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How to Get Your Car Ready for a Road Trip

By The Allstate Blog Team

Don’t let car trouble ruin your next road trip. Performing a few car maintenance tasks before you go can help ensure your vehicle is ready for the adventure.

Even though you can’t prevent every mechanical breakdown, checking your car’s fluids and parts before you hit the road could spare you from spending valuable vacation time in the repair shop. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Check Your Car’s Battery

Check your car’s battery to be sure the connection is tight and corrosion-free, says Consumer Reports. If there is corrosion, you’ll need to disconnect the battery and clean the connectors with a wire brush. Batteries contain corrosive acid that may leak if battery connectors are forced off, so if you’re not familiar with how to check and clean a car battery, it may be best to leave it to a professional. As a general rule of thumb, Consumer Reports recommends having your vehicle’s battery checked annually after it’s more than two years old.

Inspect Belts and Hoses

Engine belts and hoses are critical when it comes to keeping your car’s electrical, power steering and cooling systems functioning properly, according to Consumer Reports. Have them inspected to determine if any are frayed or cracked. Belts should also be tightly installed, so be sure to verify that they’re secure and don’t have a large amount of slack. Lastly, be sure to have your hoses checked for any leaks or drips.

Don’t forget to check your owner’s manual for recommended belt and hose service intervals, as some cars may require replacements in as little as 60,000 miles, according to Cars.com.

Top Off Fluids and Replace Filters

Check the levels of your car’s many fluids, including engine oil, power steering and transmission fluids and windshield washer fluid. If any of them are low, top them off before hitting the road, recommends the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If your car is close to needing its next oil change, it may be worth having it done before your trip. You should also check your vehicle’s engine coolant (also known as antifreeze) tank to confirm it’s filled to the car manufacturer’s recommended level. However, keep in mind that even if it’s filled to the proper level, you may still need to have the coolant changed out if there are floating particles in it or if the fluid is clear, says the NHTSA. Coolant can also become acidic over time, according to Cars.com, so you may want to have your coolant tank checked for any corrosion. This could cause damage to other parts of the vehicle, such as the radiator or hoses.

Lastly, the engine air filter, which collects dust and debris to prevent them from making their way to the car engine, should be changed out if it’s dirty or clogged with debris, says Cars.com. Otherwise, the dirty filter may affect your car’s acceleration performance.

Verify Lights and Electrical Equipment Are Working

Make sure that all interior and exterior lights on your car are working properly and replace burned-out bulbs as necessary. If your windshield wipers aren’t efficiently removing water from the windshield or leave streaks, it may be time for a replacement — Consumer Reports recommends a new pair every six months. Don’t forget to check your car’s horn and air conditioning system, too. If the air conditioner isn’t blowing as cold as it used to, you may want to have it serviced by a mechanic, especially if you’re traveling in warm weather.

Check the Brakes

Squealing noises coming from your car’s brakes may indicate worn brake pads, says Popular Mechanics. If your car’s brakes are making this sound, or any other odd noises, be sure to have them professionally inspected before you hit the road. If your brake pedal feels spongy when you press it, that may indicate the brake fluid is low. Don’t forget to verify the level of this fluid while checking the others, and top it off, if needed.

Inspect Tires

Tire inflation may affect your car’s fuel economy. Check the tire pressure before departing for your trip, preferably while the tires are cold, recommends the NHTSA, to ensure they are properly inflated. Don’t forget to check the pressure on your car’s spare tire, too. While you’re at it, you may want to check on the condition of the tire tread by using the penny method, says the NHTSA. Insert a penny upside down between the treads on each tire — if you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head on the penny, it may be time for a tire replacement. If you notice uneven wear on all of the tires, that may mean it’s time for a tire rotation or alignment before your trip. Your local mechanic or tire retailer should be able to help with an inspection and recommend corrective action, if needed.

Taking steps to help ensure your vehicle is in good condition prior to a road trip may help you avoid spending your vacation in a repair shop. Remember, if you’re uncomfortable inspecting your vehicle or aren’t sure if something is wrong, consult a professional for help.

Originally published on May 28, 2015. 

The post How to Get Your Car Ready for a Road Trip appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down

By The Allstate Blog Team

Having car trouble can be incredibly frustrating, but it can also be a safety issue if you’re already on the road. Here are some tips that may help keep you and your passengers safe if your car breaks down or you get a flat tire.

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1. Turn on Your Hazard/Emergency Lights

Turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers as soon as you sense something’s wrong. Keep them on until help arrives, recommends the National Motorists Association (NMA).

2. Slow Down and Pull off the Road

Aim for the right shoulder of the road.  Consumer reports recommends that you pull over to a safe, flat location that is as far away from moving traffic as possible.

3. Turn Your Wheels Away from the Road and Put on the Emergency Brake

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recommends pulling your emergency brake, sometimes called the parking brake. If you have to park on a hill or slope, turn the car’s wheels away from the road to help prevent the care from rolling into traffic, says the California DMV.

4. Stay in Your Vehicle

If you’re on a highway or crowded road, the Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends that you avoid getting out of your vehicle to look at the damage or fix a mechanical problem. If you need to get out of the car, get your vehicle to a safe place and make sure the road around you is completely clear. If you’re stopped on the right-hand side of the road, get out through the passenger-side door.

5. Be Visible

Once you’re safely out of the vehicle, prop up your hood to let other drivers know they should proceed with caution. This will alert other drivers that you’re broken down, according to the NMA.

