Housewife MacGyver: Place Mat Car Organizer

Happy Monday! Today we have Debra from Housewife Eclectic, my BFF -- or is bestie the term to use when you're not texting and/or adolescent? whatever it is, she's the best :) -- and she's here sharing a cute and easy craft for your car. You'll love it and want to make one in every color... so here's Debra:

Hi friends, I am Debra of Housewife Eclectic, where Lu shares her web knowledge weekly. I wear many hats, crafter, photographer, mother to an almost 3 year-old, avid reader, writer, baker and a bunch of others that I only pull out for special occasions. I am excited to be here to share a easy and wonderful craft with you guys today.

We all like to be prepared in case of an emergency and the car is no exception. This glove box sized organizer is made from a place mat and holds your insurance cards, a pen, a tire pressure gauge, small notepad, scissors and a flashlight.
In order to make your organizer you will need a place mat, a hair elastic or elastic headband and the items you want to include in your organizer for measuring purposes.
Take your place mat and fold it up about a third of the way.
If you want a card pocket, fold down the corner. Sew the corner down first. Do NOT SEW it down to the large section/back of the organizer, just to your front third that you folded up. This pocket is perfect for your insurance card. 
Then lay your objects into the fold to see how much room they need. I sewed a seam right besides my folder corner, then I placed my notepad in the center of my place mat and mark how much room I would need on either side of it. After sewing your large pocket for the notepad, I took the left over space on the right side and sewed a seam down the middle to give it too even sized pockets. Those pockets are the right size for a lot of items, like pens and your tire pressure gauge. 
After you are done sewing your pockets, fold up the organizer around the middle panel and mark where your hair elastic needs to go. I used a head band and had to cut a couple inches of length off of it to make it fit snugly. Go over the hair elastic multiple times to get it secure and you have complete organizer. This quick project can be made in just a few minutes time and is perfect for a beginning sewer, so pick up a place mat at the dollar store and organize your glove box! 
Now you want one in every color, right? I told you that you would ;) And this is the perfect place to store your log of car maintenance that Tricia told us about last week! 

And stop by and say hello to Debra over at Housewife Eclectic. She's pretty much da bomb in every way - she crafty, shares amazing recipes, and is a fantastic photographer to boot -- and nice enough to share her photo tips once a week. :)

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Housewife MacGyver: Automobile TLC from Tricia of Leafy Treetop Spot

Today's Housewife MacGyver guest is the ever-creative Tricia of Leafy Treetop Spot. She's rounded up some great resources for giving your car all the TLC it needs... Here's Tricia:

Why hello, I'm Tricia of Leafy Treetop Spot.  I'm thrilled to be joining in on the Housewife MacGyver fun.   When Lorene first mentioned the series I thought it was a fantastic idea, but when she asked for volunteer contributors I was terrified.   I'm the kind of person that will do my best to figure things out on their own before calling in a professional, but I'm not yet an expert in any area. So I'm going to focus on BECOMING a housewife MacGyver...with an emphasis this year on auto repair.

I grew up in a home where my dad would do his very best to avoid paying anyone to do what he could do on his own.  I remember as a kid being frustrated that it took him so long to repair the car, and I'd like to tell him that professionals are professionals for a reason, and that he should pay them to do their job.

Now that my husband and I have to pay for our own car repairs, I find myself calling my dad regularly for car maintenance and repair advice.  I didn't marry a "Mr. Fix It", or even a "Dear, it's time to take the car in for tire rotation", type of guy, so now it's my turn to figure out how to become more self reliant when it comes to keeping my/our cars functioning properly.

After buying my first car in college, I soon realized that much like with an infant, I was supposed to "know" how to care for a car. My car didn't tell me when it needed changing (oil), or needed to be fed (have fluids topped off), or even when it was ready to sit in a new position (tire rotation).  Fortunately for us all, unlike infants, cars come with owner's manuals, and provide us with a bit of insight as to how we can keep them in their best condition.

The first step to avoiding major automobile repair costs is to prevent them by properly caring for your car.  Much like that newborn infant that needs to keep a regular schedule, your car has a schedule to be kept as well.  While you're car isn't going to cry when it needs it's oil changed, you can find a handy dandy odometer behind the steering wheel, and it will help you easily track when it's time for a change, or a rotation. Your owners manual will give you information on how frequently your particular car will need these services.

 I recommend creating a spreadsheet that lists any and all automotive repairs or maintenance that are done on your car.  List the date, the mileage, and the service performed (even if you aren't the one performing the maintenance).  Keeping an accurate record will help you avoid letting things go for too long.  Some things that you might want to record could be: fuel mileage on each tank of gas, each time oil is added to your car, when wiper blades are replaced, when coolant is added, etc. Keeping an accurate record of these things will also help you diagnose automotive problems early on.  If your car is burning through oil really quickly, or your tires are showing signs of irregular wear, you will be able to take note and look for the underlying cause.

