How to Make Dreaded Holiday Travel Easy

Are you traveling for the Thanksgiving this week? We understand the amount of work that goes into preparing to celebrate with family and friends and know that the addition of traveling can make this a very stressful time of the year for those traveling to spend the holiday with loved ones. Whether renting a car or taking on the travel in your own, these suggestions can help make the drive to your Thanksgiving destination a little bit easier.

 

New Map Apps:

Google Maps and many other map applications for smart phones have been updated to take into account the heavy week of travel ahead. These apps are designed to assist travelers and make their treks to Thanksgiving destinations a bit easier. If you have access to a smart phone, you can download apps that will re-route your drive if there is heavy traffic expected or can give you minute-by-minute updates on weather in your area. Google maps recently made updates to their application that will help drivers feel prepared to tackle their travel. The app Waze tries to help drivers avoid traffic and roadblocks by asking travelers to report other problems through the app, which then can be used by other drivers. Apps that show traffic patterns are continually getting better and are worth a download this holiday week. They can help you find alternative routes and keep your travel safe, short, and fun.

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Rental Cars:

If you’re traveling out of state and are renting a car there are a few actions you should take before driving on to your destination. Early booking when renting a car is always the best way to ensure that you are getting a reasonable price for your rental. Secondly, check with your insurance to make sure that you are covered in case anything happens while you are driving the rental. Many rental companies will suggest getting insurance so it is wise to check with your insurance policy first so that you do not pay for something you may already be covered for. You can purchase supplementary insurance as needed from the rental company if you find that you are not covered through your own insurance. It is important to have a good collision-and-damage waiver (CDW) insurance before moving forward with your rental choice.

It is also extremely important to check for any possible damage to your rental car before you drive it off the rental company property. Examine the doors, windows, paint, and bumpers to be sure that there are no signs of previous damage. If you do find any dings, scrapes, or dents, take a picture with your smart phone or camera. Talk to your rental agent about the damage so it may be documented before you drive the vehicle. Many rental companies will be understanding of prior damage, but if you run into trouble, it is best to simply request a new car.

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Hitting the Road:

AAA is expected more than 46.3 million people to hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday, the most in nearly 7 years. There are a few simple staples of good driving practices that must be implemented this week in order to keep you and the occupants in your car safe. With a higher volume of vehicles on the road this week, the chances of an accident occurring are greatly increased. Make sure that every passenger in the car has his or her seatbelt properly secured for the duration of your journey. Ensuring that seatbelts are being worn correctly is the easiest way to prevent tragic injuries that are results of unpreventable car accidents.

If you are traveling long distances and will be driving for multiple hours, make it a priority to get some good rest before you depart. Resting and leaving at a suitable hour when you know you are capable of driving carefully is the safest way to get you to your destination. It is also important to schedule breaks in your driving so that you can give your mind and body a well-deserved rest. Taking breaks helps to maintain alertness and also enhances focus during long drives.

With the large number of vehicles expected on the roads this week, let your co-pilot handle common distractions in the car such as texting, incoming phone calls, and the usage of the GPS. The roads will be crowded and it is important to be solely focused on driving. These distractions are common precursors to accidents during daily travel, but with the heavy traffic expected, they can easily be more dangerous than you would generally anticipate.

 

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This week you should expect heavy traffic and crowded roads, but don’t let that deter you from enjoying this very special holiday. If you are careful about how you travel and are aware of the dangers on the road this week, you can feel prepared to take on the drive to your destination. Keep everyone in your vehicle safe by being a responsible and knowledgeable driver! From all of us at CARCHEX, Happy Thanksgiving!

 


Winter is Coming: How to Prepare Your Car

This week, the “polar vortex” is expected to hit most of the U.S. hard, which means now is the time to make sure your car is fully serviced before winter truly arrives. Driving in the winter can be dangerous, as roads are slippery and the weather can turn on a dime. Make sure you are fully prepared for the winter ahead before it hits by servicing your vehicle and continuing routine maintenance checks throughout the winter months.

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Routine Maintenance

Summer is the most popular season for driving, which means you may have racked up a lot of miles on your car without servicing it. Before the ice and snow arrive, take your car in for a regular maintenance check. It is important to make sure you have had a recent oil change, a change of coolant fluid, as well as a thorough check of your brake and transmission fluid. Fluids are key to keeping your car running during the winter months as they help to protect the essential parts of your engine and keep them from overheating. Your car’s systems have to work very hard and in sync to keep you going in the winter. It is critical to make sure everything is properly filled and updated before you encounter a problem midway through January and its freezing cold.