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6. Set up Flares or Triangles

Place flares or triangles with reflectors behind your car to alert other drivers to the location where you’ve stopped, says the III.

7. Call for Help

Call or use an app to get a tow truck, mechanic or roadside assistance to come help. your insurance company or other provider who may be able to help. If you’re in an emergency situation or are not sure who to contact, call 911 or the local police for help.

Consider a Roadside Assistance Membership Plan

Before you find yourself in a tough situation, you may want to consider getting roadside assistance. Knowing you’ll have help in case of a breakdown or another unexpected car issue can offer peace of mind. Roadside assistance plans may provide services like:

  • Towing
  • Jump starts
  • Fuel delivery
  • Lockout services

You may be able to purchase roadside assistance from your car insurance company or from an independent provider.

It’s important to be prepared for the unexpected, especially on the road. Hopefully you’ll avoid any bumps in the road, but it’s helpful to know what to do just in case.

The post What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Car Maintenance Tips to Help Keep Your Vehicle in Good Shape

By The Allstate Blog Team

Properly maintaining your car is key to keeping it in top condition. It can also help ensure your safety, the safety of your passengers and your fellow drivers. Here are some ways to help keep your car running smoothly.

The Car Maintenance Checklist

Consider adding these items to your vehicle maintenance “to do” list:

Inspect and Maintain Tires

Knowing how to maintain your car’s tire pressure can help reduce wear on the tires and helps ensure you’re getting good gas mileage. Checking your tire pressure includes finding the recommended pressure, checking the PSI and inflating or deflating your tires accordingly.

A flat tire is a hazard that can be dangerous to you and your car. There are several preventative steps you can take to help avoid a blowout, including rotating your tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles and watching for tire recalls.

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Change the Oil

Routinely checking and changing your car’s oil is essential to keeping its engine in running condition. Check your oil each month and change it as directed in the car’s owner’s manual.

You can change your oil yourself or take it to a service center. If you choose to do it yourself, learn the necessary steps to drain the fluid, set the correct oil level and dispose of old oil.

You should also know which type of motor oil is best for your car, regardless of whether you change the oil yourself or take it to a service center. This generally means considering three things – the oil viscosity, whether to use synthetic versus non-synthetic oil and your car’s mileage.

Check the Fluids

There are several fluids that should be kept at the appropriate levels to help keep your car running properly. According to Popular Mechanics, you or your mechanic should check:

  • Engine oil
  • Coolant
  • Power steering fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid

A leak with any of these fluids can affect the way your car drives. If you spot a leak, you may be able to identify the fluid by its color. This can help you and your mechanic determine where the leak is coming from. It can also help speed up the repair process.

Test the Lights

A broken or burnt-out bulb is a safety hazard and might get you a ticket. Learn how to thoroughly inspect each bulb on your car. If a bulb is out, take your car to an expert to determine whether it’s the bulb or the fuse that needs replacing.

Headlights are key safety lights on your car. Consider taking a few extra steps to help keep them shining bright, such as cleaning the lenses and replacing bulbs as they start to dim.

Replace Windshield Wipers

If your wipers aren’t working like they used to, don’t let the problem linger. Damaged or worn out blades can reduce visibility during a heavy rain or a snowstorm. Knowing how to inspect your wiper blades regularly and replace them when necessary is one way to help keep your car safe.

Change Your Engine Air Filter

A dirty engine air filter can allow dirt and other particulates into your car’s engine and reduce its efficiency. Inspect your car’s air filter once a year and replace it as needed.

Regular Checkups

Some routine car care tasks can be done at home, but others require trained technicians. Take your car to a technician if the check engine light comes on. Trained technicians can diagnose the problem through the car’s on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) port.

A qualified repair shop will also be able to inspect and replace other core components like the alternator and the wheel bearings. Scheduling regular tune-ups will help ensure that your car gets other maintenance items repaired as well.

Have Your Brakes Checked

Your car’s brake pads also require regular inspection. While driving, listen for any brake noise and pay attention to shuddering or vibrating from the brake pedal. If any concerns arise, consult a service center as soon as possible .

Wash Your Car

Your car is subjected to all sorts of elements, from road salt and ice melt in the winter to tree sap and bird droppings in the summer. Some of these hazards are not only unsightly but can cause damage to paint and the undercarriage, according to AccuWeather.

Keeping your car clean may help prevent long-term damage. Find the car washing method that works for you and regularly wash your car.

Check Belts and Hoses

Keeping your car’s belts and hoses in good shape can help keep your car running and may help you avoid a breakdown on the road. For example, if your serpentine belt breaks while you’re driving, it may cause many of your car’s systems to fail.

Having your belts and hoses checked at every oil change will help ensure that they’re in good condition and don’t need replacing.

Review Your Car Insurance

Just like regular car checkups, it’s a good idea to review your car insurance policy from time to time. This can help ensure your policy’s coverages, limits and deductibles are up-to-date and suitable for your current situation.

Keeping your car in good shape can help keep you and your passengers safe. And remember, if you’re ever unsure about how to inspect or replace a car part, be sure to contact a local mechanic for help.

The post Car Maintenance Tips to Help Keep Your Vehicle in Good Shape appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

What’s the Difference Between Premium and Unleaded Gasoline?

By The Allstate Blog Team

Do you know what type of fuel is right for your vehicle? Learn about octane ratings and the difference between premium and unleaded gasoline.

What Are Octane Ratings?

