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Yesterday — December 9th 2019Allstate Auto Blog

Prepare Your Tires for Winter Weather

By The Allstate Blog Team

If you live in an area where winter means driving on icy, snow-covered roads, you likely understand how challenging those road conditions can be on your car — not to mention how stressful it can be for the driver. There are a few things you can do, though, to help ensure your tires have as much traction as possible. Consider these tips to help prepare your tires for winter weather:

Check Your Tire Tread

Your tires’ tread is what gives them their ability to grip the road. So, one of the first ways to tell if your tires are ready for winter roads is to examine the tread on each tire, including the spare. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends checking your tires at least once a month. If a tire has uneven or excessive wear, it should be replaced.

NHTSA says tire tread depth should be a minimum of 2/32 of an inch. To check this, hold a penny between your thumb and forefinger so that Lincoln’s head is showing. Place the top of Lincoln’s head into one of the grooves of the tire’s tread. If any part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, you have a safe amount of tread, according to NHTSA. If you can see above Lincoln’s head, then you need a new tire.

Make Sure Your Tires Are Properly Inflated

Tires that are not inflated to the correct pressure may negatively affect your car’s handling, according to Cars.com. And, as the temperatures outside drop, the NHTSA says your tires will lose pressure. This is why it’s important to check your tire pressure throughout the winter.

The recommended tire pressure for a vehicle is typically listed on a sticker inside the driver’s door, or it can be found in the owner’s manual, says Cars.com. Use a tire pressure gauge, which you can get at most gas stations or auto parts stores, to check that each tire is at the correct pressure. (Edmunds recommends checking the tires before driving, as the friction created when driving affects the pressure.) If necessary, use an air compressor to inflate the tires. If any of the tires are overinflated, use the small bead on the back of the tire pressure gauge to release some air.

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Consider Buying Winter Tires

You might think winter tires are only for areas where the winter weather conditions are very harsh, with lots of ice and snow. But, winter tires, which used to be called snow tires, are designed to work in lower temperatures regardless of road conditions, according to Road and Track Magazine. In fact, colder temperatures may cause standard tires to become too hard and lose their normal traction, even when the roads are dry.

There are several types of tires you may want to consider for winter driving:

  • All-Weather: A type of all-season tire that is designed to handle winter conditions, according to Consumer Reports.
  • Winter: These tires have both large treads and narrow grooves, called sipes, which allows them to better grip snowy roads, says Road and Track.
  • Studded: Winter tires with small metal points fitted into the tread. These studs grip and pierce snow and ice, says TrueCar, but they don’t ride smoothly on pavement and are not allowed in some states.

Your local mechanic or car dealership can help you decide which tires make sense for your area’s weather, and they can also recommend appropriate tires for your vehicle.

While preparing your car for the winter takes a little extra work, it can be worth it in the long run. Your car’s tires can help keep you safe on the road during winter, so remember these tips when preparing for the new season.

Originally posted on January 10, 2012.

The post Prepare Your Tires for Winter Weather appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Before yesterdayAllstate Auto Blog

Quick Fix: Defrost Your Windshield

By The Allstate Blog Team

During those cold winter months, you may often find your windshield covered in frost. Maybe you let the car run with the defrost on, or you get out an ice scraper to clear your windshield. But, Meteorologist Ken Weathers has a tip that may help you clear up the frost quickly and with less effort.

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Step 1: Mix the Solution

Put on rubber gloves, then mix two parts rubbing alcohol with one part water. (Do not use hot water, Weathers says, because it may crack your windshield. Room temperature or cold water is fine. Isopropyl alcohol can be used instead of rubbing alcohol, too.)

Step 2: Get a Spray Bottle

Pour the mixture into an empty spray bottle.

Step 3: Spray the Mixture

Spray the mixture onto your windshield, and watch the frost clear up.

You can even leave the spray bottle with the mixture in your car, because rubbing alcohol has a freezing point of 128 degrees below zero (in Fahrenheit), says Weathers.

As the temperatures drop, be ready for frosty days by having this simple defrosting spray at hand. By spending a few minutes to make this mixture, this quick fix can help you get on the road a little quicker.

Originally published on January 4, 2017.

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The post Quick Fix: Defrost Your Windshield appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Help Prevent Car Doors From Freezing With Cooking Spray

By The Allstate Blog Team

When dealing with the frigid temperatures of winter, there’s not much worse than coming out to your car to find the doors frozen shut. According to Lifehacker, car doors can freeze because water from rain or snow gets into the rubber seal, or gasket, around the door and then freezes when the temperatures drop. Fortunately, there is a simple trick that may help prevent this from happening, using nothing but ordinary household cooking spray.

Apply the spray to the door’s rubber seal weekly during the coldest winter months, or as needed before expected icy, frigid storms, says Brian L. Gochenour, laser operations manager and sales engineer at Broadway Metal Works.

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Step 1: Grab some cooking spray.

Any ordinary cooking spray should work.

Step 2: Spray your car door’s rubber seal.

Open your car door, and look for the rubber gasket all around its edge. Spray the rubber on the top, side and bottom of the door with the cooking spray.

Step 3: Wipe off any excess with a paper towel.

Take a dry paper towel and gently rub the rubber seal to get rid of drips and excess spray.

Step 4: Repeat process on each of your vehicle’s doors.

Apply the cooking spray to each door on your car. This should help prevent the doors from freezing shut, and you’ll be able to get into your vehicle with ease in the cold weather.

Originally published on November 15, 2016.

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The post Help Prevent Car Doors From Freezing With Cooking Spray appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Tips for Driving and Parking on Black Friday

By The Allstate Blog Team

While Black Friday shopping may bring exciting deals and the fun of finding a bargain, the traffic and parking can be a challenge. Parking spaces are limited, people always seem to be in a rush to get to the next stop and the roads are congested. But with a little planning, you may be able to avoid the added stress driving and parking can create. As you head out to tackle your holiday shopping this year, remember these Black Friday traffic and parking tips.

Plan Your Route Before You Go

Checking out the sales ads and figuring out where you need to go before leaving your house can help keep your day moving smoothly. Popular Science suggests creating a driving route based on what stores you plan to visit. Prioritize your route by the items you want the most, which stores have great deals or which retailer opens the earliest, says The Balance. By not bouncing from one side of town to the other all day, you may be able to maximize your shopping time and get done earlier so you only have to deal with a few hours of traffic on Black Friday.

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Take Advantage of Navigation Apps

With so many bargain hunters looking to get to their next stop, you may want to consider downloading a traffic app before the big day. Techlicious notes that there are a number of navigation apps available that can help you plan the quickest route, avoid traffic jams and provide turn-by-turn directions.

It can be helpful to enter your route into your GPS device or cellphone ahead of time, so you’re ready to navigate the busy roads. And, if your app provides traffic information, it may help you find a better route if the crowds are backing up traffic.

Avoid Distractions

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), both drivers and pedestrians are likely to be distracted and rushed during the holiday season — stating that the number of accidents spikes each year on Black Friday. On a day when traffic is heavy and you may feel rushed and flustered, the last thing you need is an accident. To limit distractions, put cellphones away and leave the music off.

The NSC recommends that drivers avoid cutting across lanes on roads and in parking lots. Use extra caution when backing out of parking spots, and watch for pedestrians, especially children and parents pushing strollers. Remember to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you and use extra caution throughout the day.

