Car Quips

Car QuipI have always wanted an LCD Panel for my rear window in the car. It always seemed like it would be exceedingly handy to have the ability to fire off one of several pre-canned messages or, if I had a passenger, have some kind of keyboard where they could provide context-appropriate messaging for the cars around me. “Your turn signal is on.” “Your high beams are blinding me.” “That is a very big SUV, clearly you suck.” And so forth.

LCDs are still a good idea, but one can accomplish the same goals in a cheaper, lower maintenance, and much more analog way. What I have made instead is a coil-bound flip book with 14 standard messages I might find myself needing, plus three laminated blank pages at the end on which I can add messages with dry-erase markers. The whole thing is designed to fit in my glove compartment, and has forward and mirror-image versions of each message on facing pages so that cars in front of you can read it through their rear view mirror. Obviously the messages have to be kept short to maximize font size, but other than that, the sky’s the limit. In the hopes that someone other than I can see the value in such a book, I present:

Building your own Car Quips booklet

First off, if you want to go the easy route, just use mine. This PDF will print the 14 standard messages in both orientations. If you lack the materials at home, take it to any Kinko’s or print-shop-of-choice and tell them:

  • Double sided print
  • On heavyweight paper (I use 110lb card stock) for extra survivability and rigidity when holding it up
  • Coil-, wire-, or spiral-bound (basically so that you can use it as a flip book)
  • Cut to fit (the PDF is built for 8.5×11 paper, but the actual usable book is only 4.5″ tall or so, to ease glove compartment storage.

As I mentioned above, you might also ask them to bind in a couple of blank, laminated sheets at the back for custom messages. This entire job should take less than 15 minutes for a print shop and should cost less than $10.

If you want to go custom (I kept cussin’ out of my messages, for example. Other drivers may be… inclined differently) you can download my source material here. Basically my process (probably needlessly complex was):

  • Produce originals of each message in Adobe Illustrator
  • Save PDF versions of each orientation (for each message)
  • Use Acrobat to assemble the whole thing into a single printable with proper formatting and ordering

The copyright assertions in the original PDF should not be taken as restrictions – these are short English sentences we’re talking about here, so please feel invited to remix it all under a creative commons license. I would love to see the message set evolve, for example, so if you do produce your own, a comment or trackback here would be great.

I suspect people are a little puzzled to see the driver next to them holding up a printed sign telling them their tire is flat, but to me it’s such an obvious idea I can’t believe it’s not already for sale in every auto parts store. Except why buy it when you can make it, and make it your own?


  1. No, YOU suck.

    Big SUV

  2. You forgot my uncle Don’s sign from when he was in college back in the 60′s:


  3. You seem to be too young to know that these spiral-bound signs (with a ping-pong type handle) were sold in late 70′s mid-USA… and also that, in many urban areas here, total strangers have been shot for less.

  4. Actually, this already exists. I saw one in Chapters shortly after I got my Tercel and I was very tempted. :)

    The trouble with this over an LCD is that you have to actually get it out of the glove compartment and flip pages as needed quickly enough to keep it relevant. But a nice idea either way. :)

  5. I actually had seen an LED message sign installed in one of my customer’s cars. He told me he was pulled over twice for this and it was confiscated afterwards! But I still think we, the drivers, should be able to communicate on the road in a more polite manner than just using a single finger! :)