In some cases, they are a little hard to find, but in others, they are right in front of you, and you just haven’t been using them right. These features can keep you safe, keep your car clean, or help you save money, so read on.
The Colors Under the Hood
It doesn't always take a mechanic to know what's going on under the hood, but they're still pretty complicated. Most modern engines now have color-coded details that make it easier for you to know where everything is. If you need to fill up your oil, refill washer fluid, or check the brake fluid, keep an eye out for colors that aren't just black metal or gray iron.
Most cars have the important things you can deal with on your own, coded yellow or blue, though some models do have red or green parts, too.
Hidden Jeep Designs – Inside Jeeps
Some of these secrets are just for fun and don't do much else. One of the examples of this is the Jeep, which slips lots of well-hidden etchings into the models of their cars. “Car and Driver” found upwards of thirty hidden gems in the Jeep Renegade, including several that pay tribute to one of the most iconic Jeep models in its long history, the 1945 Willys Jeep.
The next time you're in one of these cars, keep your eyes open for small outlines hidden around the interior. We hear they're hidden pretty well! We haven't found them ourselves, of course.
Classic Flower Power
For a long, long time, the Volkswagen Beetle included a tiny, mostly-hidden flower vase, perhaps in reference to the classic car's part during the “Flower Power” era of the sixties and seventies. The vase was known as a “blumenvasen” and was often attached to the dashboard.
Even if you didn't want a flower in your car, you could use it to hold pens, toothpicks, lipstick, or other small items. The blumenvasen is no longer part of the Beetle design, but there are still plenty of items that recreate classic design elements, such as the Kaferfach glovebox.
Magic Transforming Honda Seats
Many smaller-size cars have a problem with either having enough storage space or having enough legroom. It’s usually one or the other, but Honda cars have figured out a way to solve the problem. Models like the Honda Civic and Honda Jazz have a “magic seat” system that lets you fold up seats in the back to give you more carrying space.
You can transport your bigger items, and then once you’re done moving, you can fold the seats back up to carry your family. If there are more than two rows of seats, the seats in the middle often fold down, too, meaning you can sit in the back and stretch out.
More Safety in Wet Weather
Car designers are always on the hunt for ways to make cars safer and perform better in any condition. For this reason, BMW created the Brake Drying system, which is initiated by the windshield wiper’s rain sensor. In wet conditions, it moves the brake pads closer to the rotors to keep them dry and improve stopping power while it's raining, snowing, or you’re driving through puddles.
If you have a car with this feature, you might not even have known about it, but no doubt you’re happy to have it around when things get wet.
The Right Amount of Air
Having the right pressure in your tires can reduce flat tires, improve driving safety, and even help you save on gas. Most drivers don’t realize that a tire pressure monitoring system is part and parcel - it’s been a legal requirement on all cars since 2008.
While every company has its own version of the system, Nissan’s is particularly interesting. It’s called the Easy-Fill Tire Alert, and it works like this: Add air to your tires, and once the right pressure is reached in the tire, the car’s horn will go off. If you over-inflate, the car’s hazard lights will flash three times, letting you know you need to let some of the air out.
Get a Year-Round Convertible
Heated seats are nothing new, but some manufacturers are taking them to the next level. BMW, in particular, is making sure you know they’re committed to passenger comfort since several of their models have neck warmers, which are integrated into the seats and have numerous settings for getting maximum comfort, such as independently-controlled air outputs.
They even have something called an Airscarf system, which directs warm air around your neck and shoulders. It’s designed, as the company says, to extend the convertible season longer than just the summer. There are different heat settings, and each seat has its own heating, so everyone can be comfortable.
Stay Safe on Long Drives
If you’re driving across the country, you’re going to get drowsy. Even if you have a good supply of coffee and a co-pilot, it can be hard to stay awake. Companies like Nissan, Honda, Toyota, and others have come up with drowsiness detection systems to stop drivers from falling asleep.
The Mercedes Attention Assist system, for instance, wheel vibrates the moment it senses the driver is swerving and gently guides the vehicle back into the lane. A drowsy driver is a dangerous one, and that means these systems are doing all of us a big favor by keeping us safe.
Clean With Ease
Getting the mess out of your car is always a hassle. You might not have the right vacuum cleaner, or the cord might not be long enough, or the hose for the vacuum itself might not stretch properly. It all comes together to make it tough to get leaves, dust, and other debris out of the crannies of your car.