 

The Coolant System

Even though it may seem counter-intuitive to have your coolant system checked when we’re headed into the coldest months of the year, it actually may be the most important thing you do this fall. Winter weather can cause serious damage to your car’s cooling system. When taking your vehicle in for a routine maintenance check, ask your trusted mechanic to service all parts of the coolant system and replace the current coolant fluid before your car is given the OK to leave the shop. There are different ratios of coolant that should be used during the winter dependent on the make and model of your car. Make sure this is addressed with your mechanic to ensure a healthy coolant system this winter. Coolant not only protects you car from overheating but also battles corrosion, which is why it is very important to regularly service the system.

 

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Brake Check

Your brakes are extremely important to you and your car during the winter months. Giving yourself an ample amount of time to stop and taking into account the slippery roads resulting from ice, snow and freezing rain is always a key when driving safely in the winter. Make sure that you are confident in your brakes by checking them regularly for wear and tear before you hit the road on any wintery day. A few key signs that your brakes may need replacing are if your rotors are cracked or worn, they have deep grooves, or if the pads between them are looking thin.

 

Tires

Your tires provide the grip for your car on slick roads. They should have ample tread left on them before you take on the icy roads of winter. If you live in a region where large amounts of snow and inclement weather are expected, it may be smart to look in to “winter” tires. These tires are larger and have a much deeper tread than a regular tire. These enlarged treads provide more grip for your car when on the road.

 

In the winter, dry rot is a common problem for tires, potentially leading to blowouts and flat tires. While dry rot is an easy problem to recognize, it is too commonly ignored, which can lead to big problems down the road. You do not want to be on the side of a road with a flat tire during freezing cold temperatures, so be sure to check your spare tire now, before the weather gets too intense. Make sure you have refilled your spare with air and have checked it for dry rot, leaks, or holes to make sure it is ready for use in case of an emergency.

 

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Lights and Wipers

Headlight use is at an all time high during the winter months, as it get darker earlier and nasty weather can prevent good visibility. Check your headlights, brake lights, and all other lights on your vehicle to ensure that you are visible to others on the road and that you can see clearly. New light bulbs are fairly inexpensive and are worth the quick fix.

 

Another relatively simple item to update is your windshield wipers. Creating good visibility is key when it is raining, snowing, or sleeting. A good rule of thumb is if your wipers are more than 6 months old, it is probably an appropriate time to look into replacing them.

 

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Be Prepared For the Worst

Make sure before you hit the roads this winter, you have all of the necessary items readily available in your vehicle. It is always smart to keep a few of these items in an easily accessible location.

  • Ice-scraper
  • Bag of sand/kitty litter for traction
  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • Jumper Cables
  • Flashlight
  • First-Aid Kit

 

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Driving on the road during the winter, in any condition, is a dangerous task and to be confident that your vehicle is up for the job, you must make regular maintenance checks a priority. Staying consistent with your car’s care is an easy way to increase its longevity this winter. It’s hard to believe, but it’s already the second week of November, and the temperatures are starting to drop. Take your car into the shop for a routine check before you are distracted by the upcoming holiday season. If you are diligent about the care of your car during the months prior to winter, you will be ready to take on the upcoming weather and temperatures ahead!


5 Scary Things That Can Happen To You on the Road

Halloween is a scary time of year but there is nothing spookier than when something unexpected happens and you are behind the wheel. It is always important to make sure you are paying attention to the road and other vehicles around you, but sometimes unpreventable and dangerous situations occur. Here are our 5 scariest things that could happen to you on the road.

 

1. A Smoking Engine 

  • If the smoke coming from your engine is blue, it means oil is burning and you should immediately pull over, get out of the car, and call for assistance.
  • There are a few common problems that can cause oil to burn including: worn valve stem seals, worn rings, and not changing your car’s oil regularly.
  • White smoke is generally caused by an overheated engine.
  • Make sure you regularly have your car serviced to check all aspects of the engine and make sure everything is working properly.