Knowing octane ratings is key to understanding the difference between premium and unleaded gasoline.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), fuel contains oxygen. This oxygen helps keep gas from prematurely igniting in the engine (known as “knocking”). An octane grade or rating is based on how much oxygen is in the fuel.

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What Is Unleaded Gasoline?

Unleaded gasoline is fuel with an octane rating of around 87. However, the DOE says there are three different octane ratings for fuel:

  • Unleaded Fuel: 87
  • Mid-grade Fuel: 88-90
  • Premium Fuel: 91-94

At the gas station, yellow stickers on gas pumps are required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to indicate octane levels and help ensure consumers have the information they need.

How Is Premium Fuel Different From Regular Unleaded?

Premium fuel has a higher octane level compared to regular unleaded or mid-grade fuel. According to the FTC, higher octane ratings make fuel more resistant to “knocking.”

Knocking is caused when fuel prematurely combusts in one or more cylinders in the engine, says the FTC. This can lead to an audible engine knocking or pinging sound when you start your car. Consumer Reports notes that knocking could result in damage to the car’s engine over time.

While some vehicles require premium fuel, the majority of cars take regular unleaded fuel, says Consumer Reports. Using plus- or premium-grade fuels typically doesn’t affect your engine’s performance or resistance to wear-and-tear.

Remember to check your vehicle’s owner manual or ask a dealership for help to find out what kind of fuel is recommended for your car.

The post What’s the Difference Between Premium and Unleaded Gasoline? appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Tips For Driving Safely Around Emergency Vehicles

By The Allstate Blog Team

When you’re approaching an emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the roadway, it’s a good idea to know what to do. While laws vary by state, here are some general tips to keep in mind when sharing the road with emergency vehicles.

Understand Your State’s ‘Move Over’ Law

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), all 50 states have a “move over” law. You should look into your state’s specific law to make sure you’re aware of its details and following local guidelines. But, in general, this law requires that drivers slow down and move over to accommodate emergency vehicles with flashing lights, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These include police cars, ambulances and fire trucks, though some states may require that drivers follow this law for any vehicle with blinking or flashing lights, says the DOT.

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Know How to Safely Pull Over For Emergency Vehicles

Here are some tips to help you safely navigate around emergency vehicles.

When an emergency vehicle approaches from behind

Slow down, pull your vehicle into the right lane (or shoulder) and come to a stop, recommends the City of Madison Fire Department. If you are on a multilane road and cannot pull into the right lane due to traffic, pull your vehicle as far to the right as possible. This can help emergency vehicles move around traffic using the median.

When an emergency vehicle approaches from the opposite direction

The City of Roanoke says you should pull over on the side of the road (not in an intersection) and come to a complete stop. Watch for other emergency vehicles and remain on the side of the road until all of them have passed.

When an emergency vehicle is stopped

Slow down your car and move into an open lane, if possible, says Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning. Your state’s move over law may also have more specific requirements for passing a stopped emergency vehicle. For example, Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning also states that drivers are required to slow their vehicle to at least 10 mph under the speed limit when passing a stopped emergency vehicle.

Practice a Safe Following Distance

Even after an emergency vehicle has passed, you should keep your vehicle at a safe distance behind it. While rules can also vary by state, a general rule of thumb is to stay 500 feet behind an emergency vehicle, says the City of Madison Fire Department.

Following these tips can help you keep yourself and first responders safe on the road. Remember to check your state’s laws and look for other local guidelines to make sure you’re aware of the requirements in your area.

The post Tips For Driving Safely Around Emergency Vehicles appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

What Is the Difference Between a Sunroof and Moonroof?

By The Allstate Blog Team

A sunroof is generally any kind of panel on the roof of a car that permits light, air or both to come into a vehicle, according to Kelley Blue Book (KBB). A moonroof is considered a type of sunroof, but the main difference is a moonroof usually has a tinted glass panel, much like an extra window on top of the car. Keep reading to learn more about the difference between a sunroof and moonroof.

What Is a Sunroof?

According to Cars.com, a sunroof is typically an opaque panel that matches the body color of the car. It can be tilted open or removed so that fresh air and natural light can come into the car. Sometimes the metal panel will retract into the roof or just above it, says KBB.

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What Is a Moonroof?

A moonroof is a type of sunroof, according to Cars.com. Unlike a sunroof, moonroofs are made of glass and and cannot be removed from the vehicle, although they may slide or tilt open. KBB notes that many moonroofs come with an interior sliding panel that matches your car’s interior. Once you slide this panel open, you will see the moonroof.

Modern cars typically have a moonroof, as traditional sunroofs are not very common anymore. However, people often use the terms interchangeably.

While they are similar, a sunroof and moonroof are actually different. When you are shopping for a new car, keep in mind that what people call a sunroof may actually be a moonroof. Whatever you call it, just be sure to pick a vehicle that offers the options you like best.

Originally published on August 1, 2017.

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The post What Is the Difference Between a Sunroof and Moonroof? appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

When’s the Best Time of Year to Buy a Car?

By The Allstate Blog Team

Knowing when it’s the best time to buy a car can be tricky because the short answer is, it depends. The market for cars isn’t an exact science, and determining the right time to buy may depend on who you ask. It’s also a good idea to consider your own financial situation, budget and needs or wants before buying a vehicle in the first place.

If you are in the market to buy or lease a vehicle, here’s when it may be a good time to visit a dealership:

Buy at the End of the Month

Most dealerships set goals around selling a certain amount of cars per month. If a dealership hasn’t hit their sales quota for the month, the team may have more motivation to make a sale, says Edmunds. This means you may have more room to negotiate on a vehicle by shopping at the end of the month.

