Car Rental Tips: How to Find Key Car Features

Car Rental Hacks: How to Find Key Vehicle Features

Renting a car can be an exciting experience. Not only are you exploring new territory, you’re also driving a new vehicle. However, navigating an unfamiliar vehicle can take some getting used to, and you’re bound to have a few questions along the way. Luckily, we’re here to help. Follow this road map to locate key features in your rental car.

Know Before You Go: Create a Rental Car Checklist

While your rental car might include some fun features like heated seats, a sunroof or SiriusXM Satellite Radio, other features are more essential for driving. Make a list of features you should locate before you hit the road. Start by asking yourself these questions:

How do I start this thing?
How do I turn on the headlights?
How do I turn on the wipers?
How do I pop the trunk?
Which side is the gas tank on? How do I open the gas tank door?
Where’s the parking brake?
Where’s the USB port?
What if I have additional questions?

How Do I Start This Thing?

If you’re used to inserting and turning a key to start a car, you may be in for a surprise. Many newer vehicles offer push-button start. It may seem unconventional, but starting a car with this technology is simple. Vehicles equipped with push-button start utilize technology that senses the presence of a key fob. The car will start at the push of a button (located where a key ignition would be found) as long as the fob is in the car and your foot is on the brake pedal.

How Do I Turn on the Headlights?

Find the headlight controls before you put the vehicle in drive, just in case you need to turn them on manually. Some vehicles have automatic headlights. To determine whether they’ll come on automatically in the evening, look for the word “auto” on the controls. The headlight controls are usually located near the steering wheel — either beneath the dashboard on the driver’s left side, or on the control arm attached to the base of the steering wheel. To turn on your headlights, rotate the dial at the end of the control arm.

How Do I Turn on the Wipers?

Windshield wipers aren’t just important during inclement weather; they also come in handy if you have to clear dust or debris from your windshield. Windshield wiper controls can usually be found on the control arm on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. To activate your wipers, push the control arm down to the first stop. To increase the speed, you can push the control arm down again to the second and third stops. If your rental car has rear windshield wipers, look for a button near the climate control panel or the audio system, which are typically located under the dashboard in the center of your car.

How Do I Pop the Trunk?

Newer vehicles usually have a trunk release button on the key fob, which allows you to open the trunk at the touch of a button. On most rental cars, you can still open the trunk by using the handle, but many newer vehicles don’t have trunk release buttons inside the vehicle. If your vehicle has an interior trunk release, you’ll probably find it to the left of the steering wheel or on the driver’s side floorboard near the gas tank door release.

Which Side is the Gas Tank on? How Do I Open the Gas Tank Door?

The gas tank can be on either side of the vehicle. When you’re in the driver’s seat, look for an arrow next to the gas icon on the dashboard. Most vehicles have this indicator. If you see one, the arrow will point to the side of the vehicle the tank is on. The gas tank door release is usually located on the driver’s side floorboard or the left-hand side of the dashboard.

Where’s the Parking Brake?

You might be used to pulling a lever to apply your parking brake. If you don’t see a lever, don’t worry. Check the steering column or armrest area for a button or switch. Many new vehicles have transitioned to this style. If you’re driving a minivan or SUV, you may need to depress a pedal near the driver’s side door to apply the parking brake.

Where’s the USB Port?

Your own car may not have one, but chances are that your rental car does. You can charge your phone on the go with a USB port, but first you have to locate it. If you don’t see one below the climate control panel, check inside the center compartment between the driver and passenger seats.

What if I Have Additional Questions? Alamo employees are always on site to help you get familiar with your rental car. If you have a QR code reader on your smartphone, you can take advantage of Alamo’s mobile site OnRamp Concierge, which offers answers to frequently asked vehicle-specific questions.

If you’re already on the road, Alamo also offers customer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call 855-533-1196 anytime to speak with a member of our team.


Is Alamo open during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

Yes. Alamo is an essential services provider that remains open to meet critical transportation and personal mobility needs.

How do I rent a vehicle from Alamo during the COVID-19 outbreak?

You can make reservations via our website or Alamo mobile app. To save time at the rental counter, you can check in online with your driver’s license information and rental confirmation number.

To streamline your rental experience further and enable you to safely practice social distancing when picking up your rental vehicle:

  • You can skip the counter (for select locations) in advance after activating Online Check-In. Then, you can go straight to your car without visiting the counter or kiosk.
  • Another option is Alamo’s Self-Service Kiosk at select locations. All you need to check in is your driver’s license and credit card. When you’re finished, just show your rental agreement and driver’s license at the exit booth before you hit the road.

What steps are being taken to clean the rental cars?

Clean vehicles have always been important to us, but at this moment in time, we know vehicle cleanliness is even more critical. Each rental vehicle is thoroughly cleaned between every rental and backed with the Complete Clean Pledge. This includes washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading heath authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points including:

  • Key / key fob
  • Steering wheel
  • Steering column
  • Seat belts
  • Center console
  • Door interiors
  • Door pockets
  • Interior door handles
  • Exterior door handles
  • Seat pockets / seat surfaces
  • Areas between seats & consoles
  • Areas between seats & doorjambs
  • Cupholders / compartments
  • Instrument panel
  • Accessory panel / touchscreen
  • Rearview mirror / side mirrors
  • Visors / visor mirrors
  • Dashboard / vents
  • Gear stick / gear shift
  • Trunk release
  • Among other high-touch areas

As part of the Complete Clean Pledge, we've also extended our already rigorous cleaning protocols to our shuttles and rental locations.

Read more COVID-19 FAQs.

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