If you are looking for a helpful checklist of when you should be checking different parts of your car, this Expert Advice Tip Sheet, from could help you.

For some of us, keeping accurate records, and knowing what  regular maintenance our car needs, is a big step toward being self reliant.  For others you may be looking for some particular advice on how to perform regular car maintenance.   So for those of you looking for a bit more information or instruction, here are a few links to tutorials and articles to help you perform regular car maintenance, and save a few dollars. There's also a link below for how to create your own roadside emergency kit, something that I'll be putting on my Christmas list this year.

How to Check Your Oil

How to Change Your Oil

How to Check Your Tire Tread

How to Change a Tire

How to Rotate Your Tires

How to Change an Air Filter

How to Clean the Battery Terminals on your car

How to Jump Start a Vehicle

How to Replace Windshield Wiper Blades

How to Check the Fuses in Your Car

How to Create Your Own Roadside Emergency Kit

Thanks, Tricia! Everything we've ever wanted to know and more! Be sure to stop by Leafy Treetop Spot and visit Tricia -- you'll love everything she makes, from her adorable baby shoes to her fantastic quiet book pages and fantastic free patterns!

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Housewife MacGyver: Make Your Car Happy

Cleaning our cars is something that we all (probably) know we should do and also (probably) alternately feel guilty about, depending on the visibility of the dirt...
With our previous car, the bright yellow paint (if you're thinking Bumblebee, you're right on track) hid the everyday dirt pretty well. But our new car is black... which means that her paint job shows EVERYTHING. Even the slightest rain or neighbor's sneeze makes her look like she's been through a tornado.

(On a side note... she needs a name. Six months in the family and nameless. Shame.)

So what does a clean car have to do with MacGyver?
clean car = happy car! 

And a happy car is more likely to get you from point A to point B successfully for a longer span of time. 

You can always drive down to the corner gas station and pay the arm-and-a-leg to go through the automatic car wash... but why do that when you can wash your car right at home for only pennies?

(During the winter months, however, it's wise to take your car through the automatic wash occasionally, both to save yourself from frostbite and to give the undercarriage a nice cleaning -- the salt that the plows put down to melt the ice can corrode and otherwise gunk up the underside of your car.)

So, let's get started. 

The best time to wash your car is when it's warm but not hot -- we try for late morning so it's warm enough we don't freeze when we get wet but still cool enough that the car isn't too hot already (on the small chance that the cold water from the hose could crack a hot windshield) and that the car won't dry too quickly and leave water spots.

First, gather your washing supplies:
  1. bucket filled with water. warm water if you don't like icy hands :) 
  2. soap. dish soap works fine, but won't leave a nice waxy finish like most commercial car wash soaps.
  3. scrubbers. be sure they're gentle enough on your car's paint job, but pretty much anything will work. I like the furry-looking mitt (similar to this) and the sponge with netting on it (similar to this) -- great for getting bugs and other gunk off without taking off any paint.
  4. old towels for drying the car. a chamois like this is fantastic, too, if you have one. 
  5. a helper with cute little toes. :)
Not pictured: helper with nice hair (aka the husband) who asked not to be pictured "because I haven't even done my hair today!"; hose and sprayer attachment, (optional) foaming tire cleaner

Once you've gathered your supplies (and checked the weather forecast to be sure it will be clear and warm), move the car onto a grassy area... may as well water the grass while we clean!

Do NOT forget to roll up the windows....

Begin by spraying the car to remove all excess dirt, bugs, dead bird remnants... you get the idea.

Spray a high-power spray up into the wheel well since dirt and debris tend to accumulate there.

Add a couple of ounces of soap (depending on the type of soap - check the bottle) to your bucket of water and lather it up nicely.

Starting at the top and working your way down, soap up the car.

You'll want to let the water and soap sit a bit on the front to soak off all the bug debris...

and then scrub, scrub, scrub. You might have to repeat the soak-and-scrub a few times to properly remove all bug guts.

Be sure you get all those tricky places...
like everywhere within your toddler's reach that is COVERED with fingerprints
or the door handles
or the rear view mirrors (again, watch for bug guts!)

Sources have confirmed that if you and your helper are cleaning properly, at least one of you will be completely soaked:

When you get down to the wheels, keep scrubbing. BUT, be sure that whatever scrubber(s) you use for the tires and wheels are reserved for *only* the tires and wheels - if you use the same scrubber(s) later on your car, you might bring the junk from the tires with you and scratch the paint.
tire and wheel labeled for your learning convenience... my helper is still working on learning the difference, too :)

Once you've properly sudsed everything, rinse!