Park With Care

Between drivers looking for open spots, jam-packed lots and narrow aisles, Black Friday parking can be an accident waiting to happen. But by remembering these simple tips from International Parking and Mobility Institute, you can take some extra precautions that may help prevent major problems:

  • Back out slowly and carefully: Use your mirrors and back-up camera (if you have one), but do not rely on them completely. Always turn and look around all sides of your vehicle while slowly inching out of your spot.
  • Be especially aware of pedestrians: When driving down a parking lot aisle, go slowly so you have time to react if a pedestrian steps in front of your vehicle. Look to see if anyone is getting in or out of a nearby car before pulling into or backing out of a parking spot. Be especially watchful for small children, who can be difficult to see from inside your car.
  • Park at a distance: If you park farther away from the store or mall doors, there are often fewer cars vying for spots. Plus, it might give you a quicker and easier exit when you leave.
  • Be a considerate driver: When parking, make sure you are centered in the lines and that you’ve left enough space for other drivers to open their doors. Also, do not block other spaces while waiting for a spot.

With so many people out on the road the day after Thanksgiving, you may run into some unexpected hassles — no matter how well you plan. While you can’t predict what Black Friday traffic will be like, if you remember these tips and take the necessary precautions, things may go a little more smoothly.

Originally published on November 24, 2014.

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The post Tips for Driving and Parking on Black Friday appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

How to Steer Clear of Animals on The Road

By The Allstate Blog Team

It’s a scary feeling — that moment you’re driving along and an animal darts into the road. You’re left with a split second to react and hopefully avoid an accident. With a little knowledge, you may be able to keep the animal, yourself and your car safe. These tips can help you learn how to steer clear of animals on the road.

1. Know the Environment

Being aware of the environment you’re driving through can help you know what kind of animals you may encounter. In urban and suburban areas you’re more likely to encounter smaller animals, such as squirrels, rabbits, opossums or raccoons, says the Washington State Department of Transportation. In wooded or rural areas, however, you’ll also need to keep an eye out for deer, horses or cows that stray onto the road. In some areas you may need to look for larger animals, like moose, bears and elk.

Animals tend to be most active at dawn, dusk and for a few hours after sunset, so the Humane Society of the United States (Humane Society) recommends watching for wildlife during these times. Also, use extra caution when driving on roads that run through wooded areas and between fields.

2. Be Alert

It’s important to stay alert — keeping your focus not just on the road ahead but on the sides of the road, too, says the Humane Society. There may be animals nearby that are about to cross the road. Also, keep in mind that if you see one animal, there are likely more nearby, says the Humane Society.

Always follow the posted speed limit, and consider reducing your speed at night, notes the the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT). Slow down and pay extra attention in areas where warning signs, such as deer or moose crossing signs, are posted. These signs indicate an area where there’s a large population of animals and collisions are more frequent, according to MaineDOT.

3. Improve Visibility

To help you see better, the Humane Society suggests using your high beams whenever it is possible and appropriate to do so. Also consider dimming your dashboard lights a bit, as this may make it easier for you to see your headlights reflecting off of a nearby animal’s eyes — hopefully giving you a little more time to slow down or stop.

MaineDOT also recommends that you drive slow enough that you could stop within the distance your headlights are shining. This may reduce the chance of you not being able to stop in time for an animal (or any other object) that is just beyond the area your headlights are illuminating.

4. Don’t Swerve

If you encounter an animal on the road, do not swerve to try to miss it. Consumer Reports says that turning quickly and sharply increases your risk of losing control of your vehicle or hitting another car. Swerving may also confuse the animal and cause it to move unpredictably. It is better to hit the brakes — slowing down as quickly and safely as possible, says Consumer Reports. Keep in mind that an accident with another vehicle is likely more dangerous than colliding with wildlife.

The bottom line is that you need to stay alert for wildlife while driving. Just like many other potential hazards, an animal in the road can be unexpected and unpredictable. With a little knowledge of your surroundings and some defensive driving skills, however, you may be able to avoid an unfortunate animal encounter.

Originally published on September 22, 2015.

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The post How to Steer Clear of Animals on The Road appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

The 7 Spookiest Cities in the U.S.

By The Allstate Blog Team

Things that go bump in the night. Faint cries coming from empty rooms. Shadowy figures that fade from view. It’s all deliciously creepy fun.

If you’re a ghost hunter or you just love feeling a chill run up and down your spine, hop on the road to visit these seven destinations that are well known for their spooky history.

  • spookiest cities - mackinac island.

    1. Mackinac Island, Michigan

    Why it’s spooky: Being on the island is like traveling back in time — cars have been banned and people get around with bicycles, on foot or by horse and carriage, according to Mackinac.com. With a rich history that includes Native American legends and military lore from Fort Mackinac, the island has its fair share of ghost tales.
    Most famous ghost: The ghost of a young man named Harvey famously haunts guests at Mission Point Resort, the Mackinac Island Town Crier reports. Harvey died on the bluff behind the hotel. Today he’s said to turn on lights when guests are sleeping, steal or rearrange their personal items and appear on the bluff on starry nights.
  • spookiest cities - salem.

    2. Salem, Massachusetts

    Why it’s spooky: It should be no surprise that the location of the Witch Trials draws flocks of tourists every year to this Eastern port city. In the ancient cemetery in the center of town, the gravestones of people involved in the 1692 trials still stand next to a new monument bearing the names of the people who were executed during that difficult time, according to Smithsonian.com.
    Most famous ghost: Bridget Bishop, a wealthy owner of a local tavern, was the first woman killed for witchcraft during the Witch Trials. She is seen regularly at the Lyceum Bar and Grill, which was built on the site where Bridget owned an apple orchard, according to the Travel Channel.
  • spookiest cities - charleston.

    3. Charleston, South Carolina

    Why it’s spooky: This Southern city boasts 300 years of reported hauntings, according to the Travel Channel. It’s a very well-known destination for those who love all things eerie, so much so that there’s even a series of bestselling ghostly novels, the Tradd Street mysteries, by Karen White, set in the city’s antebellum mansions.
    Most famous ghost: Reported ghost sightings are plentiful in Charleston’s White Point Garden, where 50 pirates were hanged in the 1700s. Their spirits are said to haunt this popular tourist attraction to this day. Visitors report unexplained cold spots on hot days, and have seen shadowy figures floating between the trees.
  • spookiest cities - new orleans.

    4. New Orleans, Louisiana

    Why it’s spooky: New Orleans’ association with voodoo, ghost stories and vampire novels makes it an eerie place on the brightest of days, not to mention on foggy nights.
    Most famous ghost: The ghost of notorious pirate Jean Lafitte is said to make regular visits to his old haunt, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar on Bourbon Street, where he is rumored to have hidden a treasure before his death, Travel+Leisure reports. Patrons and employees alike have reported seeing his red eyes glowing behind the fireplace downstairs, staring at them before disappearing.
  • spookiest cities - savannah.

    5. Savannah, Georgia

    Why it’s spooky: For all of its Southern charm, Savannah is said to be one of the most haunted cities in the country, with many of the historic mansions, pubs and inns having their own resident ghosts, the Travel Channel reports.
    Most famous ghost: The City Hotel on Bay Street (now the Moon River Brewing Co.) had an unexpectedly rough history, according to the Travel Channel. Legends include a bar fight that ended in murder and, amid the tensions of the Civil War, a mob of customers brutally beating a visiting New Yorker. It’s reported that apparitions appear on upper floors and bottles are thrown by invisible forces. But if you feel a push in the billiard room while no one’s around, it might be Toby, the ghost of a young boy.
  • spookiest cities - st. charles.

    6. St. Charles, Missouri

    Why it’s spooky: St. Charles, where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark started their famous expedition to explore the area west of the Mississippi River, is home to historic shops and restaurants in buildings that date back more than two centuries — and nearly all of them have a story about ghostly hauntings, Minnesota’s StarTribune reports.
    Most famous ghost: According to local legend, the spirit of a little girl floats in and out of many shops and restaurants on South Main Street, and an elegantly dressed couple regularly waits for a table at a restaurant, only to disappear when the host or hostess arrives to seat them, the StarTribune reports. There’s even a story that tells of a ghostly dog that ambles down Main Street. But the most famous ghost is the Lady in White, who is said to stand in front of the church in the old cemetery at the center of town, smiles at people who notice her and then fades away.
    Image courtesy of Explore St. Louis.
  • spookiest cities - charlotte.