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Wait Until the End of the Year

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) reports that many dealerships offer their best sales at the end of the calendar year. The organization says this is because car dealerships prefer to have less inventory of older models going into the new year and need to meet yearly sales goals.

Hold Off Until Next Year’s Models Come Out

New model year vehicles are typically released during the fall season of the previous year, says AutoTrader. For example, this means 2021 vehicles will likely arrive at dealerships during the fall of 2020. Many car dealerships try to sell off older model year vehicles before the new fleet arrives, but that doesn’t always happen, says AutoTrader. This can be a plus for car buyers because dealerships become motivated to sell off the “old” models, giving buyers the opportunity to negotiate a lower price.

Shop During a Holiday Weekend

Many car dealerships hold holiday sales, says CARFAX, which typically translates into bigger savings when you buy a car over a holiday weekend. KBB adds that dealerships also usually offer higher rebates or special financing during holiday sales events. Some holidays to consider going car shopping include Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

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Buy at the End of a Car’s Life or Design Cycle

Car manufacturers sometimes redesign, or completely discontinue, certain vehicle models, says Edmunds. This may allow car buyers to score bigger savings at the end of the model’s design or life cycle. However, keep in mind that if a car is being discontinued, it may depreciate faster, warns Edmunds. It’s also a good idea to look into why the manufacturer is ending production of the car.

Buying a new car is a large purchase that should be thought out. Remember that with some patience and research, you may be able to find a deal on a new car when the time is right.

Originally published on June 3, 2011.

The post When’s the Best Time of Year to Buy a Car? appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

How to Remove Automotive Stains From Your Driveway or Garage

By The Allstate Blog Team

Whether your car sprung a leak or you spilled gasoline while filling up the lawn mower or snow blower, it can be easy for your driveway to end up with a few stains. Oil, transmission fluid and gasoline can leave behind spots that make your driveway or garage floor look greasy or discolored.

Regardless of whether a spot is new or old, follow these steps to help remove automotive stains from your paved driveway or uncoated concrete garage floor.

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How to Remove Oil Stains

Oil can leave a dark stain on pavement, but you may be able to clean even stubborn spots out of your driveway. Good Housekeeping suggests following these steps to get oil stains out of your driveway or garage floor:

  1. If the spill is still wet, cover the stain with clay cat litter, sand, cornmeal, cornstarch or baking soda. This will help absorb the oil before it soaks into the cement.
  2. Once the spill has dried, sweep up the absorbent material. Then, wet the stain with water. If it’s a set-in stain, start the removal process by spraying the stain with water.
  3. Use a stiff brush, such as a broom, and scrub the area with a paste made of baking soda and water.
  4. Use a hose to rinse the pavement clean. Let it air dry.

Some other possible solutions include:

  • Covering the stain with spray lubricant and then rinsing with water, says Reader’s Digest.
  • Putting a paste of powdered laundry detergent and water on the stain, says BobVila.com. After letting it sit, scrub it with a broom or brush and rinse the spot off with water.
  • Scrubbing the stain with a grease-cutting dish detergent and a stiff broom, according to BobVila.com.
  • Spraying the oil spot with a microbial stain remover, says The Spruce. This type of stain remover is biodegradable, and you can later clean the area with soap and water.

How to Remove Transmission Fluid Stains

Transmission fluid spills or leaks may leave a bright red stain on light-colored concrete. Here are some suggested steps for removing the stain from Reader’s Digest:

  1. Spray the stain with oven cleaner and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Use a stiff brush to scrub the spot. Then, rinse with a hose at its highest pressure.
  3. If the stain is still there, repeat the process.

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How to Remove Gasoline Stains

Spilled gasoline not only leaves stains on your paved driveway, but it will likely leave an odor you’ll want to neutralize. BobVila.com recommends the following tips for cleaning a gasoline spill and removing the resulting stain:

  • For a fresh spill:
    1. Cover spill with an absorbent material, such as cat litter. Wait a few hours for it to soak up the gasoline.
    2. Scoop up the soiled litter or absorbent material, and sweep the area. (Talk to your local fire department or local waste management about how to properly dispose of the soaked material.)
  • Once you’ve cleaned the spill:
    1. Mix a moisture absorbent powder, such as cornstarch or diatomaceous earth (which can typically be found at home improvement and pool supply stores) into a liquid trisodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner to create a thick paste. (Be sure to wear protective eyewear and gloves while using TSP.)
    2. Spread the paste over the stain and use a stiff brush to work it into the concrete.
    3. Spread another thin layer of paste over the stain. Wait until it dries fully.
    4. Scrape off the dried paste with a putty knife, and then rinse the area with a hose.
    5. For older or stubborn stains, repeat this process.

Spills happen, but they don’t have to leave a permanent reminder on your driveway or garage floor. These simple tips may help you get most automotive stains out of your pavement or cement flooring.

Originally published on September 15, 2017.

The post How to Remove Automotive Stains From Your Driveway or Garage appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Simple Tips for Checking and Changing Your Oil

By The Allstate Blog Team

Keeping your car in tip-top shape can help prevent unnecessary repair bills and unexpected trips to the mechanic. One essential car maintenance task is a routine oil change. Oil changes are a must for proper vehicle care, but they can be easy and relatively inexpensive.