The Honda Odyssey has found a way to make it easier – a built-in vacuum with a long hose. It's called the HondaVac, and to empty it, one just presses the button on the face of the vacuum, pulls out the canister, and pops the tab holding the lid.
The biggest indicator of how efficient your car will be is how heavy it is, and that comes a lot from the materials it uses. Thus the easiest way to make a car faster and more efficient is to make it lighter, which is why many automakers are choosing to use forged aluminum instead of steel.
It's just as strong but much lighter, resulting in better control and fuel use. Ford's 2015 line of pickup trucks is a prime example – the previous line was 700 pounds heavier than this one, and according to Ford, they were around twenty-nine-percent more fuel-efficient, depending on the engine.
Pop the Trunk – No Hands Required
It's a tale as old as time – trying to get your trunk open when you don't have any free hands. Even if the only thing you put in the trunk is a few bags of groceries, you'll often find yourself trying to arrange the things in your arms, having to set them down on the dirty ground, and fumbling with your keys in your pocket.
Multiple car makers have found a better way to do this by creating a sensor under the back bumper that you can wave a hand or foot under. It will pop the trunk open as long as it also detects the smart key in your pocket.
You've probably looked at the fuel gauge in your car a million times – whether to see how much time you have before you need to refuel or to make sure your car isn't leaking. On the other hand, you might not have noticed the little arrow next to the classic pump symbol, pointing either to the left or the right.
It denotes which side of the car the gas cap is on, and while it might not be needed if you're driving a car you've had for years, driving a new car, a rental, or a friend's vehicle and needing to gas up can be awkward if you pull up on the wrong side.
Know More About the Road
Cars these days have a computer that tracks everything, from getting an oil change to tire pressure to your miles-per-gallon. There are even some cars now that let you know the condition of the road under your wheels. Rain, ice, and even fog can all make driving more dangerous, and adjusting your driving accordingly can save you a lot of time and money by avoiding accidents.
Often the road condition indicator shows up as a snowflake on your dashboard and will light up when the temperature sensor on the front bumper detects it's cold enough for the road to freeze.
Cars are becoming more and more technologically advanced as systems grow more helpful. Even if you aren't a fan of self-driving cars, you'll probably like the Computer Driving Assistance systems that are available in many new models. Some of them turn on automatically, while others require the action of the driving to activate.
One of these examples is downhill assisted, which keeps the car from accelerating while descending a hill. There are also features to detect pedestrians and other obstacles, as well as assistance parking. They come in a variety of forms, such as warning beeps, cameras that let you see how close you are, and automatic course correction.
Some cars have storage space that is so well-hidden you'd have to know it's there to be able to use it. The Dodge Journey, for instance, has a secret compartment beneath the passenger seat with two pockets and removable bins under the floor behind the front row and a storage compartment running the full width of the rear cargo floor.
The Land Rover Discovery has a secret area for hiding your most valuable items behind a climate control panel, of all places. Even the most industrious burglars wouldn't think to look back there. All of these spaces not only mean more safety for your items but more legroom on long trips when you need to carry lots.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
The rearview mirror isn't designed to give you a good look at the backseat – it's made to help you see what's behind you. That's why some bigger cars like minivans and SUVs have installed small, convex “conversation mirrors,” which let you see what's going on in the backseat without having to take your eyes off the road.
It lets parents keep an eye on what the kids are up to, lets friends converse, and keeps everyone in the car safer by keeping the driver's attention on what's coming up on the road and not what's behind. Cars like the Kia Sedona, the Hyundai Palisade, and Toyota Highlander have this feature, and there are plenty more.
In a Blade Runner Mood
Plenty of cars now offer ambient interior lighting as an optional or even standard feature. Depending on the model, the center console, as well as the door handles, cup holders, dashboard, or even footwells, can light up. The high-end manufacturers even give new car buyers the option to choose their own lighting color.
It might not make the road easier to see at night, but some studies show that it can increase a driver's perception of safety. A study published in the journal “Lighting Research and Technology” from 2010 found that ambient lighting inside a car emphasizes space perception, heightens the perceived quality of materials and design, and helps drivers find controls and keep themselves orientated in the car.
Ready for Any Weather
Cars are prepared for rain, with anti-lock brakes and windshield wipers, but what about when the trip is done, and you're ready to head inside your destination? Even if you have an umbrella in the back seat or the trunk, you can get wet while running around the car to get it, or it can take up needed space.