    7. Charlotte, North Carolina

    Why it’s spooky: Spirits are said to float in and around many of the Civil War-era homes and restaurants in the historic district of this city that is otherwise dripping with Southern charm, the Travel Channel reports.
    Most famous ghost: The Cajun Queen, an old mansion that was converted into a restaurant, is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a woman who once lived there, according to the Travel Channel. Because the bar is located in what was her bedroom, she supposedly haunts those who are bold enough to stop for a drink.

Originally published September 26, 2016.

 

The post The 7 Spookiest Cities in the U.S. appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Buying a Classic Car: A Beginner’s Guide

By The Allstate Blog Team

Buying a classic car has a certain appeal for some — whether it’s for nostalgic value or the joy of participating in a tight-knit collector community. Even if you’re new to the classic-car world, you’re likely aware that older cars can come with wear and tear or mechanical issues. With some due diligence and preparation, finding the right classic car can be a little easier. If you’re in the market for a classic car, consider these tips before making the purchase:

What to Consider Before Buying a Classic Car

Owning a classic car is different from owning a newer vehicle in some key ways. Here are three important factors you may want to consider before buying a classic car:

Budget

First and foremost, you should formulate a budget so you know what you can afford. You should not only budget for the purchase price of the vehicle, but also the cost of maintenance, insurance and potential upgrades.

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Maintenance and Body Shop Accessibility

AutoTrader notes that classic cars are older, so maintenance can be more costly. This is because quality parts for a classic car can be scarce, and it may be difficult to find a repair shop that works on classic vehicles. You may want to do some research to see if you can find repair shops that specialize in classic vehicle maintenance in your area. As you shop for a classic car, you may also want to consider any maintenance and repairs that may need to be completed on the vehicle, says CARFAX. You may be able to get some maintenance and parts estimates from specialty body shops so you know what to expect.

Market Trends

Finally, be sure to research market trends, as the cost of a classic car can fluctuate over time. The value of a classic car is usually dependent on the make and model of the vehicle, and how many of them were produced, says U.S. News and World Report. Whether the car is in its original condition or has been restored can also be a determining factor when it comes to price. If you’re looking to purchase a classic car as an investment, remember to do your research and keep these considerations in mind. Online discussion forums for your desired vehicle make, resources such as Hemmings or the National Automobile Dealers Association, and specialty car shops can all be helpful sources of insight and data, says AutoTrader.

Inspection Tips for Classic Cars

A classic car purchase often warrants a closer inspection and a longer test drive than newer models, so you can accurately see how it’s running, says CARFAX. As you shop for your classic car, be prepared to spend some time inspecting each vehicle you look at. In fact, you might even want to consider having a professional inspect the vehicle for body or engine issues and damage. If a seller is ever apprehensive about letting you have someone inspect the vehicle, you may want to think twice about the purchase.

CARFAX says these are some other items you may want to consider before signing on the dotted line:

  • Ask about the car’s history and if the current owner has any maintenance records.
  • Request the VIN number so you can run a search of the vehicle’s history (such as those offered by CARFAX or Experian).
  • Inquire about accident and repair history (a vehicle history report can help).

Carefully consider the car’s condition, history, mileage, maintenance costs and related factors when negotiating a final purchase price. For example, Men’s Journal says the lower the mileage, the higher the value will be, but issues like rust should be taken into consideration.

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How to Insure a Classic Car

Traditional car insurance may not always be an available option, or the right option, for a classic car. Consider whether classic car insurance is an option for your collector vehicle. This type of specialty insurance can usually provide a greater reimbursement value for a classic car if your’e in an accident. However, it’s important to keep in mind that some classic car insurance policies may require you to limit the amount of miles you drive each year. When you find a classic car that you’re interested in purchasing, it’d be a good idea to consult with your insurance agent to talk about your options.

Buying and owning a classic car can be a fun experience, but requires some extra research and responsibility. Taking an informed approach to the purchase and maintenance of a classic vehicle may help you make a rewarding investment that you can enjoy for years to come.

The post Buying a Classic Car: A Beginner’s Guide appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

What You Need to Know Before Driving to Mexico

By The Allstate Blog Team

Whether you’re considering driving to Mexico for fun or business, preparing for a drive across the border might entail a few more steps than you may expect. To help ensure you’ve covered all the bases, here are some tips to help you get ready to travel to Mexico by car:

What Documents Are Required to Drive to Mexico?

According to the Department of State, you’ll need to obtain the following documents as you prepare for your drive to Mexico:

  • A U.S. Passport (or Green Card)
  • A U.S. Driver’s License (or International Driving Permit)
  • Proof of car registration
  • A Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TVIP)
  • A Mexico Tourist Card/Entry Permit (FMM)
  • A Mexico tourist auto insurance policy

To help ensure you have all the documentation needed for your specific trip, you may want to contact the State Department to see if there are any additional items you’ll need.

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Preparing for Your Drive to Mexico

To help make sure your drive to Mexico is as efficient as possible, consider approaching your travel planning in steps. Getting ready for your trip may be more manageable if you follow these four steps:

Step 1: Begin Gathering Documentation and Determine Your Driving Route

Plan ahead for your trip by gathering existing documents that are necessary to cross the border — for example, many travelers likely already have a driver’s license, passport and car registration. Then, consider your driving route and how long you intend to stay in Mexico. You should also determine how far into Mexico you intend to drive. This information is necessary to obtain your TVIP and FMM cards, according to the Department of State.

Step 2: Purchase Mexico Tourist Auto Insurance

Whether you’re driving your own vehicle or renting a car, you’ll need to purchase a Mexico tourist auto insurance policy for your trip. If you plan on driving your own vehicle, contact your insurance agent about purchasing a Mexico tourist auto insurance policy. If you’re renting a vehicle, the Department of State says you can purchase the insurance directly through most car rental agencies.

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Step 3: Apply for TVIP or FMM Cards

If you’ll be traveling more than 12 miles into Mexico, you’ll need to obtain TVIP and FMM cards, according to the Department of State. The application process to obtain these documents will likely require some of the documents you’ve already gathered, such as your driver’s license or passport.

  • TVIP cards: You can typically apply for a TVIP card online no earlier than 60 days but no less than seven days before your trip, according to ConsulMex. You may also be able to apply for a TVIP card up to six months in advance of your trip at certain Mexico Consulates in the United States. TVIP cards can also be obtained directly at the border crossing before entering Mexico, says the Department of State.
  • FMM cards: You can usually obtain an FMM card online in advance of your trip. Otherwise, you can get one directly at the border crossing, says the Department of State — adding that travelers may be asked to present this card at road checkpoints while within Mexico.

While both cards can be obtained at the border crossing, it may be a good idea to apply for these cards before your trip. That way, you can ensure there won’t be any issues with obtaining the cards after you’ve already hit the road.

Step 4: Prepare for Your Road Trip

Before departing on your trip, it’s a good idea to spend some time familiarizing yourself with driving laws in Mexico, road signage and any current travel advisories, says the Department of State. You should also keep some safety measures in mind as you prepare for your trip. Having an emergency car kit and a written list of emergency contacts on hand may be helpful if you get into a bind. If you’re driving your own vehicle, complete a vehicle inspection and any needed routine maintenance to help ensure your car is road trip ready.

Any trip abroad is an opportunity for adventure and learning. By taking a little time to prepare for your drive to Mexico, you can help minimize potential stress during your visit and enjoy your trip.

