If a repair is urgent, use these safety guidelinesUnless your car needs repairs immediately, skip the shop — at least in the short term.
That's the advice of Pat Carroll, M.D., chief medical officer of the San Francisco–based telemedicine platform Hims and Hers.
"This pandemic is a significant and serious health concern,” he said. “As people are postponing their own routine health care, you should most definitely postpone routine car care."
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Of course, some vehicle maintenance can't wait. To determine if yours can, call your repair shop and ask, says James Garnand, owner of Hi-Tech Car Care in Phoenix and president of the Network of Neighborhood Auto Repair Professionals. “The service technician can also explain how you might be able to make a simple repair yourself,” he says. “We appreciate your interest and would like to help you."
How to keep the virus at bayBut you can protect yourself if you need service because of a coolant leak, faulty battery or other serious malfunction. Don't rely entirely on the quick-service centers, even those that work under your car from pits, suggests Brian Haggerty, owner of Cross Island Collision in Floral Park, New York. Ask before you go. “If you don't have to get out of your car, then that's great,” he says. “I think they do want to drive the cars in themselves. They don't let you do that due to liability."
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Many towing companies are taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Expect tow truck operators to wear gloves and masks; they'll expect you to do the same. But prepare for the worst before you get behind the wheel.
• Keep antiseptic wipes, gloves and a mask in your car.
• Assume you won't get a ride home from the tow truck driver.
• Ask the towing company to help you arrange for transportation home if you don't have it.
• Wash your hands and face as soon as you can afterward.
"Caution is the operative word,” says Patrick Carroll, M.D., chief medical officer of the San Francisco–based telemedicine platform Hims and Hers. “It's probably a time in our lives when it's good to be a little bit obsessive-compulsive and just assume that [the virus] is deposited in a lot of the hard surfaces."
Even if you find a shop that allows you to drive in and out, Haggerty recommends wearing gloves and a mask. And make sure the technician does the same. Roll the window down only slightly to pay, and disinfect your credit card before you put it away.
No matter what shop you frequent, Haggerty, Garnand and other experts suggest the following precautions.
Follow CDC guidelines and expect others to do so.
“Wear a mask and gloves, and choose a facility that will [mandate employees] do the same,” Haggerty says. “Call and ask if the facility is doing that. We only greet customers when we have gloves and masks on. And we do six feet of social distancing."
Don't touch unsanitized items.
Keys and paperwork are dropped onto counters and sanitized before Haggerty's customers touch them.
Make sure the repair shop sanitizes your car.
"Do not be afraid of asking, ‘How did you make sure my vehicle is safe?’ “ Garnand says. Even better, ask technicians to disinfect the car while you watch.
Wipe down your car, too. Don't rely on others, Haggerty recommends. Disinfect your vehicle even if the technician did so.
Clean hidden spots. Wipe down dashboards, gear shifts, seat belts and any other exposed surface, advises Ragina C. Ali, public and government affairs manager at Wilmington, Delaware–based AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Although cleaning is vital, take care not to use alcohol or bleach on leather or vinyl, she warns, as it could crack and discolor your seats and steering wheel. Check your owner's manual for products that thoroughly but safely clean car surfaces. The Environmental Protection Agency also has a list of criteria for effective cleaning products.
Stay alert at the pumpCustomers with vehicles in service bays aren't the only ones who could be exposed to the coronavirus; rather, those who perform routine actions, such as pumping their own gas, increase their risk of infection.
"Assume that all the surfaces have droplets,” Carroll says. “You should wear protective gloves. If you can, [use a disinfectant] to wipe down the pump surface and handle.” Also, take care not to let your hair or clothes come in contact with the gas pump, he says.
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"Those are portals of entry for the virus,” Carroll explains. “As soon as you get home, thoroughly wash your hands, your hair and anything that might have come in contact with the pump."
He also recommends washing your face and around your ears. Yet that's not enough. Most of us reach for our wallets and credit cards after pumping gas. Even if you wear rubber gloves when handling those items, they still could transmit the virus to you. So wipe down gloves with antiseptic and wash them or throw them away.
"You have to be fastidious about limiting your exposure to other individuals except when it's absolutely necessary,” Carroll stresses. “Those over 50 are at increased risk, and there's even more risk for those over age 65. You really should be minimizing your contact with people outside of your immediate household."
