am definitely checking out that song!

I have a quick audio-related follow up, maybe somebody can clue me in.

This car has a CD changer. I'll never use that, I'm an iPod guy. I've read that there's a way to get the CD changer input re-routed to a stereo minijack under the dash. I've seen products to do this on the internet, some with outlandish features like controlling the iPod through the stereo head unit and so on. I don't need any of that, I just suspect patching directly into the head unit would get me better audio quality than a tape adapter. Where can I go to get something like this done and how much should I expect to pay?

Thanks again for the great answers. Anyone else who wants to chime in is greatly appreciated as well.

And Doctor Honeydew: Yes.
posted by raygan at 1:41 AM on June 12, 2007

Anyway, how do you officially "christen" a new automobile?

1. Hotbox a few big fat dubes in it, with your fav music blasting. Obviously, you want to use drugs responsibly, so do this after rather than before you drive somewhere.

2. Get a small religious icon of your choice, glue it to the dashboard with epoxy cement.

3. Inspect the tires and spare; change a tire just to practice and make sure the jack works well.

4. Find some after-market element of the car that the previous owner installed, and remove / throw it away.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:04 AM on June 12, 2007

(adipocere - no shit! That's the first song played in my first car - '89 Ford Festiva! It had a custom vinyl sunroof that was as big as the roof, it was bluer than blue could be and I could fit 13 people in it!)

I'm a huge fan of stickers.
Also, throw a bunch of old/worn clothes in there so it quickly picks up your scent. There's a lot to be said for that.

I really like davejay's idea. Kind of like how you really get to know a new SO by giving them an anal probe.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:21 AM on June 12, 2007

check ashtrays for dope, it would suck to get busted for someone else's stash.
posted by Iron Rat at 6:27 AM on June 12, 2007

Everyone can tell my car apart by my collection of stickers inside and on the dash. Especially the CD sealer-stickers. I just peel 'em off everytime I get a new CD that I cannot wait to listen to when I get home. Also included are stickers from In-N-Out Burger and "Hot and Fresh" stickers from Popeye's Chicken. They're not like hardcore stuck to the dash, I could always peel them off really quickly, but it's nice to have them there, they remind me of good CDs and meals with friends or road trips.

Also, get a plastic cup (a freebie from a job fair is great) and keep it in one of your cup holders for pens, pencils, lose change and kazoos. I also always have at least one book of matches (smoker), which has actually come in handle more than just for lighting cigarettes.

Make sure you have flares in your trunk. I also keep at least two bottles of water in my trunk. I have an empty Nalgene bumping around the back in case my car might ever overheat I have a bottle that I can go up to someone's house and use their hose or something like that and get water.

Most importantly, make a mix CD. I REALLY suggest Lil Mama's "Lip Gloss" and De La Soul ft. Redman "Oooh" and "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" by Wu Tang Clan, ODB. Even if you don't like hip hop, these are quite possibly the best car-music ever, of all time.

Enjoy your new car!
posted by banannafish at 6:27 AM on June 12, 2007

WIth any used car is smart to:

1. Change the transmission fluid. Its a pretty safe bet that the old owner didnt do this. In your owners manual there's a list of maintenance items at certain millages. Assume that nothing has been done in the past 20k miles.

2. ROtate the tires. This will give you more life out of them.

3. Have a mechanic check belts, hoses, and battery.

Clean it and wax it. I mean a real waxing with the goo and everything. You should be able to get an electric buffer pretty cheap nowadays too.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:47 AM on June 12, 2007

Read through the entire manual (if it came with the car)

Nothing will make it feel like yours more than knowing where EVERYTHING is and how EVERYTHING works (plus you might discover a feature that you didn't even realize was there! added bonus!)
posted by boreddusty at 7:05 AM on June 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

whoops, forgot to Nth the thorough cleaning/maintenance suggestions.
posted by boreddusty at 7:06 AM on June 12, 2007

Take it out to a straight, flat section of country road and floor it. See how fast that new car of yours accelerates.

Also, to add to the list of things to keep in the car: booster cables, a map, and some of those baby wipes to clean your hands with. Check the tire pressure on your spare, so that it is ready to go if you should need it.
posted by ssg at 7:16 AM on June 12, 2007

Go on a road trip. A long one. With no set destination.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:11 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

This may get a bit into "pimp my ride" territory, but here's what I do:

After doing all the aforementioned maintenance stuff (usually it's pretty clean -- the person was trying to make it pretty to sell well, after all), I go about fixing anything wrong (engine leaks, faulty A/C, etc.) and compiling a mental list of things to upgrade. On an older sports car, for example, it's likely that the shock absorbers are shot, so I'll upgrade the entire suspension. If the (probably crappy) tires are near the end of their life, put some good performance rubber on it -- probably a good time to upgrade the wheels, too. If it lacks power, strap a turbo on it.

If it were an SUV... hmmm.... what does it lack that would support your lifestyle? "Personalizing" is all about making it yours. Maybe you want a lift kit, some knobby tires, and a brush guard, or maybe you want dubs and a bumpin system. It's up to you, and you don't have to do it all at once. If it were me, I'd start scoping out bike racks and maybe a GPS unit.
posted by LordSludge at 8:23 AM on June 12, 2007

more stickers.

Our car is now covered in birds.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:13 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

After cleaning the hell out of it I like to add my fav smell.

I like to pick my favorite scent and get about a dozen car fresheners it it.
A favorite sticker is good.

I clean it all up and then put my must haves in it.
A little package of wipes, tissues, and safety items.
I like first aid kit and a blanket in the back. Blanket is good for emergency or for picnic/watching fireworks type event.
posted by beccaj at 3:10 PM on June 12, 2007

New windshield wipers, too.
posted by theora55 at 4:29 PM on June 12, 2007

First mod I made to my car when it was new was disconnecting the open-door alarm, which alerts the driver that the key's in the ignition. What a stupid "feature" -- how'm I supposed to listen to the radio, while parked, with the door open (and one leg out) with that stupid buzzing?
posted by Rash at 1:19 PM on June 13, 2007

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