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2. Brake Failure

  • If your brake pedal can be pushed to the floor or a small red light appears on your dashboard, you should pull over immediately and call for assistance. Your car is no longer safe to drive.
  • Do not drive without working brakes you are a danger to everyone on the road, including yourself!
  • Get your brakes checked regularly to ensure that if the pads are wearing thin, you can get them replaced before an accident occurs.

 

3.  Tire Blow-Out 

  • Do not panic. If you try to over-correct or hit the brakes there is a good chance you will lose control of the vehicle.
  • Do not step on the brake if your tire blows. Applying any amount of pressure on the brake will cause more instability.
  • Ease off the gas pedal when pulling off to the side of the road. If you release the accelerator too quickly, the weight of the car will be transferred between the front and back axel unevenly and can lead to a loss of control.

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4. Loss of Steering

  • If you lose control of steering while you are driving, there is a chance that there may be a broken belt that you need to get checked out.
  • Losing control of your car is very scary, try and remember not to over-correct the steering wheel to prevent you from driving into a parallel lanes.
  • When you safely get to the shoulder, call for assistance.

 

5. Animals 

  • Unfortunately, animals are the cause of many accidents. They can appear out of nowhere and give you minimal time to react.
  • Do not swerve into other lanes of traffic. This is the easiest way to lose control of your vehicle.
  • The fall is the most common time of the year for deer-related accidents, which result in car damage.
  • Driving at dawn and dusk may increase your chances of encountering an animal on the road.
  • If you have been involved in an accident with a deer, make sure you immediately get your car inspected for damage. Run-ins with deer can be costly and it is good to remain diligent about servicing your car after an encounter.

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Happy Halloween and Safe Driving!


Keeping Your Teen Drivers Safe: 3 of the Most Dangerous Activities for Young Drivers

Did you know that car accidents are the leading cause of death for 14-18 year olds? Teenagers learning to drive are at the highest risk for being involved in car accidents. During the month of October, we celebrate Teen Driver Safety Week, which was created to bring awareness to the dangers that face teens on the road and help create a conversation every parent should have with teenagers who are learning to share the road and drive independently.

Here are our top 3 dangers facing teen drivers today:

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Cell Phones

The most important message that parents should address with their adolescent drivers before they hit the open road is putting the cell phones down. Today, with the popularity of social media and constant access to communication, it is difficult for teens to take their eyes off their phones and focus on the road, but there is no place for Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter when driving.

Texting and driving is the leading cause of car accidents in the U.S. and has claimed a staggering number of lives (3,000 each year). Texting while driving makes a crash 23x more likely to occur, which accounts for more than 1.3 million accidents per year. Make sure when you talk to your teen drivers about road safety, you immediately address the need to put the phone away.

Creating a contract for your young divers to sign is a creative way of ensuring they leave their phones alone in the car. There are also new anti-texting apps you can download on your young driver’s phone to disable texting during their time behind the wheel. For more information on how to prevent texting and driving visit http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/.

 

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Multiple Passengers

Many states across the country have initiated laws that prevent new drivers from having other passengers in the car outside of their immediate family. If your teen driver is allowed to drive other passengers, there are a few basic rules they must follow before they even start the car.

  • Make sure that everyone is seated in a seat with working seatbelt.
  • Everyone must be wearing a seatbelt before you start driving. Wearing a seatbelt greatly decreases the risk of injury if you do happen to be involved in an accident.
  • Do not squeeze more people in your car than there are seats. Driving with numerous passengers can be extremely distracting and may impair your ability to drive safely.
  • Make sure passengers are allowing you to focus on the road. If they are not, arrange other rides so that everyone can reach their destination safely.

 

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Rush Hour

Driving to school can be the most dangerous time to be behind the wheel. People are always in a rush, rarely paying attention, and the parking lots are crowded. Here are a few ways to keep you and your car safe when navigating heavily trafficked areas.

  • Arrive to school 5-10 minutes early and leave late so that you miss the mad dash to enter or leave the parking lot.
  • Always give school buses the right of way. They are much larger than you and may not be able to see as well as. Don’t pass them unless you have ample room, they are carrying numerous passengers and need a lot of space to maneuver safely.
  • There is nothing wrong with parking at the bottom of the lot if there is heavy traffic near the spots closer to school. Park at the bottom and walk. It is not worth getting into a fender-bender trying to sneak into a spot that someone else wants.
  • Follow the traffic patterns outlined by the school. Make sure you are familiar with them before driving to school. They are made to keep drivers safe.
  • Do not speed in the parking lots; it will only increase your chance of causing an accident. Driving slower allows you to have a better reaction time to other drivers in the parking lot.