The post What You Need to Know Before Driving to Mexico appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Tips for Transporting Your Car During a Move

By The Allstate Blog Team

You’re making a long-distance move, and all of your household belongings are loaded up in the moving truck. But, how exactly are you going to transport your car to your new home at the same time? Towing your vehicle to a new state can be a great option. Whether you’re towing the car yourself or hiring a company to help, keep these helpful tips in mind as you transport your car during your move.

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Towing Your Own Vehicle

You may decide that you’d like to tow your own vehicle during a cross-country move. If so, there are two types of trailers commonly used to transport a vehicle: a tow dolly or car carrier. A tow dolly lifts your car’s front wheels off the road and pulls the vehicle by its rear wheels, says Angie’s List. A car carrier lifts your vehicle completely off the ground and has its own wheels.

While towing your own car may be a cost-friendly option, remember that it may not be the best option depending on the weight and size of your car, says Moving.com. For example, if your car has a low front end, you may have some trouble getting it up the loading ramp. Tow dollies and carriers may also limit the mobility of your moving truck, especially when it comes to backing up, adds Moving.com.

When hooking up a tow dolly or car carrier to your moving truck, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to help you ensure it’s safely installed.

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Hiring a Vehicle Transport Company

If you choose to hire a transport company to move your vehicle, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, know your options. Most vehicle transport companies offer open or enclosed car carriers, says Move.org. An open carrier is exposed to the outdoor elements, and your car is usually one of many being transported at the same time. Enclosed transporters protect your car from the elements but can cost up to 80 percent more than an open car carrier, according to Move.org. Typically, enclosed carriers are ideal if you’re transporting a high-end or classic car.

As you research car carrier services, be sure to check their reviews and pricing. According to Edmunds, some factors that might affect how much you pay include:

  • Your current location
  • How far you are moving
  • Size and weight of your vehicle
  • Time of year

You should also ask each transport company if they’re insured — and call your insurance agent to see if your auto insurance covers your car while it’s being transported by a third party. And remember, auto transport brokers (someone who arranges the transportation service for you) and car carrier companies are required to be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, says the Department of Transportation.

When you’ve hired a vehicle transport company and are ready for the move, Angie’s List recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Inspect your car before it’s loaded onto the carrier and document any imperfections (such as dents or scratches). It may be a good idea to take photos as well.
  • Remove all personal belongings from the vehicle.
  • Confirm if the carrier needs your car’s alarm deactivated or a certain amount of gas in the tank.

Whether you decide to tow your vehicle or hire a company to ship your car, doing some research can help you be better prepared when moving day arrives. Choose the option that you’re confident in so you can get on the road to enjoy your new adventure.

Originally published on April 4, 2013.

The post Tips for Transporting Your Car During a Move appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Back to School: School Bus Safety Tips

By The Allstate Blog Team

During the school year, mornings include kids waiting at bus stops and school buses on the roads — sometimes stopping every few blocks. It’s important to teach young students about staying safe around and on the bus, but it’s just as important for drivers to use caution near children and school buses. Whether you’re walking your kids to the bus stop or driving to work, keep these school bus safety tips in mind.

School Bus Safety for Students

While it can be hectic getting everyone up and ready in the morning, the American School Bus Council says children who are rushing to the bus may be at higher risk for an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that students get to the bus stop at least 5 minutes ahead of their scheduled pick-up time. If you have younger children, Safe Kids Worldwide recommends that an adult walks them to the bus stop and waits with them.

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Once you’ve arrived at the bus stop, the NHTSA recommends the following school bus safety tips:

  • At the bus stop:
    • Wait at least 6 feet away from the curb. (Tell young children to stay at least three giant steps away from the edge of the street.)
    • Teach kids that they should not run around and play while waiting.
  • Getting on and off the bus:
    • Wait for the bus to stop completely and for the door to open. Do not approach the bus to get on, or stand up to get off, until the driver says it’s OK.
    • Use handrails when getting on or off the bus.
    • Always face forward when seated.
    • Use seat belts if they are available, says the National Safety Council.
  • Near the bus:
    • Never cross the street behind a school bus.
    • When crossing in front of the bus, make sure you are at least 10 feet in front of the bus so the driver can see you.
    • If anyone drops something near the bus, tell the driver. Do not lean down to pick it up, as the bus driver may not be able to see you.

Safety Tips for Drivers

If you commute to work, give yourself a few extra minutes to drive to the office to safely accommodate your neighborhood school buses. The NHTSA provides these safety tips for driving through a neighborhood where school buses and kids are present:

  • As you pull out of your garage or driveway, watch out for children who may be on their way to a bus stop or school.
  • Look out for children walking in or near the street and for kids gathering near bus stops. Stay alert, as kids may run into the street to catch a school bus if they’re running late.
  • If you see flashing yellow lights on a bus, slow down as this means the bus is about to stop.
  • If you see flashing red lights and a stop sign extended, come to a complete stop. This indicates that children are getting on or off the school bus. Do not drive again until the lights have stopped flashing and the bus is moving again.
  • Know and obey your state’s specific school bus laws.
  • Slow down and use extra caution when driving through school zones, says Safe Kids Worldwide.

It’s important to help get kids safely to and from school each day. Make sure your children know basic school bus safety — both on and around the bus. And if you’re driving, remember to slow down near kids and stop when a bus is letting kids on or off at each stop.

Originally published on August 21, 2013.

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Brighten the Night with Proper Headlight Maintenance

By The Allstate Blog Team

You may think your car’s headlights are in good shape as long as they power on when you need them. But, have you ever thought about headlight maintenance and how it can help improve their performance? From learning how to inspect your headlights to how to adjust them, these tips can help you ensure they’re properly lighting the road while you’re driving at night.

Clean the Headlights

Are the lenses (the plastic covering) on your car’s headlights crystal clear, or do you see some fogginess and yellowing? Popular Mechanics says most manufacturers apply a UV protective film to the exterior of the lens to help protect the headlights. Over time, UV rays can damage this film and cause the lenses to appear foggy or yellow — this can contribute to impaired visibility while driving at night.

If your headlights are no longer clear, a headlight restoration kit may help clean them. The steps typically involve sanding and waxing, so be sure to follow the kit instructions to help ensure you clean the headlights properly. If you don’t see a big improvement, you may need to use another restoration kit or buy replacement headlights, says Popular Mechanics.

Replace Headlight Bulbs

If your headlight lenses are clear but still seem to let off dim lighting, it may be time to replace the bulbs. Headlight bulbs naturally dim over time and need to be replace every few years, according to Consumer Reports. When choosing a bulb, The Family Handyman recommends selecting a long-life bulb if you do more night driving. These bulbs last about three times longer than standard bulbs.

Check and Adjust Light Bulbs

Check your headlight bulbs to see if they are centered correctly and pointing towards the road. Over time, bulbs can become misaligned and end up pointing too high, too low or off to one side. Some cars have built-in bubble levelers to help you align the headlights, notes Popular Mechanics. These are typically located on the sides and top of the headlight unit. If you can see that the bubbles are not centered in the levelers, you’ll know the headlights need adjusting.

To check the aim of your bulbs manually, Popular Mechanics recommends following these steps:

  1. Make sure your car is level. If necessary, remove any items from your vehicle (or trunk) that may be offsetting the balance.
  2. Pull the vehicle as close as possible to a plain-colored wall and turn on the headlights.
  3. Mark the center of where each light beam hits the wall with pieces of tape. Place one piece of tape horizontally and one vertically. The vertical piece of tape should be about 2 feet long.
  4. Back up your vehicle about 25 feet and keep the headlights on. If the bulbs are set properly, the most intense portion of the light beam should be at the center of (or right below) the horizontal piece of tape and to the right of the vertical piece of tape.

If you find that you need to adjust the headlights, locate the adjusters and move them as needed — these are typically a bolt or screw on the sides or back of a headlight, says Popular Mechanics. You can also check your owner’s manual for details on adjusting your vehicle’s headlights.