You’re driving to work when your favorite podcast suddenly stops playing. You know you shouldn’t look at your phone, but you hate sitting in silence during your commute. What do you do?
Do you glance around for cops, then tap around on your phone until the story starts up again? A lot of us do this — but it isn’t the safest choice.
Beyond breaking the bad habit of distracted driving, here are four more behind-the-wheel behaviors to leave behind.
1. Don’t rely too much on fancy technology. If we let ourselves become less engaged drivers because we’re expecting blind-spot notifications and attention assist to save us when we’re tired or preoccupied, we aren’t really any safer. Continue your same careful driving habits and let these innovations give you an extra boost.
2. Don’t assume other drivers are paying attention, well rested or sober. Learn to spot the signs of impairment: wandering out of their lane, swerving, erratic braking, inconsistent speed and getting too close to other cars or objects. Keep a safe distance from these potentially dangerous drivers.
3. Don’t let your insurance make you complacent. Even if your collision deductible is low, don’t let your guard down. Dealing with car repairs and the other driver after an accident — not to mention the injury risk — probably isn’t worth it.
4. Don’t neglect routine maintenance. Overheating, breaking down or blowing a tire can be terrifying and dangerous. Fortunately, these problems can often be prevented with regular maintenance. Check your tire pressure and fluids monthly and have a trusted mechanic inspect your car thoroughly once or twice a year.
Have questions about your auto coverage? Reach out today to discuss your policy.
This is how to know when to replace them.
There's nothing more important on a car than properly functioning brakes. It's a safety issue, and it's also about confidence: Feeling that your brakes aren't up to the task of stopping your car is plain unnerving. You don't need the stress.
But how long do brakes last? And when should you replace them? Luckily, there are a few easy ways to know when it's time to get your brakes checked or replaced.
Why Brake Pads Wear
Disc brakes slow and stop your car by using brake calipers (they're like large, adjustable clamps) to squeeze brake pads (they look a little like hockey pucks sawed in half) against the brake discs, also known as rotors (Frisbee-sized metal discs). When you push the brake pedal, it causes the calipers to clamp down on the brake pads, which squeeze the rotors, transferring the kinetic energy of your car into thermal energy—heat—via friction. The friction created is what cuts the speed and brings your car to a halt. As the pads rub against the rotors, they both wear down slowly; the black dust you see on the wheels of some cars is the residue from the pad material and steel rotor that has worn off. Brake pads are an integral part of your car's disc-braking system, and making sure they are in good condition is crucial to your safety.
How to Know If Your Brakes Are Worn Out
Disc brakes generally give a few clear indications that it's time for a brake job. The first is something you can hear: Once brake pads are worn to the point of needing replacement, a thin metal strip in the pads will make a screeching noise or squeal when you apply the brakes. The noise is generally audible when the windows are up, but it may be masked by loud music or other environmental noise. However, not all cars have this feature, which is called a mechanical brake-wear sensor or a brake scraper, so check to see if yours does.
If you hear a scraping or a deeper grinding noise, it could well be that the brake pads have worn down to their metal backing plates and that those plates are being squeezed directly against the steel brake discs. This is dangerous. It reduces your stopping power significantly; your brakes won't slow the vehicle adequately or possibly not at all if you let this go on for any length of time. This situation will also destroy your brake discs and possibly cause the brake system to fail entirely. Have any squealing or grinding noises checked immediately.
Conduct a Visual Check
A second way to know that it's time to replace brakes is to visually check them. Look through the wheel spokes. You just might be able to see the outboard brake pad, where it touches the brake disc. If you can see it, make sure there is at least a quarter inch of material on the brake pad. If there is less, you should have the brakes checked; most likely, they'll need to be replaced. If you can't see the pad by looking through the spokes, then jack up the car (here's how to do it correctly and safely), remove a front wheel, and check for pad wear. Bolt the wheel back on, jack up the rear of the car, remove a rear wheel, and check a rear brake as well. You'll probably need a trouble light or flashlight to see the pads clearly in the dark fender wells. (If you want to be thorough, check all four brakes.) The photo below shows what brake pads look like, with a new one on the left and one that's roughly half worn on the right
What is often a simple pad replacement can turn into a far costlier and more complicated brake job if you find the pads worn and then ignore the situation. As noted above, if the pads have completely worn down, you will soon hear a grinding sound that means the pads' backing plates are making contact with the brake rotors. If that happens, get ready to pay big bucks; you'll need to replace chewed-up brake discs.