Some car manufacturers have devised an umbrella storage spot in the door panel to make it easy to grab an essential item during a storm. The car companies paving the way include Rolls Royce and Škoda, and we hope to see even more picking up the idea in the future.
Keep Car Noise Out
Bose is a sound tech giant, and they're doing more than just making headphones. They're helping to reduce the noise in cars thanks to the QuietComfort Road Noise Control system, or RNC. Accelerometers mounted in the vehicle monitors vibrations and movements, which create constant noise in the car.
The RNC tech then uses the data it receives from the accelerometers to send an acoustic cancellation signal into the vehicle's sound system. It sounds pretty fancy, and it creates a quieter, more relaxing ride. You won't have to play your music or podcasts quite as loud, and it will be easier to hear the conversation, as well.
As Different as Day and Night
If you have a problem driving at night thanks to intense headlights from other cars in your rearview mirror, take a look at the little tab at the bottom of the mirror. This helpful addition has been in cars for a long time, but many people don't take advantage of it. Some might not even know it's there.
Press on the tab to switch the mirror from “day” to “night” settings, which will reduce glare when it's dark out, so it's easier to stay safe while driving. Some manufacturers like Seat make mirrors that auto-dim when they detect low-light situations such as driving at night.
If you're familiar with driving in snowy or icy conditions, you're probably familiar with seeing a car chased by winding designs. This is the stability control system, and it's been a requirement in U.S. cars since 2011. This system controls and engages the car's brakes on one or more wheels in order to control a turn.
If you're driving on roads with sharp turns or you lose traction in wet or slippery weather, this safety feature could keep you from going off the road or running into something. You can turn the system on or off at your choosing, often with just the touch of a button.
Straight and True
If we tried to count the number of times a driver drifted into the next lane or onto the shoulder, it would take quite a lot of calculations. That's why car manufacturers are starting to implement both land-departure warning systems, or LDWS, and lane-keep assistance systems, or LKAS, into their vehicles.
The systems are similar – they both rely on windshield-mounted cameras to read the lane lines ahead of the car and ensure the vehicle stays in the lane. LDW systems warn the driver with audible noises or steering wheel vibrations, and an LKAS will automatically correct the car's direction. These systems often have to be manually enabled via buttons on the dash, so check to see if your new model has them.
The Simplest Features are the Best
Incredible technological additions are one thing, but a little bit of plastic will be more helpful than you might think. If you look around your car right now, you'll probably see a few hooks in the interior, integrated into the headrests of your car, above rear doors, and hidden elsewhere, sometimes so well you might not know they're there.
These are the perfect places to hang shopping bags when you're running errands. You can also hang your takeout, which will reduce the amount of condensation or grease that might get onto the upholstery and can also reduce the lingering takeout smell if you don't like it.
Don't Lock Up
You're probably familiar with the term Anti Lock Brake, but what does it really mean? The system activates when sensors connected to the brakes detect that one or more of the wheels is about to lock up during braking – frequently happening when the car is slipping and sliding.
A series of hydraulic valves then activate, limiting the braking on the wheel. It might seem counter-intuitive, but this system prevents skidding and is designed to keep the driver in more control, allowing you to keep the car pointed in the right direction. Since September first, 2013, every car made in the United States is required to have this system.
If you're a fan of getting parking tickets, then you're probably familiar with the fact that those flimsy pieces of paper tend to fly away from the wind or the moment you open the door. Well, now no more. With this feature, you can get tickets up the wazoo because they're not going anywhere with this nifty holder.
In order to help, some car manufacturers have started creating a plastic ticket holder attached to the side of the windshield on the inside. Manufacturer Škoda has been adding this small, useful item to its cars for years, and we wouldn't be surprised to see other companies jump on the idea too – it's a small, cheap, and useful service.
Gas Cap Additions
Open the gas cap on some modern models, and you'll find a handy little device. Škoda and several other manufacturers are putting items that can make your life easier. Škoda has an item that not only works as an ice scraper for cold mornings, but it also doubles as a tire tread-depth gauge to let you know when it's a good time to get the tires replaced for maximum safety and fuel efficiency.
On a new Scala model car, you'll also find that the cap for the washer fluid can fold out to become a funnel, making pouring any of your car's fluids easier and cleaner.