If you have any concerns as you inspect or clean your headlights, consult with a mechanic or auto repair shop for advice. And remember, your headlights aren’t the only lighting components on your car that may need inspecting from time to time. Be sure to check your tail lights, brake lights and turn signal bulbs regularly and replace them as needed.

Originally published on April 18, 2012.

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5 Simple Tailgating Safety Tips

By The Allstate Blog Team

Football season and tailgating go hand in hand. While spending the weekend grilling outside before cheering on your favorite team is tradition, it’s still a good idea to review these tailgating safety tips ahead of the next game.

1. Store and Cook Food Properly

Whether you’re grilling hot dogs or serving steak, cook and store foods properly to help avoid food poisoning, cross-contamination or spoilage. Before you get to the game, store raw meat separately from ready-to-eat foods, like fruits and veggies, says FoodSafety.gov. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the foods you’re grilling are cooked to the proper temperature. Store and serve perishable foods, like guacamole or potato salad, in a cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs, says FoodSafety.gov. Remember to wash hands after handling uncooked meat, and wipe down tables before serving your family and friends.

2. Use Your Grill Safely

Food hot off the grill is a good way to get the crowd cheering, but you need to exercise caution when grilling. First, be sure grills are allowed at the stadium or field, and understand the rules for grilling when it is allowed. For example, the University of Southern California prohibits grilling under tents, and grills must be at least 15 feet away from any structures.

A hot grill can be a fire hazard, so be prepared with a fire extinguisher. It’s also a good idea to have a first aid kit on hand. Keep the extinguisher nearby while grilling, and make sure children and pets are a safe distance from the grill at all times. And, never leave a grill unattended.

Whether you’re using a gas grill or prefer the flavor you get with a charcoal grill, follow these tips for using your grill safely.

Gas Grills

Before using a gas grill, check the hose for leaks by applying water with a little soap mixed in, says the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). You’ll see bubbles if the propane is leaking, and you should have the grill repaired by a professional. Always leave the lid open when you light the grill, says the NFPA. Also, if the flame goes out while you’re cooking, turn the grill off and wait 5 minutes before lighting it again.

Charcoal Grills

If your pregame routine involves firing up a charcoal grill with lighter fluid, make sure it is charcoal lighter fluid, says the NFPA — and never add lighter fluid once the fire has already started. Make sure you’ve put out all the embers and that the coals have cooled completely before you head off to the game, and dispose of ashes in a metal container, says the NFPA.

3. Protect Yourself From the Sun

Tailgating often means a long day in the sun. Even on cool days, it’s a good idea to help protect yourself from sunburn and dehydration. Be sure to apply (and reapply) sunscreen throughout the day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends wearing sunglasses and a hat. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

4. Tackle Your Trash

Leaving garbage on the ground or parking lot is not only irritating to other tailgaters, it can also be a potential hazard. Clean up your tailgating area before you head into the stadium. Be sure to pack heavy-duty trash bags before you leave home, says The Kitchn. Know where you can recycle cans, bottles and other recyclables, and have a way to safely pack up leftovers.

5. Protect Your Valuables

Tailgating has become high-tech in recent years — from satellite TVs to coolers with wireless speakers. While you’re at the venue watching the game, your gear could be at risk for theft. Purdue University recommends tailgaters lock valuables out of sight. Also, secure coolers, chairs, barbecue grills and other items.

Tailgating can be a great way to kick off a day of cheering for your favorite team with family and friends. Help keep the day fun with a game plan to protect yourself and your gear.

Originally published on January 1, 2013.

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Getting Your Car Ready for the School Year

By The Allstate Blog Team

Back-to-school season can be a very busy time for students and parents alike. One item you may want to put on the to-do list is car maintenance. Whether you’re driving the kids back and forth to school or your college student is taking a car to campus, follow these tips to help get your car ready to go back to school.

Check Under the Hood

Keeping up with basic maintenance may help prevent potentially costly repairs down the road. Before school starts, either you or a mechanic should pop the hood to ensure fluids are at the correct levels. Popular Mechanics recommends checking fluid levels for the:

Top off fluids that are low and, if necessary, have any leaks fixed.

While you’re under the hood, it’s also a good time to check your car’s battery. Make sure the connections are tight, and clean any corrosion off the terminals with a battery brush, says Consumer Reports. If the battery is more than two years old, you may also want to have it tested to see how much charge is left. You can often have this done at an auto parts store or have your mechanic test it.

Check the Tires

Tires that are not inflated properly can negatively affect the car’s handling as well as the gas mileage, according to Cars.com. Before you start carting kids to and from school and activities again, check the tire pressure and look for uneven tread wear, nails or other potential hazards. Use a tire gauge to check the pressure on each tire, including the spare tire. If needed, inflate the tires to the vehicle manufacturer’s suggested pressure. This information is typically listed on a sticker inside the driver’s door and inside the owner’s manual, says Cars.com. You may also want to have your tires rotated to help prevent uneven wear.

Check the Lights

Your vehicle’s lights help you to see the road ahead and alert other drivers to your next move. So, it’s a good idea to do a visual inspection of your car’s lighting system, says the Humble Mechanic — even on newer cars, because the monitoring system doesn’t always include every light on the vehicle.

You can often tell if a turn signal light is out, because the indicator on the dashboard will typically flash quicker than usual if a bulb needs to be replaced, says the Humble Mechanic. To complete a full inspection, have someone walk around the car while you turn on the various lights, including headlights, fog lights, turn signals and emergency hazard lights. Since some vehicles use the same bulbs for multiple functions, the Humble Mechanic recommends checking each function separately instead of turning on all the lights at once.

Have the other person check the brake lights while you press the brake pedal. Also, keep your foot on the brake pedal and shift into reverse so he can see if the reverse lights are working properly.

After completing the inspection, be sure to replace any bulbs that are not working properly. If a light still doesn’t work after a bulb is changed, the Humble Mechanic says it could be a fuse, wiring or computer issue. Check with your local auto parts store or mechanic if you need assistance.

Taking a little time for basic car maintenance may help minimize maintenance issues and get your student on the road to what will hopefully be a fantastic school year. If you have any concerns after your own inspection, talk to a qualified mechanic who can help with any necessary repairs.

Originally published on August 24, 2011.

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Unusual Traffic Laws in the United States

By The Allstate Blog Team

From stopping at red lights to signaling when changing lanes, traffic laws help keep us, our passengers and other vehicles safe on the road. There are some local and state rules and regulations, however, that you may find surprising. Here are a few unique traffic laws you’ll find in the U.S.

Don’t Honk If You’re Thirsty

Stopping for a late night snack or a refreshing soda? Better not honk your horn, at least not while you’re in Little Rock, Arkansas. After 9 p.m. it’s against the law to sound your car horn at any place that sells cold drinks or sandwiches, according to Trip Savvy.

A Little Warning, Please

Utah drivers must signal at least two seconds before turning. If you’re driving in Utah, keep your eyes on the vehicles nearby. Also, think about starting that turn signal earlier to give the driver behind you a heads-up.

Shut Your Doors

You may find yourself in trouble if you leave your car doors open too long while you’re in Oregon. It is a traffic offense to leave a vehicle door open longer than it takes to load and unload passengers or cargo. You also need to avoid opening a car door unless it is “reasonably safe to do so.” While these regulations seem unusual, the intention is good — to help prevent an accident with passing traffic and to help protect pedestrians and bicyclists on the sidewalk.

Mountain Safety … In a State Without Mountains

Drivers in Nebraska are required to stay in the right-hand lane on mountain highways. They also must honk (or provide other audible warning) to alert other drivers within 200 feet of approaching a curved area with an obstructed view. The odd part of this law is that Nebraska doesn’t have any mountains, according to WorldAtlas.com. To be fair, Nebraska does have elevated, hilly areas where this law could help make driving safer.