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Why You Should Check and Change Your Oil

Your car’s engine is complex and contains numerous moving parts. Oil lubricates these moving parts and keeps everything running smoothly, says Angie’s List. Over time some of the motor oil burns off — leaving a thick sludge behind. This sludge reduces the oil’s ability to lubricate the parts properly, which can lead to engine wear. Checking your oil can help determine if the oil needs to be changed and if there is enough in the car.

According to Cars.com, here are some of the reasons why you should change your car’s oil:

  • Oil cools, lubricates and cleans moving parts. Without oil, your engine would stop working.
  • Oil can become dirty and break down, likely reducing engine efficiency and longevity.
  • Regular oil changes can help prevent long-term engine damage, which may help you avoid costly repair bills.

How to Check Your Oil

Consumer Reports suggests that drivers check their oil at every other gas fill-up. Start by consulting your owner’s manual. It should contain information on how to check the oil in your vehicle. Once your car is parked on level ground and the engine is off, Consumer Reports recommends these steps for checking your oil:

  • Pop the hood. Locate the oil dipstick and remove it. A graphic of an oil can usually marks its location.
  • Wipe off the dipstick and reinsert it. Clean the oil off the dipstick with a rag, put it back in and remove it again.
  • Determine the oil level. The dipstick is marked to show at what level the oil is full. If the level of the oil is at or below the levels marked “add,” “low” or “min,” add a little bit of oil (a half-quart) at a time. Then wipe, reinsert and remove the dipstick again for another check.
  • Check oil color. Look for brown or black color. If the oil is a light, milky color, or if you notice tiny metal particles, take your vehicle to a mechanic for further diagnosis.

Which Kind of Oil Should You Use?

Which kind of oil you use in your vehicle depends on your engine’s needs and the manufacturer’s recommendations in the owner’s manual. You can choose synthetic oil, conventional oil or high-mileage oil, depending on your engine’s needs and the expected oil life. Also, you’ll need to choose the right viscosity for your engine — that information is typically found on your engine’s oil cap or in the vehicle’s owner’s manual.

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How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

Every car manufacturer has a slightly different recommended oil change schedule. Consult your owner’s manual to find your car manufacturer’s suggested oil change interval. When a dealership or service center changes your vehicle’s oil, they will typically put a sticker on your window to tell you when your car is due for another oil change.

When you have the oil changed, it’s a good idea to check the oil filter, as well. You may also want to perform other routine maintenance, such as checking the brakes, rotating the tires and topping off fluids, says Angie’s List. Be sure to ask your mechanic what inspections they perform during an oil change. Routine oil changes are a key part of car maintenance to help keep your vehicle running smoothly. If you need help checking or changing your oil, consult a car care professional.

Originally published on October 1, 2016.

The post Simple Tips for Checking and Changing Your Oil appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

When and How to Check Your Car’s Brake Pads

By The Allstate Blog Team

Proper brake pad maintenance is not only critical for helping your car last, but also for your safety as a driver or passenger. Simply put, your vehicle’s brakes are what enable you to slow down and stop. To help ensure your vehicle can stop safely, consider these tips on when and how to check your car’s brake pads.

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When to Check Your Brakes

There’s no specific schedule for when it’s time to replace your brake pads, according to Cars.com. That means it’s a good idea to check your brake pads regularly to help determine the amount of wear and tear. Typical brake pad wear depends on how and where you drive, says Cars.com. For example, if you drive in urban areas, your brake pads may wear out faster than they would if you drove on rural roads due to the stopping and starting of city traffic.

Whether you go to a professional mechanic or handle maintenance yourself, it’s a good idea to check the brake pads each time your tires are rotated — about every six months, says Cars.com. It’s also a good idea to check your car owner’s manual or talk to a professional technician so you understand what service schedule and parts may be right for your particular vehicle.

How to Check Your Brakes

Fortunately, brake pads are designed to provide clear signals that they need to be checked and possibly replaced. Here are some ways to check your brakes:

Brake Checks While Driving

Here are a few ways you can be in-tune with your brakes and whether it’s time to have them checked.

  • Listen to your brakes. Brake pads are designed to make a noise as an early warning signal that they need to be changed, says J.D. Power and Associates (J.D. Power). This noise will usually sound like metal scraping on the wheels when the car is moving. The sound caused by these wear indicators will typically get louder the more the brakes are used. If, after inspection, you still have noisy brakes, you may require different adjustments or repairs.
  • Pay attention to your brake pedal and steering wheel. When brake pads are worn out, a vibration can often be felt in the brake pedal when braking. A vibrating steering wheel when braking may also be a sign of brake pad issues.
  • Notice if the warning light comes on. If the brake warning light on your dashboard comes on while you’re driving, Cars.com says you may be running low on brake fluid. Have your brakes checked as soon as possible.

If you have concerns about whether or not your brake system is functioning properly, you should have it inspected by a professionally immediately.

Visually Inspect Brake Pads

It can also be helpful to take a look at your brakes to see if there are any obvious signs of wear and tear. When the car is parked safely and the ignition is off, follow these tips for visually inspecting your brake pads:

  • Look at the wheels. Brake dust accumulation in the wheel is a sign of normal wear, according to MotorWeek. If you notice that your wheels are dirtier or cleaner than usual, you may want to have your brakes inspected.
  • Observe the brake pad. On many cars, the brake pad can be seen through the wheel. Look at it to determine its thickness. If it seems very thin, less than ¼ inch, it is likely in need of replacement, according to J.D. Power. Some brake pads have a slot in the center that serves as a wear indicator. Look at the slot — if it’s almost gone, the pad probably needs to replaced.