Shark Hidden Details
Like seeing a man in a black suit and brightly-colored socks, some of these hidden car elements are less useful but are still worth a mention. Since 2004 Opel and Vauxhall have been adding these shark designs to the interiors of their cars – if you happen to drive an Adam, Corsa, Astra, Insignia, Crossland X, or Grandland X, you'll be able to see them.
Dietmar Finger, an Opel designer, worked on a sketch for a glovebox, which required ribs to maintain stability, and Dietmar's son suggested drawing a shark. Somehow, the small addition made it into the final design, and a trend began.
Watch Out for Puddles
If it's a dark and stormy night, there's a pretty good chance you or your date will open the door only to step into a puddle. Not so when you have a puddle light, available from manufacturers like Lincoln or Hyundai. When the door opens, a light shines down at the ground to give you a good look at where your foot is about to land.
A number of the fancy Tesla models also offer this feature, which is just another fancy addition they bring to the car-making table. This is certainly a luxury feature, but you might just have a use for it.
How Much Louder?
A volume control? Well, that's not anything special. But what about a volume control that goes from zero up to ELEVEN? Now we're talking. This interesting detail is available in the Tesla Model S, and it comes from the classic mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap,” which features one of the eponymous band's members, guitarist Nigel Tufnel, explains that the amps he has don't just stop at ten – they go all the way to eleven, baby.
Of course, Tufnel is a bit of a ponce, but the hilarious scene has made its way into popular culture in a number of ways, including this car.
Hidden Messages from a Panda
The Fiat Panda has a speedy little design, but it has plenty of small details to take in, too. They're well-known for the squircles – square circles – which are all over the car, but there is a less well-known feature to find if you look at the door cards. There's an inscription on the inside – if you look close enough, you'll be able to see thousands of little letters.
What does it say? Well, we can't tell you that, you'll have to take a look yourself. It's a very nice, subtle touch to make the car even more unique and special every time you ride inside.
Aston Martin Lights
Even when pointed out, this Easter Egg will take a little bit of putting together to notice. Take a look at the back of this handsome Aston Martin Vanquish. See the logo of the company above the license plate? It's a specific shape. Now, try to imagine the two rear lights coming together to meet in the middle.
The negative space between them creates the same exact shape of the logo. It's a clever little addition that doesn't shout its presence, but people who are in the know will love it.
The MG3 might be a cheaper alternative to the Ford Fiesta, but it performs well in its tests and even has a few secrets to divulge if you try hard enough. While the car is rather dull, all things considered, the company still wanted to inject a little bit of personality and individuality into it.
That's why they added a few small details, like the small MG logos in the headlights of the car. You likely won't notice unless you're looking for them, or you're doing repair work on the headlights, but they're there, and they're okay going unnoticed for now.
The Car Key Fob
As long as you don't try to attach this special keyfob to your key holder, you'll be fine. The Tesla Model S has a keyfob that looks just like the car it's paired with, and it brings all the sleek style that the car offers, as well. It's a bit bigger than most other keyfobs, but it slips into your pocket all the same, and it looks cool sitting on the counter or coffee table.
It even comes with a small bag to keep it in when it isn't in use. It looks like it could be a toy car for a kid, but it does everything a regular fob does.
The Hidden Logo
Branding on the sides of vehicles is an interesting art. If you're ever lucky enough to see a new BMW Z4 while driving or parked somewhere, then you probably took in all the exquisite detailing and sporty elements, but there might have been something you missed.
On the side of the car, there is a capital Z built right into the paneling. It's subtle, but once you've seen it, you'll never be able to unsee it, just like the arrow in the FedEx. We don't know how many opportunities you'll have to see this luxury car, but the Z will always be there.
Light up the Night
The Lexus IS 300h is a fancy car with lots of great features, and here's one that you might not know about. If you're approaching it in the dark, the car will sense not only the level of light but also your approaching keyfob and turn on a light on the interior.
You'll not only be able to find your car quicker, but it makes it easier for you to get in and get going. You won't even have to open the door to do it, so you'll have more security before you get close. It's a small detail, but it's satisfying.
Keep Eyes Open
Japanese vehicles like Subarus are engineered to the highest standards. Subaru now has another helpful feature to make driving their cars better. Starting in 2019, all Subaru vehicles are now equipped with the Eyesight system, which received a top-class rating from IIHS for frontal crash prevention, and is able to reduce rear-end crashes by up to eighty-five percent.
The Eyesight Driver Assist uses a variety of sensors to monitor the car's surroundings, creating adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, pre-collision braking, and other handy safety features that are designed to give drivers all the information they need to keep themselves and their car safe.