Fuel Up

If you’re heading through Youngstown, Ohio, you may want to top off the gas tank. If you run out of gas within Youngstown’s “congested district,” you may be guilty of a misdemeanor. If it happens more than once within a year, the degree of misdemeanor charges will increase. Most likely this is a way of avoiding a traffic jam, but it’s definitely a unique law.

While some of these traffic laws may be a little unusual, it’s a good idea to mind your manners and follow the rules of the road. Wherever you’re driving, adhere to local traffic rules and make your trip a safe one.

Originally published on November 20, 2012.

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Keeping Resale Value in Mind When Buying a Car

By The Allstate Blog Team

If you’re in the market for a new car, you may be thinking about comfort, features and price. One thing you may also want to consider is the vehicle’s potential resale value. Here are a few things to keep in mind about your next car and its resale value.

Why Resale Value Matters

If you eventually plan to sell your car or trade it in when you buy a new vehicle, its resale value will be a big factor in how much money you can get for it, says AutoGuide.com.

Also, if your car is totaled, your auto insurance provider would pay you the actual cash value of the car at the time of the accident (depending on your coverage). Actual cash value is determined using factors such as the typical resale value of the car at the time of the accident, previous damage and depreciation. So even if you don’t think you’ll be selling your car, you may want to consider how well it retains its value over time.

Consider What’s Popular

AutoGuide.com states simple supply and demand come into play with resale value. Sometimes certain vehicles are more popular than others. For instance, you may like a smaller coupe or a family sedan, but maybe SUVs and trucks have been in higher demand for a few years. If you get a car that’s too niche or simply not in high demand, it may be harder to sell it in the future.

It may be helpful to do some research on websites like Kelley Blue Book (KBB) or Edmunds to get an idea of which makes and models consistently have high resale value, too.

Go for a Standard Color

Simply put, neutral colors are more likely to help boost your car’s resale value. Sticking to colors such as silver, white, gray and black tend to be a safe bet, according to KBB. If you buy a car that’s an unusual, such as green or purple, fewer people might be interested when you go to sell it in a few years.

Choose Automatic Transmission

Roughly 2 percent of new cars sold have a manual transmission, says CARFAX. Most drivers are looking for a car with an automatic transmission, so you may want to avoid purchasing a new car with a stick shift.

Maintaining the Resale Value of Your Car

car’s value drops about 20 percent in the first year of ownership, according to CARFAX. Here are a few things you can do to help maintain its resale value.

Mind the Mileage

If a car has either higher or lower mileage, it can affect its value, according to Cars.com. (CARFAX says around 10,000 miles per year is typical.) If a car has high mileage, it may not have as much life left as a similar car with lower mileage. However, Cars.com notes that a car with very low mileage may have problems from not being driven regularly or indicate it wasn’t driven much due to problems. You may want to limit the miles you add to your vehicle so the resale value doesn’t drop, but also make sure you use it regularly to help avoid mechanical issues.

Keep Up with Maintenance

Routine maintenance and making repairs when necessary go a long way toward keeping a car in good shape. CARFAX states that routine oil changes and replacing worn out parts can help keep a car from depreciating in value. Similarly, Cars.com says it’s also important to keep the car looking good — so make sure it’s fixed properly after an accident and that you keep the interior clean and fresh.

Keep the Warranty

Warranties often transfer over to the new buyer, says Auto Trader. If your vehicle still has a warranty, you may want to sell the car before the contract runs out. That’s something buyers may find appealing, and you may be able to get a little more money for a car with a warranty. Check with the warranty provider to be sure it will transfer, but it could be a good selling point if it does.

If you’re looking for a new car, you may want to consider its future resale value as you shop. Choosing a car that will appeal to buyers down the road and keeping it in good shape may help you get the most for it when you’re ready to sell or trade it in.

Originally published on August 25, 2015.

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How to Replace a Lost or Missing Vehicle Title

By The Allstate Blog Team

A vehicle title may seem like a simple piece of paper, but it’s an important one. If you lose or misplace your vehicle title, you’ll likely want to get a replacement title as soon as possible. Here are some tips to help you get started with the process.

What Is a Vehicle Title?

Simply put, a vehicle title provides proof of ownership for a vehicle, says The Balance. If you own your car outright, the title will list your name as the legal owner of the vehicle. If you took out a loan to purchase the car, the title will likely list the name of the lienholder (the entity that financed the loan) and remain in their possession until the loan is paid off. It’s important to replace a lost vehicle title, as you cannot typically sell the vehicle without it.

How to Replace a Vehicle Title

Below are some tips to help you start a replacement request if you’ve lost or misplaced your title. Remember, the process can vary by state, so be sure to check your local requirements so you have the right information ready.

Replacing a Vehicle Title That Was In Your Name

According to Road and Track Magazine, if the car is titled in your name, most states offer replacements through a local department of motor vehicles office. You may need to provide proof of ownership (such as documents for a previous loan on the vehicle) and pay a small fee to obtain the replacement. While requirements differ by state, you may also want to be prepared to provide your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) and some personal information. For example, Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation states that you need your driver’s license or another form of identification, the last four digits of your Social Security number and an email address, among other information, to apply for a replacement title. Keep in mind that a new title will likely indicate that it is a replacement title.

Replacing a Vehicle Title That Wasn’t In Your Name Yet

If you’ve purchased a vehicle from a private seller, and the title was lost before you transferred it to your name, it may still be possible to obtain a replacement. According to Road and Track Magazine, one solution is to ask the previous owner to submit the replacement request (keep in mind that they’d likely need to pay a replacement title fee). Then, they could sign the duplicate title over to you when it arrives.

If that’s not possible, some states may allow you to obtain a title with a court order. To obtain a title this way, you’d first have to appear in court and have a judge award you ownership, says Road and Track Magazine. Applying for a title with a court order is typically successful, as long as the order includes some specific vehicle information (such as the car’s VIN and manufacturer), adds Road and Track Magazine. The magazine also states that you may need to a obtain a title through this process when you’ve inherited a vehicle from an estate and would like to sell it.

How Long Does It Take to Get a New Vehicle Title?

How quickly you can obtain a replacement title can also vary by state. To minimize fraud, for example, the Illinois Secretary of State does not issue replacement titles requested within 15 days of issuing an original title, or 30 days of issuing a duplicate title. You may also need to wait a few weeks to receive your title in the mail. However, some states (such as Michigan) offer same-day service if you need the new title right away.

Storing your vehicle title in a safe place may help minimize the risk of misplacing it. But if you do happen to lose your car’s title, remember to check your state’s requirements so you can be prepared when applying for a replacement.

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What to Do If You Have a Tire Blowout While Driving

By Mac Demere

Imagine a professor saying, “A passing grade requires you to do nothing.” That’s exactly what I told the 1,500 or so drivers I taught to safely handle a tire blowout.

Blowing a tire can be scary, and resisting the urge to do something can be hard, but practice makes perfect — so I put my students to the test. With a student behind the wheel and me sitting alongside, we simulated a tire blowout or tread separation.

We did this demonstration in almost every type of vehicle, including SUVs, minivans and 18-wheelers, and no one ever lost control. So, here’s what to do if you have a tire blowout while driving (and earn yourself a passing grade).

How to Safely Handle a Tire Blowout

If the driver drove straight down his lane and simply allowed the drag of the deflated tire to slow the vehicle to less than 30 mph, he earned a grade of a “B.” This is essentially “doing nothing,” and it’s a safe way to react when a tire blows out.

To get an “A,” however, you must act counterintuitively and press the accelerator for a short instant after the blowout. Because of the drag of the failed tire, even a sports car in high gear will not gain speed. Pushing the accelerator does two things. First, it stabilizes the vehicle in your lane. Second, but just as important, it helps you focus your mind and helps prevent you from turning or braking while trying to remember what to do. By the time your brain accesses the answer, you will likely have slowed almost enough to safely ease off the road. (As opposed to racetracks, where blowouts happen frequently in turns, tires frequently blow on long trips, on straight stretches of highway.)

