Not Remotely Amusing: The Broken Car Remote

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Bobbie sezBobbie says:

I love my car-unlocker button thingy.

Car Remote. Keyless entry. Key fob. That plastic bit with buttons on, that hangs off your key ring and unlocks the car for you miraculously while you’re still walking to it with your arms so full of shopping and children that you can’t possibly manage keys, but you can certainly push a button to open the stupid door. Whatever you call that thingy.

I did some research to find out what everyone calls it, so I could connect with my audience.  And by research, I mean a brief and thoroughly unhelpful survey on Facebook.  It was an attempt at Scientifically Gathering Data, without actually being, you know….scientific*. I wanted to find out what to call this doo-dad so people know what the heck I’m talking about. Because, I call them The Buttons. Not even kidding. And I love The Buttons.

Well, I did love The Buttons, that is, until The Son Who Shall Remain Nameless (TSWSRN) managed to break it off the keyring.

TSWSRN has a crazy key ring with a house key, a key to my husband’s pickup and one for the 1999 Explorer that TSWSRN and I share. Three keys and an irrational number of non-key items.

When TSWSRN drives the Explorer, he takes my sensible key ring, which has the mailbox key (so he can get the mail) and The Buttons, because if you want to  open the hatch, you need them. If you accidentally set off the Very Sensitive Alarm (which is especially easy to do if you use an actual key to open it) you need The Buttons so you can turn the wretched thing off. ** The car remote is absolutely essential to the sane operation of the thing, so I wasn’t about to just stick it in a pocket once the key ring loop broke off. Much too easy for me or The Son Who Shall Still Remain Nameless to lose.

Broken Car Remote - hazardous key ring


He then attaches my sensible key ring to his crazy one with a carabiner clip, resulting in this twisted monstrosity. And the breaking off of the key fob.


Can’t imagine how that happened. Go figure.




So, I decided to channel my inner MacGyver and see if I could fix it with toothpicks and chewing gum wrappers, or other odds and ends we had lying about. It’s amazing what one can come up with in a pinch.

After nixing rubber bands and paper clips and duct tape, I came up with cable ties.Broken Car Remote - cable ties case

They’re also called zip ties, wire ties or tie-wraps. They’re mostly used to bundle wires together tightly and permanently, but they’re sometimes used as handcuffs in law enforcement. We happen to have a lot of them around here, because of my husband’s computer/technology business, but you can buy them in smaller quantities in a hardware or electronics department, or at a home improvement store.

I looked at my remote and decided I needed to use two cable ties. A larger one around the upper part, just above the buttons, and a smaller one to make a loop to connect to the key ring. Car remotes vary widely in design, so your placement may be different. Just figure out where you can get a secure hold without covering any of the buttons.

Broken Car Remote - 3 zip ties cable ties wire ties




You’ll need pliers and a way to cut the ends off the ties when you’re done. I found needle nose pliers to work best for me. Mine have a built-in side cutter. If you don’t have side cutters, a sturdy pair of scissors can be used, but be very careful.

Broken Car Remote - 4 pliers with sidecutterI made a loop from the larger cable tie, put it around the upper part of the remote, then pulled the cable tie just until it stayed in place.

Broken Car Remote - 5 loop zip tie around remote










Slipped the smaller tie under the large one on the back side, fastened it into a loose loop.

Broken Car Remote - 6 slip second cable tie thru first










Using the pliers, pulled the loose tail on the cable around the remote, and made it as tight as I could. I used the needle nose pliers and grabbed it right next to the slot and twisted, leveraging it to get it tight enough that it won’t slip off.

Broken Car Remote - 7 tighten with needlenose pliers







Adjusted the hanging loop to an appropriate size, then cut the tail off both ties.

Broken Car Remote - 8 trim with sidecutters








Ready to roll. I did this a few months ago, and it’s held up extremely well. I could probably buy a replacement for more money than I want to spend, but seriously – the new remote would probably outlast the vehicle, so why bother?

Broken Car Remote - 9 Not like new but serviceable










*Survey results: Although a lot of people call them Key Fobs, most people don’t call them anything. All these poor car-button-thingies being ignored and taken for granted. No wonder they break off — they’re trying to run away from home.

**We bought it second- or third- or quite possibly seventeenth-hand. It has its foibles, but it’s at least it’s not possessed by an Electrical Demon like its predecessor. That was like being in a Stephen King movie, but with less dying.

You can stalk Bobbie Laughman on Pinterest, or go see if she’s up to anything at Gruntled, Sheveled, Whelmed.

Sticky Soda Residue

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Dear Home-Ec 101:
This isn’t exactly a Home-Ec question but I figured you would know the answer. I have two cupholders in the front seat of my SUV. They are odd shaped, bigger than most normal sized cups, but too small to hold something the size of a Big Gulp for example. So when I buy a frappucino or a medium soda the cup will bounce around a little and often leaks. I’m bad about wiping up the spills quickly, so what has now happened is I have a nice sticky, stinky mess in the bottom of my cupholders. There’s also probably $3 in coins stuck in there too because I usually toss my drive-thru change in the ‘empty’ cupholder. What is the best way to clean this? In my old car I had removable cupholders so I just took them inside and gave them a rinse in the sink, but these do not come out. And the car wash people didn’t touch them either.
Sticky Stephanie

Heather says:

Cars, for commuters at least, are just a mobile extension of our homes, so I believe it fits perfectly under the Home Ec umbrella.

You’re right, wiping it up quickly would be the best way to avoid the problem, but I stink at that, too. What with driving, checking email, Tweeting, eating. . . who has time to clean at a stoplight?

I kid. Put the lecture back in your pocket. Simmer down, simmer.

What has happened is all of the water has evaporated leaving behind a layer of dried milk solids and syrup united in an unholy bond. It’s going to take a little work to get it out.

Grab an old rag or some paper towels, an old toothbrush, and some Armor All. If the bottom of the cup holder isn’t vented go ahead and spray a little of the Armor All  into it, don’t go crazy, you’re going to have to blot this all up. Also make sure your windows are all down or the doors are open. Get the toothbrush and scrub what you can, also the handle of the toothbrush can make a decent pry bar to loosen the coins. Stuff the rag or paper towels into the cup holder and wipe out the cleaner. This may take two or three repetitions, depending on how thick the layer of soda.

If you don’t have Armor All on hand, use very soapy water, but it’s going to take a bit of rinsing.

If this stuff isn’t coming loose, it may be time to step it up and get some Goo Gone. This is solvent can usually be found in the home improvement section of stores, usually in a section referred to as solvents. Ask a clerk, it’s not a big bottle and may be annoying to find.

Whatever you use, be sure to wipe out all of the residue, wipe the cup holder out with a soapy rag, and finally a damp one to remove all traces of the solvent.

Before grabbing your next soda, swing by the auto parts store, sometimes there are cup holder inserts that have tabs to hold drinks in place. If you can’t find one that fits, there are absorbent “car coasters” that may help prevent it from getting so gross in the future.

Send your domestic quandaries to