When to Replace Brake Pads

Cars.com says some common signs that may indicate it’s time to replace your brake pads include:

  • Pulsation or vibrations in the brake pedal.
  • Longer stopping distances.
  • Your foot goes down further than normal when you apply the brakes.
  • The vehicle pulling to one side when you brake, according to J.D. Power.

If you do not feel comfortable checking your brake pads, take your vehicle to a local dealership or repair shop where a professional can do it for you. Not only will replacing worn brake pads help make your car safer, it may help save money in the long run by helping prevent avoidable accidents.

Originally published on May 29, 2017.

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The post When and How to Check Your Car’s Brake Pads appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Quick Fix: Avoid Door Dings With A Pool Noodle

By The Allstate Blog Team

Have you ever pulled your car into your garage, opened the car door and accidentally hit the wall? Just like that, the side of your car door has a ding. We’ve all been there, but there’s an inexpensive way to help avoid dents and dings. A pool noodle may be the key to helping protect your car doors, according to Precision Garage Door of Salt Lake.

Watch this video to see how a pool noodle can become a bumper for your car door.

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Step 1: Gather the Materials

First, gather these materials:

  • A dry pool noodle
  • A box cutter or utility knife
  • Double-sided foam tape
  • A pencil
  • A measuring tape (optional)

Step 2: Cut Pool Noodle in Half

Use a utility knife or box cutter to cut the pool noodle in half lengthwise. Take care when cutting — do this step on a flat surface such as a workbench or the garage floor. You may also want to consider wearing work gloves while cutting.

Step 3: Determine Where Your Car Door Meets the Garage Wall

Carefully open your car door to determine where it makes contact with the garage wall. Using a pencil, lightly mark the point of contact on the wall. Using that mark as your guide, draw a longer line horizontally across the wall. If desired, you can use a measuring tape to make sure you are extending your line at the correct height or for the length of the pool noodle.

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Step 4: Attach the Noodle to the Garage Wall

Cut two strips of mounting tape the length of the pool noodle. Apply these strips of tape to the edges of the noodle. Then, attach the noodle to the wall, horizontally along the line you marked earlier.

Alternatively, The Family Handyman says you could use nails to attach the pool noodle to the wall to really help it stay in place. However, be sure to use the appropriate tools and nails for your garage wall.

Step 5: Test Your Handiwork

Again, carefully open the car door. It should now touch the soft pool noodle instead of the wall. If it doesn’t, remount the noodle at the appropriate height.

No one likes dents in their car, especially when it is from something as simple as opening the door. Use this quick fix to help avoid door dings by mounting a simple pool noodle to your garage wall.

Originally posted on November 16, 2016.

The post Quick Fix: Avoid Door Dings With A Pool Noodle appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

How to Clean Your Car Windows Without Getting Streaks

By The Allstate Blog Team

Do your car windows need a good cleaning? There may be a simple solution in your cabinets. According to Reader’s Digest, a mixture of vinegar, ammonia and cornstarch can help you get sparkling car windows without leaving streaks.

clean car windows hack

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Gather the Cleaning Supplies

Start by gathering the ingredients you need to make the glass cleaning solution:

You’ll also need a clean bucket to use while you’re mixing the solution. When the cleaner is ready, you’ll need a spray bottle and clean cloth, such as a microfiber towel, to use while cleaning.

How to Clean Your Car Windows

Follow these steps to get clean windows without pesky streaks.

Step 1: Create the Mixture

In a bucket, combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with ½ cup ammonia, ½ cup white vinegar and 3 to 4 quarts of warm water. Mix the ingredients together — Reader’s Digest says it’s normal for it to look milky.

Step 2: Spray the Solution onto Your Car Window

Pour the finished mixture into an empty spray bottle. Then, spray the solution onto your car window.

Step 3: Wipe, Rinse and Dry

Wipe the window with warm water to rinse off the solution and loosened dirt. Then, use a lint-free cloth or paper towel to dry the window.

Step 4: Repeat

Repeat this process for each window on your vehicle.

Follow These Cleaning Tips

For best results, consider these window-cleaning tips from Angie’s List:

  • Wash your windows in the shade or on a cool day. The cleaning mixture may dry too quickly in the sun, which can leave streaks.
  • Wipe the windows using up-and-down strokes on one side of the window (inside or outside) and side-to-side strokes on the other to tell which side requires extra polishing.
  • Switch to a new towel when the one you’re using gets dirty. This can help prevent residue or dirt getting transferred from the towel to the window you’re trying to clean.
  • If you’re washing the whole car, clean the windows last. This will allow you to get soap residue or car wax off the glass, so the windows will truly be clean.

Making sure your car windows are clean not only helps your car to look it’s best, but can also help improve visibility while you’re driving. With this homemade glass cleaner and a little effort, you’ll have a clearer view of the road ahead.

Originally published on October 2, 2017.

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Choosing the Right Vehicle for Your Young Driver

By The Allstate Blog Team

Seeing children grow and reach developmental milestones can be a rewarding experience for parents. But, some of those milestones, like helping your teen get a driver’s license or buying a car for your young driver, may come with some concerns and uncertainty. It helps to do some research to find the right car for your teen’s situation. These tips can help you get started with buying a car for your teen driver.

Consider Vehicle Type and Size

When choosing a car for your teen, vehicle size matters for a few reasons. For example, large, heavier cars may seem more difficult for a new driver to handle at first. But, bigger vehicles typically perform better in crash tests than their smaller counterparts, according to Consumer Reports. On the flip side, it’s important to consider that a larger vehicle usually allows for more passengers (which can be a potential driving distraction). While doing your research, it may be a good idea to check your state’s graduated driver licensing laws to understand how many passengers your teen may be allowed to have in their vehicle.

