What’s the little button on your seatbelt?

When cup holders first arrived on the motoring scene, it was a revelation. Finally, somewhere to put your cup. It was the biggest deal since the onboard 8-track player.

Since then, vehicle cabins have become fighter jet cockpits, with plenty of buttons, dials and dashboard lights to baffle us. RIP the 8-track, but the cup holder lives on.

Among all this high-tech gadgetry, there are still some relatively basic features you may have missed.

Buckle up

Check your seatbelt and you’ll find a small button attached to the fabric (main photo). Without this simple item, our daily drive would be a little more frustrating.

The button’s one job is to stop the seatbelt buckle sliding down the length of the strap. So, whenever you reach for the buckle, it’s exactly where it should be.

Escape plan

Have you ever been loading shopping into the car and accidently fallen into the boot and the boot lid closed behind you? Probably not. However, if circumstances conspire to trap you in a car, many vehicles have a manually-operated latch for opening the boot.

You’ll usually find it on the inside the boot lid, often in a small recess. In the US, all cars manufactured with a boot (trunk) after September 2001 are required to have a release latch inside the boot space.

Inside boot latch
Interior boot latch button. Image: RAA/JP

The rule doesn’t apply here, so if your vehicle doesn’t have one, it might be best to carry your phone when you’re unloading your shopping.

Fuel foibles

If the little fuel filler door on your car opens electronically, rather than by a mechanical lever in the cabin, what happens if an electrical failure prevents it from opening? Is the only option to drive around until you run out of fuel and then dispose of the car? Not necessarily.

Many vehicles with this system include a mechanical failsafe on the inside of the panel behind the fuel filler. Manually operated, it opens the fuel filler door, allowing you to refuel and keep the car.

Mirror mirror

This one’s been around a while, but perhaps not everyone’s aware of it. High beam’s a wonderful night-driving feature, unless it’s blasted through your rear window at the luminosity of the sun.

Most interior mirrors are prismatic, which means you’re looking at the main mirror through an angled piece of regular glass.

When you flick the little tab at the bottom of the mirror housing, the whole shebang tilts up slightly. The blinding reflection from the headlights is redirected towards the car’s ceiling, and you’ll be left with a much softer reflection from the plain glass.

interior mirror
Stop the glare with the mirror tab. Image: Getty

It’s a good idea to return the tab to the normal position after the solar flare, so you can see the traffic behind more clearly.

Some cars have electrochromic mirrors, which use light sensors and electronics to adjust the mirror’s brightness automatically.

Door dilemma

Most cars come with a button operated by the driver that locks all the doors. This is handy for keeping unwanted visitors from entering your vehicle, but not so good at keeping little rear-seat passengers in. They may still be able to unlock and open the door from their seat.

Many modern cars also have a switch on the inside edge of the rear doors that stops kids opening them from inside.

Child lock on door
Keep the kids safe with the child lock. Image: Getty

Switch it to closed, shut the doors, and they’re not going anywhere until you’ve reached the dentist.

Hooked on shopping

If you have a station wagon or hatchback, look around the luggage area for hooks, which are fitted to many cars for carrying shopping bags.

Do you need car advice?

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