(If the day is hot and you find that the soap is drying before you're ready to rinse and dry, spray and suds and rinse and dry the car in sections so that you're not left with soap scum.)

And then grab your old towels (or special car towels) and dry, dry, dry.

Don't forget to open the doors and trunk (or hatchback, in my case) and dry there too:

(optional) Use a tire cleaner (like the one pictured or this one) to shine up those tires!

Follow the directions on your cleaner, but usually it's just
spray and watch it dissolve (and repeat as needed for VERY dirty tires like ours :)

Now we move to the interior! You'll need glass cleaner, protectant (such as Armor All), paper towels and/or a microfiber cloth, and a vacuum.

Apply your protectant to the surfaces of your car and buff to a shine (following the directions for your particular brand).

Don't forget trouble spots like
vents, dash gauges, cupholders, glove compartment, and door handles

Clean the windows, inside and out -- and don't forget the rear-view mirrors!

Before you vacuum, you'll want to (and probably need to) move the car to a dry location... electrocution is never a good thing. :) Then, just remove and vacuum the floor mats and vacuum the seats and floor (and ceiling, if you have children :) of the car. This step isn't pictured because... we forgot. We were too busy playing at grandma's... the location of the shop vac. :)

Now stand back and look at your beautiful car... and wait for it to rain, no matter what the forecast said. :)

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here. 

Becoming the Housewife MacGyver IN THE CAR

In addition to being here today introducing this month's Housewife MacGyver theme, I'm also over at Housewife Eclectic sharing the fourth segment in my web-favorites series. Feel free to pop on over. :)

My, how time flies! I can't believe it's already September... and that means that there's only 3 more months of Housewife MacGyver! What a year it's been. Head over here to see the last 8 months of our MacGyvering, and drop me a line at if you'd love to be a guest for one our upcoming months (details here).

Up this month...
Becoming the Housewife MacGyver IN THE CAR

MacGyver did his fair share of work with cars and other mechanical doohickeys... on top of hotwiring plenty of vehicles, he also built several airplanes to rescue POWs and trapped journalists. Oh, MacGyver...

For us housewives, though, we'll keep things a little simpler and talk about how to keep our cars clean and organized and running well, as well as some items to keep in your car for emergencies of all kinds.

To get us started, I have two assignments for you. Homework, if you must. And I'll be completing these assignments too!

First assignment: Grab a piece of paper and write down the following (leave some space below each item):
  • tires
  • windshield wipers
  • oil and filter
  • air filter
  • coolant/antifreeze
  • wiper fluid
  • brake pads
  • spark plugs
  • gasoline
  • car wash!
Next, write down the approximate dates or mileage of the last service or maintenance to each of those parts of your car... Hopefully each of us can at least remember (or guess) that last time our vehicle(s) were filled up with gasoline! :)

Why do this? Because it's good to know. Because even if the men in our lives (or our neighborhood mechanics) know, it's still good for us to know, or at least think about every once in a while!

My dad always taught me that a car is not an investment, it's a money pit. Taking good care of your car will (hopefully) help the pit take in less money in the long run. :)

Second assignment: Learn what the different notification lights mean for you car. Yup, those little blinking things on the dashboard ALL mean something. And they are your car's main way of speaking to you. For example, I recently learned that this little light

means that you have a flat tire.

Or, more accurately, that you are well on your way to a flat tire.

When you pull over right then to check (after consulting the owners' manual to figure out what in the world that symbol means), all the tires will appear fine. And then you may or may not forget about the aforementioned light until your husband has driven your entire family to the grocery store and says "Oh crap!" when he gets out there.

Only then will you remember about the light. But then you will be SO grateful that your brother-in-law who manages one of a chain of tire stores is in the state visiting right then because not only can he get your tire fixed, he can get your tire fixed free.Thank you, dear brother.

Anyway, the sort-of moral of that rambling story is... know your dash lights. And pay attention to them. Generally, all of the lights turn on when you start the car, and then turn off. Some of them turn back on momentarily (like the one that tells you to buckle up! it's the law!) and some of them turn back on regularly (such as the check engine soon or change oil soon lights on some models) and some of them turn back on and should have your attention immediately (like the aforementioned flat-tire-coming light).

Just think of knowing your dash lights like knowing the different screaming noises your toddler makes -- you need to know which ones are important and should be heeded immediately, which ones will escalate into further trouble, and which ones can be ignored because they'll eventually turn off on their own. :) 

I'll stop rambling at you now. Go learn and be MacGyverish... more goodness coming soon.

Thanks for reading!

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

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