What Not to Do if Your Tire Blows Out

You’ll get a failing grade if you turn the steering wheel even a little after a blowout or tread separation. This is especially true if you turn away from a failed rear tire. (For example, do not try to get to the right shoulder after a left-rear tire blows.) A slight turn will cause the vehicle to spin out faster. I know this from experience, as I was always selected to intentionally incorrectly drive a blowout for videos and testing. (My performance review included a minimum number of times to say, “Hey, y’all watch this.”)

What Can Cause a Blowout

Poor tire maintenance is one factor in a potential blowout, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Make sure your tires are inflated properly and have them rotated and balanced as outlined in your owner’s manual. Driving on underinflated tires can be especially hard on them as the components of the tire may bend beyond what they are designed to handle. Over time, the tires can weaken and fail. There are also other factors that can potentially lead to a blowout, too, such as overloading the vehicle, hitting a pothole or heat.

Avoiding a Blowout

The best way to avoid a blowout is to keep your tires at the proper inflation pressure. Check your tire pressure once a month. Set the pressure to what the vehicle maker recommends, which you can find on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door or in the owner’s manual. You should also visually inspect your tires to look for cracks, bulges or signs of wear, says the NHTSA. And if you notice the tires are not performing as well, are vibrating or are making noise, have them inspected by a professional.

To correctly handle a blowout, keep the wheel straight, wait for the vehicle to slow down and follow the Brits’ advice from 1939: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Originally published on July 2, 2013.

The post What to Do If You Have a Tire Blowout While Driving appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Back-to-School Safety Tips

By The Allstate Blog Team

As the summer winds down, it’s time to think about the kids starting a new school year. Whether your children walk to school or take a bus, are starting kindergarten or high school, you want to keep them safe. Here are some helpful tips for back-to-school safety.

Getting to and Home from School: Tips for Kids

From walking through the neighborhood to getting on the bus, these tips are meant to help kids get to school safely.

Walking

Parents may want to practice walking to school with kids to help teach them how to do so safely, recommends the National Safety Council (NSC). Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says children younger than 10 years old should be accompanied by an adult when walking to school.

While walking:

  • Use sidewalks and crosswalks. When there isn’t a sidewalk, walk on the edge of the street and face traffic, says the NHTSA.
  • Before crossing a street, stop and look left, right and then left again to be sure no cars are coming, says the NSC.
  • Do not walk while talking on the phone, texting or wearing headphones, says the NSC. You don’t want to be distracted near traffic, and you should be able to hear approaching vehicles.

Biking

Riding a bike can be a fun way to get to school, but there are a few safety tips bike riders should follow:

  • Always wear a helmet, says the NHTSA. Make sure it fits properly and that the chin strap is fastened.
  • Ride single file on the right side of the road (going the same direction as traffic), says the NSC. The NHTSA says bike riders need to obey all traffic signs and signals.
  • Use bike lanes whenever they are available, says the NHTSA. If riding on the sidewalk, use caution near pedestrians, says the NSC.
  • Use hand signals to alert other riders and drivers when you are going to stop or turn, says the NSC.
  • Walk the bike across streets, recommends the NSC.

Taking the Bus

To help stay safe while on or around school buses, follow these tips from the NHTSA:

  • At the bus stop:
    • Stay at least 6 feet away from the curb.
    • Do not run around while waiting.
  • Getting on and off the bus:
    • Wait for the bus to stop completely and for the door to open.
    • Only get on or off the bus once the driver says it is OK.
    • Once seated, always face forward.
    • Use seat belts when they are available, says the NSC.
  • Near the bus:
    • Do not cross behind a school bus.
    • If you need to cross in front of the bus, make sure you are at least 10 feet in front of the bus before crossing.
    • Tell the driver if you drop something near the bus. Do not lean down to pick it up, as the bus driver may not be able to see you.

Sharing the Road: Tips for Motorists

Drivers should use extra caution in school zones, especially at drop-off and pick-up times. The NSC recommends that drivers:

  • Yield to pedestrians and bike riders in crosswalks, and never block crosswalks.
  • Do not pass a vehicle waiting for pedestrians to cross.
  • Do not pass a school bus that is picking up or dropping off children
  • Leave enough space between your vehicle and the bus for children to safely enter and exit.
  • Always stop for a school staff or crossing guard directing traffic and holding up a stop sign.

The start of a new school year is an exciting time. With a little knowledge and some planning, we can all help our kids get to school and home again safely.

Originally published on September 13, 2011.

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When and How to Check Your Tire Pressure

By The Allstate Blog Team

Tires that are not inflated properly may wear excessively, which is one of the reasons it’s important to know how and when to check your tire pressure. Cars.com says tires with the incorrect pressure may lead to lower gas mileage and negatively impact your car’s handling. Here’s how to check your tire pressure, from finding your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure to filling tires with air.

How to Find the Recommended Tire Pressure

Your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure can typically be found on a sticker inside the driver’s door. It’s also usually listed in the owner’s manual, says Cars.com. Tire pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi).

You may also notice that the sidewall of the tires lists a tire pressure. Consumer Reports says this is the maximum tire pressure allowed. You should go with what’s listed on the door sticker or owner’s manual, as this is the ideal tire pressure for your vehicle.

How to Check Tire Pressure

You will need a tire pressure gauge, which you can find at most service stations or auto parts stores. Edmunds states you should check the pressure when the tires are cold, as the friction from driving causes them to heat up and affects the pressure. Check them first thing in the morning or, if you’re already driven the car, Consumer Reports recommends waiting at least three hours for the tires to cool down.

Once you have a tire gauge in hand, Edmunds says this is how to check your tire pressure:

  1. Remove the cap from the air valve on the tire, and put it somewhere you won’t lose it.
  2. Press the tire gauge against the open valve stem for a second or two. It’s normal to hear a hiss of air.
  3. Read the air pressure gauge. For manual gauges, a dial points to the pressure or a bar indicates the pressure by how far it was pushed out. The pressure will appear onscreen on a digital tire gauge.
  4. Compare this number with the recommended tire pressure.
  5. Replace the tire’s air valve cap. (Hold off on this step if you need to adjust the air pressure.)
  6. Repeat this process for each tire.

How to Inflate Your Car’s Tires

If your tires are lower than the manufacturer’s recommendations, follow these steps from Edmunds to inflate the tires:

  1. Park close enough to the air compressor so you can reach all four tires with the hose.
  2. If the valve caps are still on, remove them.
  3. Press the hose nozzle down on the valve stem. Air may flow automatically or you may need to press a lever. You should notice the tire inflating and feel air flowing through the hose.
  4. Remove the hose fitting or release the inflation lever. Check the air pressure, as described above, using the gauge on the hose or your own tire gauge.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as needed until the tire is inflated to the correct psi.
  6. Repeats steps 3-5 for the vehicle’s other tires.
  7. Once the tires are inflated properly, replace the valve caps.

Tip: If you hear or feel air coming out of the hose nozzle while you’re trying to fill the tire, Cars.com says you should check that it is properly connected to the tire valve stem.

How to Release Air from Tires

You don’t want to have tires that are overinflated, as this can lead to poor handling, says Cars.com. The Family Handyman notes that overinflated tires are more prone to skidding and hydroplaning.

If your tires are reading more than the recommeneded psi, Cars.com recommends the following steps to release air:

  1. Briefly press the small dot or bead on the back of the tire pressure gauge into the center of the valve stem on the tire. You should hear the air escaping the tire.
  2. Use the gauge to check the tire pressure.
  3. Repeat these steps until you’ve released enough air to reach the correct psi.

