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What is a Glove Box?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 23, 2024
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A glove box is a small plastic or metal compartment, typically built seamlessly in to the dashboard of a car or boat. The glove box may also be known as a glove compartment, and was originally designed for storing gloves. Now, however, there are many new features in these compartments for storing numerous items safely while traveling.

A glove box is typically located underneath the dashboard on the passenger side of a vehicle, and opens with a simple latch. Vehicles are often now equipped with two separate glove boxes, one directly above the other. In many cases, the glove compartment is able to be locked, and then only opened with one of the master car keys. This is important if making use of valet parking, because the valet key will not be able to open the glove box.

It is also important for someone who is driving a convertible to lock the glove box before exiting the vehicle, because it would be easy for a thief to get in that way. In general, items stored in the glove compartment may include the vehicle's insurance and registration cards, an owner's manual, a flashlight, a small ice scraper, or anything else one may need while traveling in a car; some recommendations typically include plastic or canvas grocery bags, a pen and paper, and some extra napkins, among others.

Some glove boxes now have a cooling capability as well. Generally, the design simply features an extra vent from the car's air conditioning/heating system inside the glove box, so keep this in mind both on warm days and cool days. It may be a good idea to close the vent during the winter to prevent hot air from blowing inside the glove box. During the summer, however, this might be a good way to keep chocolate bars or other items from melting all over the vehicle before it is possible to get them home.

Replacement glove compartments may be ordered online, as well as marine glove boxes for boats. These often feature waterproof seals as well. In addition, one might choose to purchase a glove compartment organizer to be stored in the glove box, which is similar to a large wallet and features spaces for important travel documents, CDs, and the insurance and registration cards for the car. Remember to clean out the glove compartment regularly, and remove any outdated documents, and do not store valuables in there; it is often the first place a thief will look.

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Discussion Comments
By drtroubles — On Nov 09, 2011

Does anyone know how to easily fix your glove box if it has a crack in it?

My car has a cheap plastic glove box and there is now a crack running down the front of it, which is very unattractive. I am not that handy, but I figured that there has to be an easy fix. I don't want to have to replace the entire dashboard because of one crack.

Do you think that something like plastic filler would work? Right now I have a piece of duct tape covering the crack, but it is making my car look really ghetto.

By letshearit — On Nov 08, 2011

The plastic glove box in my car used to be a total disaster until I purchased a glove box organizer. My glove box now looks really neat and orderly.

The glove box organizer I have provides me with lots of compartments, including a wallet like section for my car insurance and ownership papers. What I like best about it is that it came with a small flashlight, a miniature road flare, and even a small hammer for breaking glass. All great things to have within reach during an emergency. Another nice thing about the glove box organizer is that if I want to take the things out of the glove box, they all come out in one neat envelope style container.

By Oceana — On Nov 08, 2011

@Perdido – It sounds like your glove box is packed as full as mine is. The only difference is that I'm only storing two things in there.

I use my glove box for storing my workout clothes. I like to walk in the park on my lunch break at work, but I don't want to do it in a dress or nice pants. So, I keep a t-shirt and shorts in the glove box.

When I get to the park, I change clothes in the bathroom and do my walking. When I'm done, I put my work clothes back on and stick the t-shirt and shorts back in the glove box. I take them out when I get home and put some fresh ones in there.

I like for my car to be neat, and I hate having clothes strewn across the seats. The glove box helps me keep things tidy.

By whiteplane — On Nov 07, 2011

I use my glove box to keep a set of tools that are commonly used to fix cars. My car is kind of an old heap but I love it and don't want to get rid of it until I absolutely have to.

It ends up breaking down a lot, but it is always minor stuff. A belt needs tightened, a screw needs to be replaced, a tube needs patched. I have found that I can do most of the repairs myself if I just have the right tools on hand. I wasn't doing anything else with my glove box so I figured I would fill it up with tools.

By shell4life — On Nov 07, 2011

Cops tend to get nervous when you reach for your glove box. I keep my insurance card in there, so I have to open it and reach inside when I am at a road block.

I have seen several cops put their hands on their gun in its holster when I reach over and start digging through the glove box. As of yet, none of them have pulled a gun on me, though.

Finally, I figured out that they must be thinking I have a gun in there. So, I have started telling them that I am about to open my glove box and get the insurance card before I actually stretch over there and start to unlatch it. This seems to ease their minds a bit.

By orangey03 — On Nov 06, 2011

I put things of value inside my glove box so that no one can see them lying on the seat. That way, they are not tempted to break in and take things.

My car is six years old, so it is not very attractive to thieves. I don't want to give them any reason to steal it.

My daughter frequently forgets to lock the car when she borrows it, though. I have heard of thieves who seek unlocked vehicles just so they can check out what's in the glove box. This makes me nervous, because that's where anything valuable would be.

I never got a special key for the glove box from the dealer when I bought it. Does anyone know if the key that goes in the ignition will unlock the glove box?

By Perdido — On Nov 06, 2011

I like to be prepared when traveling, so my glove box is packed as full as it can possibly be and still shut. I keep my owner's manual in there, and to save space and make it easy to find, I keep my insurance card and registration inside the black zip case that houses the manual.

I have a pair of gloves in there, because the steering wheel is difficult to grip when it is freezing. I have a map of my state and two nearby states. I also have a few CDs in there that would not fit in my CD case.

On more than one occasion, I have forgotten to pack a plastic fork in with my lunch. So, I have started storing a box of plastic forks in my glove box. It takes up a lot of space, but it has bailed me out many times. After having to eat mashed potatoes with my fingers once, I never wanted to be without a fork again.

By bear78 — On Nov 06, 2011

Of course, the most important factors to consider before buying a car is the power of the engine and how efficient it is with gas. But I also check out the various compartments inside because it makes a lot of difference with the quality of the drive in my opinion.

I need to have a car with cup holders and a glove compartment with light. The glove compartment needs to have light otherwise it's really hard to find stuff when it's dark. I had a car without that once and it was not fun trying to find a map while driving at night. I actually had to pull to the side and search properly. I also like leather covering on the compartment because it's more durable and less prone to wear and tear.

By SteamLouis — On Nov 05, 2011

I have a 1990 Volvo 240 and the glove box is broken. It was a bit flimsy when I bought it and completely fell off after a couple of months.

The problem is that it's hard to find parts for this model and I can't seem to get my hands on a new one. There are used ones available and I have checked out used glove boxes in several stores selling car parts but they're not exactly in best shape either.

I suppose I could go without one but it looks bad to have the glove box missing in the car and I do need a place to put my belongings. Hopefully I'll be able to find one that's in better shape soon.

By fify — On Nov 04, 2011

I had never thought about why a glove box was called that way. Who knew people used to keep their gloves in there and that's why it was called a 'glove box!'

That actually makes a lot of sense. My car is a manual shift and the shift stick is metal. The metal becomes really hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter so I really need gloves to drive then. I can see why people wanted to keep a pair of gloves on hand while driving back in the day.

I only keep my insurance papers and registration in my glove box though and maybe a small box of tissues. It's too small to keep anything else and there are various other spots in the car to keep things. So I use the glove box exclusively for important paperwork that I need to have at an arm's distance if something happens.

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