Sweeten the Deal
BMW is at the forefront of coming up with fun new features for their cars, and they brought up a unique one for their high-end 7 series starting back in 2016. One of the options for this upscale sedan is the Ambient Air Package.
Cars fitted with the package are equipped with various scents (eight to be exact) that can be chosen from the climate control panel. Each fragrance can also come with three different intensity levels, meaning if you just want a subtle scent, that's no problem, and if you need something strong to cover up a stink that's coming from the backseat or the trunk, that's no problem either.
Ear Safety During Crashes
Mercedes-Benz prides itself as a leader in the area of automotive safety. The Pre-Safe Sound System is an incredibly unique piece of technology that is built to protect you during crashes but is built to protect a part of you that has been ignored, for the most part. If the system detects that a collision is undetectable, it produces a “pink noise” at approximately eighty decibels.
Pink noise is designed to reduce the jarring difference between normal noise and the sound of your car crashing since it tricks the ear into preparing and reducing damage, protecting eardrums, and keeping you safer.
Just Like the Name
Considered to be probably the most popular small car, Volkswagen Golf has some great little features. It's easy to drive, sporty, and performance-focused. The Volkswagen Golf GTI is even more performance-focused and comes with a funny Easter Egg that comes from its name.
The gear knob on the GTI has the small impact craters of a golf ball and has been present in this version of the Golf for several years, including in the 2021 Golf GTI. Even if you aren't much of a golfer, it's an easy way to not only make something that fits the name, but it is easy to grab, too.
Get Yourself Out
Here is an addition to cars that have been proven to save lives. It's one of the most thoughtful features on this list – an eternal trunk release lets you pop the trunk, even if you're stuck inside, whether it's after a crash and you don't have many other ways to get out, or you accidentally locked yourself inside.
This kind of feature has been mandatory in the U.S. since 2001, and in the following years, automakers around the world followed suit by installing their own versions of the emergency release. Hopefully, you never have to use it, but you'll be glad it's there.
The Weirdest One on the List
The Citroen Picasso might just have the strangest item on this list. It's not a hands-free trunk, or a hidden vacuum cleaner, or even a purely cosmetic feature like hidden decals. Instead, this French car comes with its very own...shopping cart.
Yes, the kind of thing you load up with groceries or other supplies when you are in a store. The cart is stored in the car's trunk. While it seems like something that people might find useful, it must not have been a very well-loved feature since Citroen stopped including the cart in the 2005 model onwards.
Maybe One Day
The Rolls Royce Phantom is the pinnacle of luxury when it comes to cars. They have all kinds of incredible features, and while most of us will just have to look at the pictures and sigh, we're here to make sure you know the best way to enjoy one if you do get the chance to ride inside.
Take the Champagne chiller that is located between the rear seats. Built-in collaboration between the car company and the Court of Master Sommelier, the Champagne chiller can operate in two different modes that work with vintage or non-vintage types of sparkling wine.
Automatic Hazard Lights
Auto manufacturers are always looking for ways to make their cars safer, and people who drive or ride in them are always happy to know about new safety features. According to studies, a large number of accidents occur when people haven't noticed that the vehicle in front of them has come to a stop or decelerated.
A lot of cars on the market today have come up with a clever solution. They come up with a system that calculates the brake force to determine if it's “emergency braking.” If yes, then hazard lights are automatically enabled, making it easier for drivers behind the car to see that the car is slowing down.
Roll Down the Windows With Your Keys
You're probably pretty sure about what your keyfob does – lock or unlock the doors, pop the trunk, start the horn honking to warn people, and maybe start the engine. Have you ever tried holding the unlock button on your fob for a few seconds?
Try it the next time you're near your car – if the car is new enough, after five seconds, there's a chance the windows will open. If you are one of these lucky car owners, all you have to do to close them is hold the lock button for the same amount of time. Check your owner's manual to see if you can do this.
A Vehicle for Your Vehicles
If you love to bike or cycle, you need to make sure you have the right kind of car. The Opel Corsa is made for adventure with an integrated Bike Rack from the German automaker. Owners of the Corsa can pull the rack out after unlocking it from the trunk and place their bicycles on top.
It's large enough for a couple of bikes, meaning you'll be ready to take to the trails and explore the great outdoors with the family. Once the trip is over, fold the rack back down into the trunk, and nobody will be the wiser.