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Sports cars are one type of car that should be avoided for teens, says Consumer Reports, because they have a higher rate of accidents when compared to other types of vehicles. These types of vehicles can also have high horsepower, which may tempt your teen to test its limits, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Consider your teen’s abilities and maturity level, and your budget, when choosing which size vehicle may be right for them.

Look at a Car’s Safety Ratings and Features

Safety is likely a top priority when it comes to a car for your teen. Newer cars generally offer more safety features and have better crash protection, says Consumer Reports, so you may want to take the age of a car into consideration when choosing a vehicle.

It’s also a good idea to check a vehicle’s safety ratings. In addition to the ratings supplied by car manufacturers, consider looking at results from a safety-research group. One example is the 5-star rating program that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administers each year to determine how new vehicles perform in front, side and rollover crash testing. A 5-star rating indicates the safest cars. In 2010, NHTSA also began assigning an overall vehicle score to tested cars along with a list of their included safety technologies, which may be helpful when comparing newer vehicles. 

Some newer cars also include advanced safety features. Forward-collision warning, for example, provides drivers with visual or audio warnings when another car or object is in its path, says Consumer Reports. New vehicles may also include automatic emergency braking or a blind spot warning system, which can help drivers avoid an accident by alerting them of vehicles in their blind spot.

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Assess Maintenance Costs

Costs related to routine maintenance can vary from vehicle to vehicle. Consider expenses such as the price of oil changes, parts and tires. If you buy a luxury car for your teen, for example, it may cost more to fix when something goes wrong, says AutoTrader. This is because many luxury cars have higher-end gadgets and use specialized parts, making maintenance more expensive than an average car. Or, you may want to consider that larger cars can cost more to fuel up since they typically have a lower fuel economy when compared to smaller cars, says Consumer Reports.

After finding a potential car for your teen, you may also want to speak with an insurance agent to estimate the insurance costs so you know what to expect.

No matter which vehicle you choose for your teen, combining a reliable car with a responsible driver can help maximize the safety of your teen and their passengers. Remember these tips when researching vehicles so you can choose a car that meets your priorities and is appropriate for your teen.

The post Choosing the Right Vehicle for Your Young Driver appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Most Commonly Stolen Cars In The U.S. And How To Avoid Buying A Stolen Vehicle

By The Allstate Blog Team

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a vehicle is stolen somewhere in the United States every 42.2 seconds. Find out which cars are most commonly stolen, how you can avoid buying a stolen car and what you can do to help prevent your vehicle from being stolen.

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The Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles of 2018

Each year, the NICB compiles a “Hot Wheels Report” that provides information on the most stolen vehicle makes and models. Here are the 10 most stolen vehicles of 2018 by make and model year:

  1. 2000 Honda Civic
  2. 1997 Honda Accord
  3. 2006 Ford Pickup (full-size)
  4. 2004 Chevrolet Pickup (full-size)
  5. 2017 Toyota Camry
  6. 2017 Nissan Altima
  7. 2018 Toyota Corolla
  8. 2018 GMC Pickup (full-size)
  9. 2001 Dodge Pickup (full-size)
  10. 2000 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee

How to Avoid Buying a Stolen Car or Part

The NICB warns that even if you didn’t know you bought a stolen vehicle, it can be confiscated and returned to its original owner. To help avoid buying a stolen vehicle, NICB recommends that you:

  • Contact your state’s motor vehicle department to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
  • Run a title search on the vehicle.
  • Ask your insurance company if they can inspect the vehicle before you buy.
  • Be wary of buying a car from anyone you don’t know, especially from online ads.
  • Walk away if you don’t trust the seller.

Stolen car parts, like bumpers, doors, wheels and hoods are also on the rise, according to the NICB. To avoid unknowingly having stolen parts installed on your vehicle, the NICB suggests:

  • Using repair shops with Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technicians.
  • Getting shop recommendations from friends, family or your insurance provider.
  • Asking for a written warranty for installed parts and completed paint work.

How to Prevent Auto Theft

Taking steps to help prevent your car from being stolen could save you a lot of time and money, particularly if you drive one of the most stolen cars or you live in an area prone to auto theft. Some basic preventive measures, such as locking your doors, installing an anti-theft system and parking in well-lit areas, can help deter thieves.

It may also be a good idea to review your auto insurance coverage, since comprehensive coverage may help if your vehicle or just certain parts of it are stolen. Knowing you’ve taken action to help protect your car may give you some peace of mind.

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The post Most Commonly Stolen Cars In The U.S. And How To Avoid Buying A Stolen Vehicle appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

Driving Without A License: What Are The Risks?

By The Allstate Blog Team

Driving a vehicle without a license is illegal and can also be dangerous. Here’s are some of the most common ways someone can lose driving privileges and the penalties they may face for driving without a valid driver’s license.

Common Ways to Lose Driving Privileges

Drivers can lose their licenses for a variety of reasons. For example, California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend a license for:

  • Not having car insurance.
  • Being convicted for driving under the influence.
  • Failing to pay child support.
  • Drinking while underage.