Tip: As you near the correct pressure, release smaller and smaller amounts of air until you get to the appropriate psi, says Cars.com.

When You Should Check Your Tire Pressure

Tire air pressure should be checked once a month using the same tire gauge, says The Family Handyman. Remember to check when the car has been parked for at least a few hours and the tires are “cold.” Tire pressure can vary 1-2 pounds per square inch (psi) for every 10-degree difference in ambient temperature, says Car Talk — the psi typically rises in the summer heat and drops when it’s cold outside. If you’re in the habit of checking your tires every month, you can adjust the pressure as it fluctuates throughout the seasons.

Car Talk recommends checking your tires regularly even when they look fine. Also, check them if you’ve run over a sharp object or hit a curb. It’s a good idea to have them checked when you bring your car in for routine service, says Car Talk.

Your tires are one of the most important parts of your car. They’re literally the place where the rubber meets the road. Regular care and maintenance can be essential to the safe and reliable performance of your vehicle.

Originally published April 28, 2017.

The post When and How to Check Your Tire Pressure appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Upgrades and Upkeep for Older Cars

By Mac Demere

Perhaps you’ve inherited an old family vehicle. Or, you’re about to hand down an older car to a young driver. Maybe you want a lower-priced vehicle to save some money. If so, you’re not alone. I drive an older four-door with nearly 200,000 miles on the odometer, and it’s been through two teen drivers. But with a little work and preventive maintenance, it’s reliable and safe.

I also love that it’s paid for. Trust me, the lack of car payments adds a shocking amount of beauty to a vehicle. Forget 20-inch rims and a killer sound system. Focus on safety and reliability. Stash the cash that would go to car payments. In short order, you’ll be able to afford a much nicer vehicle.

If you’re buying a used car, set aside enough money to make this new-to-you vehicle safe and reliable. If you’ve budgeted $8,000 for a purchase, for example, restrict your search to vehicles well under $7,000. If you spend the entire $8,000 up front, you won’t have money in reserve in case you run into car trouble. If you’re handing off a vehicle to a young family member, remember that you want them to be safe. Your gift comes with huge strings if the brakes are worn out, the tires bald and the transmission is shot.

Now, to the makeover. Unless the previous owner was especially conscientious or kind, you’ll probably have to replace the tires, renew the brakes and make other repairs. Consider these tips for “making over” an older car.

Check the Tires

You won’t even need to get your hands dirty to check the condition of the tires. Insert a quarter, Washington’s head down, into the most-shallow groove of the most-worn tire. If you can see the top of George’s wig, even modestly deep water can cause hydroplaning. A brand-new car tire begins life with at least 10/32 of an inch of tread (pickup and sport-utility vehicle tires have even deeper treads). If a tire can’t pass the quarter test, it has less than 4/32 of an inch of tread and, thus, is prone to hydroplaning — so it’s time to start tire shopping. If it’s at 2/32 of an inch, consider buying new tires as soon as possible.

Also, check the tires’ sidewall for an alphanumeric code that starts with “DOT.” The last four digits indicate the tire’s birth week: 2510 means the tire was built in the 25th week of 2010. Tires can die even if they haven’t gone far or done much. Regardless of tread depth, a tire that’s been on a car or sitting in the sun for six years has probably aged significantly. New tires on an old car are a safer combination than a newer car on bald tires.

Inspect the Brakes

Brake inspection is more difficult, but the task is far from impossible for a do-it-yourselfer. If you can open the hood, you can check the brake fluid reservoir. (The owner’s manual will show the location.) It’s bad if the fluid is dark, and terrible if the reservoir is below the “minimum” line. If the brake fluid is low or looks like it has gone bad, get the car into a mechanic as soon as possible.

Next, if you can change a tire, you can inspect the thickness of the brake pads. Remove a wheel, lower the car onto a jack stand (and NOT a cinder block or other unsafe substitute), and look at brake pad thickness and the condition of the rotors. Be thorough and inspect all four brakes. Drum brakes, found on the rear of many vehicles, are more difficult to inspect, but it’s a job well within the capability of most DIYers.

Advanced DIYers can also bleed the brakes. There are many videos on the web that explain how to do this, but contact a professional if you’re not comfortable tackling this one yourself. If the fluid is black and contains bits of rubber or rust, the vehicle needs a professional brake job as soon as possible.

Look for Leaks

It’s also a good idea to make sure your car isn’t leaking any fluids. To check for leaks, slide a slab of cardboard underneath your car and let it sit overnight. Except for water that drips from the air conditioner, the cardboard should be dry.

Any fluid that smells and feels like petroleum indicates there is a problem with the car that needs to be addressed.

Fluid that smells like pancake syrup (coolant) indicates a problem with the cooling system: This could range from a loose hose clamp to the rattling of a water pump that’s about to go kaput.

Coolant can come in various colors, including green, yellow, orange, red or even blue — and it’s important to make sure you replace your coolant with the proper type, as using the wrong kind can damage your car. Other fluids may indicate other issues. Mark where the cardboard sat, and the problem can be diagnosed by a mechanic.

Check the Engine Oil

Engine oil is another indicator of a car’s health. Look at the oil on the dipstick: Dark black is a bad sign. Also, check the underside of the oil filler cap: If it’s covered with baked-on crud, the previous owner rarely changed the oil. Those who can change oil should do so, or take it to a professional. If the oil comes out dark and lumpy, it’s possible to rescue this unfortunate situation with a series of 500-mile oil changes, but check with your mechanic for recommendations.

Change the Transmission Fluid

In the same manner, check the fluid on the automatic transmission dipstick. If it looks dark, it’s bad. Checking and renewing transmission fluid is best left to pros. Tell the technician that this is a new-to-you vehicle and you want a report on the condition of the fluid.

Test the Battery

A new car battery will not only make sure the vehicle starts in cold weather but will also help the starter and alternator last longer. So, it may be a good idea to check out the car’s battery and consider replacing it. Check that the cables and terminals fit tightly and that there are no signs of corrosion, says Consumer Reports. If the connections are dirty or have signs of corrosion, disconnect the battery and use a wire brush to clean them.

Call a Mechanic

If the previous few paragraphs were intimidating, take the vehicle to a professional mechanic for a thorough inspection. Even if you’re a pretty good DIY mechanic, have a professional inspect the steering gear, suspension and alignment. Worn or misaligned suspension will quickly wear out those new tires, and a suspension failure can be bad news.

Replace the Headlight Covers

The plastic that many vehicle manufacturers use often clouds over time. Sunlight and age can make headlight covers foggy, and the light shining through can be hazy. For my old beast, some lens polishing treatments did little to brighten the headlights, and they were soon back to opaque. Consider replacing the entire lens assemblies. New headlight assemblies will make the car look younger than it really is. More importantly, they’ll also help with visibility.

Check the Seat Belts

Auto racing organizations limit how long seat belts can be used on race cars. In highway vehicles, sun can deteriorate the belts and food can gum up the latching mechanism. I replaced the driver’s belts because they were frayed, and the latch didn’t immediately snap into place. You may want to consider having the seat belts replaced, especially if they are not working well.

Cosmetic Updates

Now that your older car is safe and healthy, you may want to make a few cosmetic upgrades if you have a few dollars left over. I found a new set of brand-correct wheel covers online for less than $100, including shipping, while generic covers can be had for $30 a set. They’re not as cool as $2,000 new wheels, but they still cut years from the car’s apparent age. Also, a serious detailing — which can include everything from shampooing the interior to hand waxing the exterior — is about $200 and will allow you to pretend you have a new ride — but without the monthly payments.

Whether you’re buying a used car or want to keep your older vehicle for a few more years, some preventive maintenance and a few upgrades can help keep it running well and looking good. With a few updates and upgrades, you can have a safe and reliable vehicle.

Originally posted on January 2, 2014.

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