Other Indicators of Brake Issues
There are other symptoms of brake trouble that don't involve wear to the brake pads. If your brakes don't stop as readily as they used to, and if the pedal feels mushy, rather than firm, or slowly sinks toward the floor, there's likely another problem. This could be water or air in the brake fluid, a fluid leak in the system, or a failing brake master cylinder. If you have any of these systems or see a puddle of liquid left behind by your car when parked, see a trusty repair shop or dealer.
If your car pulls to one side during braking, the brakes may be wearing unevenly, there might be a leak in one of the brake lines, or you might have an issue with your steering or front suspension that's unrelated to brakes. If you feel a vibration or pulsation in the brake pedal during normal braking, this means your rotors are warped and require truing to smooth them out—or possibly replacement. If you've been driving aggressively or using the brakes hard while descending a mountain road, this brake roughness might abate when the brakes cool. If the vibration or pulsing continues, that is another sign they need to be inspected.
Some Brakes Wear Faster
Certain environments and driving situations cause brakes to wear at a faster rate. If you live in a mountainous area or a hilly city such San Francisco, your brakes may wear quicker than if you lived in the flat lands of the Midwest. In the more wear-prone locations, you'll want to check your brakes more frequently.
There's no more important a component on your car than your brakes, and now you know what to look and listen for to ensure they keep working properly. By being proactive in maintaining them, you'll save you money in the long run, and you'll stay safe.
Accidents happen on the road. A deer could dart across your path, a tree branch could come crashing down or you could make a simple mistake as you hurry to get to work.
Does your policy kick in after these kinds of events?
Let’s look at five things that could easily happen to any driver and see if they’d be covered.
Your Friend Wrecks Your Car
Your friend’s car is in the shop, so you lend them yours for the day. What happens if they end up involved in a fender bender?
Your insurance typically follows your vehicle. If you have collision insurance, the damage may be covered. If your friend caused the accident, your liability insurance could help cover the losses others suffer, too.
A Tree Falls on Your Truck
A storm rages through the night and you wake up to find a big tree lying across the hood of your truck. Not to worry — comprehensive auto insurance most likely covers damage from storms.
A Pothole Takes Out Your Muffler
What looks like a shallow puddle ends up being a massive pothole, resulting in a jolt, a thud and some serious damage. Though your deductible may be too high to cover minor issues, in a situation where significant repairs are needed, you may choose to file a claim.
Your Car Is Vandalized
Someone keyed your car and damaged your paint job pretty badly. Your comprehensive insurance should cover you, so you might want to file a claim if the damage exceeds the amount of your deductible.
Oops! You Backed Into Something
In a rush to get to work, you forget to open the garage door and backed right into it. (Hey, it happens.) With collision insurance, you can file a claim for the damage.
Need to adjust your coverage? Have questions about your deductible? Reach out today to discuss your policy.
Do you wish you had more control over certain things, including your auto insurance premium?
It’s true that many factors can’t be changed, like your age or how many years of driving experience you have. But with a little effort, you might be able to influence other factors (and potentially lower your premium).
Here are four steps you can take that might help you save a little money on your policy.
1. Follow the Rules of the Road
Even a minor traffic violation can increase your premium. It’s crucial to buckle up, slow down, keep your eyes off your phone, and when possible, avoid the path of dangerous and distracted drivers. Parking in safe areas is helpful, too.
2. Make Smart Financial Choices
It may surprise you, but your credit score can often have an impact on your premium. A higher score may predict less future risk, so try to stay out of debt and avoid making late payments.
3. Don’t Claim the Small Stuff
A long history of insurance claims or gaps in coverage are red flags that typically cost you. Consider taking care of small claims on your own (especially when the repair costs are lower than your deductible) and maintain continuous coverage.
4. Check In Annually
It pays to review your coverage every year or after a significant life event. We can look at possible bundling options and discounts for factors like safe driving.
Need to check in? Have questions about how to reduce your costs? Reach out anytime