 

To learn more teen driving tips you can visit these websites:

  • http://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/agreement/index.html
  • http://www.dmv.org/insurance/safe-driving-tips-for-teenage-drivers.php
  • http://teendriving.com

 

 


Know Your Car’s Numbers

We live our lives by the numbers—phone numbers, birthdays, PINs, passwords, anniversaries, addresses—the list goes on.

But do you know the numbers that are key to keeping you safe on the road?

If you own a car, you know that taking care of it is a big responsibility. Understanding a few key numbers about your vehicle can help you keep your car running smoothly and safely.

The Basics

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Before you slide into the driver’s seat, be sure that you know where to find these numbers.

  • VIN: Also known as your Vehicle Identification Number, a unique set of digits that relate to specific information about your vehicle. This number can be found on the dashboard, just below the windshield on the driver’s side; on the driver’s side doorpost where the door latches, or on the driver’s side door just below the latch mechanism.
  • License Plate Number: With a specific series of letters and/or numbers, your license plate indicates that your vehicle has been registered with your state. While all states require that license plates be affixed to the rear of your vehicle; only 31 states (and Washington, D.C.) require vehicles to display a second license plate on the front of your car. Be sure to check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to see what the specific requirements are.
  • Driver’s License Number: Your driver’s license not only verifies that you are qualified to operate a motor vehicle, but is also often used to verify your identity. The number associated with your driver’s license can be found on your license itself, often at the top or next to your photograph and other personal information such as date of birth, sex, height and weight.
  • Title Number: Your title number serves as proof of ownership of your vehicle and can be found on your car’s registration document. Make sure to keep a copy of your registration in your vehicle—if you are pulled over by a police officer, he or she will request to see it.
  • Insurance Policy Number: If you are involved in an accident with another driver on the road, you’ll want to exchange insurance information, including your policy number. This number can be found on your insurance ID card that you keep in your vehicle as proof of insurance. You can also usually find your policy number on bills or statements from your insurance company.

Keeping Up

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Now that you know how to easily locate the basic numbers that identify your car (and yourself as a driver and vehicle owner), there are a few other numbers to know that will help you properly maintain your vehicle.

 

  • Mileage: Make sure you’re regularly checking out the odometer. It’s important to know how many miles you have on your car, especially when you have to pay a visit to the mechanic. It’s often one of the first questions he’ll ask.
  • Gas Tank Capacity: The average gas tank holds between 15 and 18 gallons of gas. Check out your owner’s manual to find out how much your tank holds.
  • Miles Per Tank: Reset your odometer when you fill up with gas and keep an eye on how many miles it takes before you get to empty. If the average number of miles you get per tank changes drastically, it could be a sign to have the mechanic take a closer look.
  • Miles Per Gallon: If you know your miles per tank and gas tank capacity, it’s pretty simple to figure out your car’s level of fuel efficiency.
  • Date of Last Oil Change: When you have your oil changed by a professional mechanic, they often put a little sticker up in the driver’s side windshield to remind you when to come in for your next oil change. It depends on the car and the type of oil used, but a general rule of thumb is 3,000 miles or 3 months of driving between oil changes. Check your owner’s manual to find out what is best for your vehicle.
  • Warranty Length: The length of your factory or extended warranty is defined by a specific number of years OR miles, usually whichever comes first. Make sure you know when it expires to avoid getting stuck with a big unexpected repair bill.

 

Staying Safe

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To keep you and your passengers safe on the road, there are a few other numbers to keep in mind, and those are your “In Case of Emergency” numbers. Of course one of the most important things to keep in your car at all times is a fully-charged cell phone. Saved in your “Contacts” list should be:

  • 911 & other local emergency numbers
  • The phone number of your car insurance agent or company
  • The phone number of a close family member or friend
  • The phone number for your roadside assistance service

 

These are the numbers to know about your car to help maximize the life of your vehicle and keep you driving safely. You don’t have to memorize them all, but it’s critical to be aware of each one and know how to find them quickly and easily when needed. Knowing your numbers will give you peace of mind throughout your car ownership and driving experience.


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