Taking a hard stance against driving under the influence, every state in the country has agreed to strict penalties for anyone found driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For example, the California DMV states that first-time offenders who fail breath or chemical tests in California can have their licenses suspended for four months. A second offense may result in a one-year suspension.  Similarly, Michigan drivers face a six-month suspension for a first conviction under their anti-drunk and drugged driving laws, according to the Michigan Secretary of State. A second offense requires jail time and/or community service, while a third offense will be treated as a felony.

For information on your state’s laws, check with your secretary of state or department of motor vehicles. The Governors Highway Safety Association also provides a full list of rules by state.

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What’s the Difference Between a Suspended and Revoked License?

There are legal differences between a suspended and a revoked driver’s license, according to the North Carolina DMV:

  • Suspended license. Driving privileges are withdrawn for a certain amount of time and may be reinstated after the suspension. The reasons for a suspension will vary by state. For example, the Georgia Department of Driver Services assigns points to a driver’s record once they’re convicted of certain offenses, like reckless driving or driving while texting. After a certain point limit, the driver’s license will be suspended.
  • Revoked license. License revocation usually means driving privileges are terminated, says the North Carolina DMV. A revoked license is often because of a more serious offense or multiple offenses. A driver will have to reapply for a license after meeting the requirements outlined by their state.

What Happens to My Car Insurance if My Driving Privileges are Suspended or Revoked?

Your insurance company may cancel your policy if your license or the license of any insured person in your household is suspended or revoked for any reason, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Insurance companies often work with the state DMVs to notify them once your policy is canceled, says the III. If your policy is cancelled and you can’t find active coverage (or choose not to), the state may require you to turn in your car’s tags and surrender driving privileges. You’ll need to find new coverage as soon as your license is reinstated.

How Can I Get My Driver’s License Reinstated?

Your state’s rules will dictate what you need to do to get your driver’s license reinstated after it if was suspended or revoked. Once your suspension or revocation time is almost over, The Balance says these steps may help the process along:

  • Read your suspension/revocation notice to make sure you have complied with all conditions for resintatement.
  • Take a driving class.
  • Pay any fees related to your loss of driving privileges.
  • Be sure you know the steps for reinstatement.

You may also need to obtain an SR-22 from your auto insurance company to prove you’re meeting your state’s minimum auto liability requirements.

Loaning Your Car to Unlicensed Drivers

Car insurance generally follows the car and not the driver, according to the III. This means that your auto insurance policy will typically provide coverage if a family member or friend is driving your car with permission. However, if an unlicensed friend or family member borrows your car, you may be held responsible for damage or medical costs result from an accident. Your car insurance company may deny the claim because an unlicensed driver was driving.

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The post Driving Without A License: What Are The Risks? appeared first on The Allstate Blog.

7 Things to Know Before Driving in Mexico

By The Allstate Blog Team

Planning on driving to Mexico? The following guidelines can help you plan for your drive in Mexico. Keep reading to learn about some laws and unspoken customs before your trip.

Tips for Driving in Mexico

Here are seven tips to keep in mind for your drive:

1. Be completely aware of your surroundings

As a U.S. driver, you’re likely accustomed to road signs, strict right-of-way laws and traffic signals. Make sure you know the speed limits and understand the rules of the road in Mexico before you travel.

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2. Stick to the toll roads (“cuotas”)

The Department of State advises driving on toll roads for increased safety and better road conditions. This is also recommended because outside of major cities in Mexico, emergency or police services may be limited.

3. Learn the different road elements

Here are some common road conditions to look out for, according to USA today:

  • Topes: Mexican speed bumps (“topes”) are not always marked with yellow paint and there may not be warning signs.
  • Potholes: Many roads in Mexico aren’t government regulated and may have large potholes.
  • Left-hand highway exits: Instead of using exit ramps and overpasses to get to the opposite side of the freeway, Mexico implemented a “returno system,” says Trip Advisor. These are areas where you can pull over and pause to safely make a U-turn just past your intended exit.

4. Drive during daylight

Driving in the daylight may be easier and safer in Mexico, says the Department of State. Remember, police or emergency services may be limited in some areas of Mexico (especially at night). The Department of State also advises visitors to avoid driving alone, if possible.

5. Understand that turn signals may be used for different purposes

Turn signals in Mexico can be used to mean more than one thing, according to USA Today. For example, if you’re on the highway and the driver in front of you uses his left turn signal, this could indicate that it’s safe for you to pass him.

6. Know about driving on the shoulder

Oncoming drivers in Mexico will often enter your lane of the road to pass other vehicles, says Trip Savvy – and it’s typically expected that other vehicles will move over to accommodate them. If a vehicle is approaching in your lane from the opposite direction, you should move over and drive on the shoulder to allow them to pass.

7. Expect to communicate with U.S. Customs

You will cross a customs checkpoint when re-entering the United States. You’ll be asked to declare anything you purchase while in Mexico, says the Department of Homeland Security. You can find a complete list of items you can’t carry across the border on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here.

Purchase a Mexico Tourist Auto Insurance Policy

Your U.S. auto insurance won’t cover you after crossing the border of Mexico. You’ll need a special Mexican auto insurance policy to legally drive in Mexico, which can be acquired through an insurance agent. If you’re planning to drive a rental car in Mexico, you may be able to purchase the insurance coverage directly through the rental agency, according to the Department of State.

Preparing for your drive ahead of time can help ensure you have a thorough understanding of what to expect while driving in Mexico. An agent can also help you find long-term or short-term insurance coverage options that are a good fit for your trip and needs. Visit Allstate’s Mexico tourist auto insurance page for more information.

The post 7 Things to Know Before Driving in Mexico appeared first on The Allstate 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.

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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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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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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