Back to School Safety: College – Prepping Your Car

Back to School Safety Guide

If your child is heading off to higher education, then you want to make sure that he or she is well prepared for life on their own. There are a lot of different things that can happen during college life, so it’s imperative that you talk to your teenager about how to stay safe in the process.  This week, we have a couple of tips for students going back to college.

Prepping Your Car for the Trip

If the university is a long distance away from home, then you will want to be sure that your teen’s car is up to the challenge. That being said, here are the most vital systems to check and update as necessary.

  • Check fluids. Brakes, power steering, and oil are all essential. Other options include windshield wipers, antifreeze, and possibly transmission fluid.
  • Check for leaks. If the car is leaving wet spots wherever it goes, there is a good chance that you have to get something fixed.
  • Test the battery. Unless it’s less than a year old, it should be tested to make sure that it will hold up, especially in hot or cold weather.
  • Check your tires. First, make sure that they have sufficient pressure. Next, check for balding, as that’s a sign that they need to be replaced. Also check to make sure that you have a properly-inflated spare tire that is in good working order.
  • Test your lights. Although brake lights and headlights are crucial, you should also check things like license plate lights and dome bulbs as well.
  • Find a local mechanic. Since you won’t be on hand to remind your teenager about car maintenance, it’s best to find a local shop that can help out.

More Back to School Safety to Come

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What If… I am in a Car Accident?

What if...

Accidents are one of the biggest dangers while driving on the road, and it’s important that everyone knows just what to do in case they find themselves involved in one.

Start by moving your vehicle to a safe area, if possible. Leaving the car in the way of other traffic can add to the problem and adds danger to those still on the road. Unless the vehicle is disabled completely or it would be unsafe to move the car out of traffic, pulling into a safe area is the best course of action. If the car can’t be moved then ensure the hazard lights have been turned on to help warn traffic of the upcoming problem.

Shut off the vehicle and exit it if possible. Once the vehicle has stopped, for safety purposes it’s best to set the car in park and/or place the parking brake, take a few calming breaths, check to be sure it’s safe to exit the vehicle and then get out. This is in case the vehicle may pose any dangers. It’s also important to grab flares or triangles to help set up hazard identification for those that may be driving up on the accident.

Check on everyone involved in the accident to see if emergency care is needed. Finding out if fellow passengers, people in other vehicles, pedestrians or other bystanders need help is the next step. If there are injuries be sure to call 9-1-1 immediately and try to render first aid if possible.

Call the police to the scene to file an accident report. Accident reports are important to insurance companies and in the case of any criminal activity. It’s best not to blame others for the accident to the police, nor should you admit blame, as their investigation will allow them to make a reasonable assessment of the situation and who to assign fault to, if necessary.

Collect as much information as you can, and provide all of your information to others involved in the accident. Getting other driver’s names, license plate numbers, insurance information, car information, the accident location, witness and police contact information and anything else that seems pertinent will help you resolve the accident more swiftly.

Call your insurance provider to see what they’d like to have done. Take photos, write notes, save information and let your insurance agent know exactly what happened. From there let the insurance companies figure out what needs to be done so that you can get back to driving your car as soon as possible.

Have questions?  Give us a call us at 800-624-3339 or click here to contact Bob Johnson Insurance.

What If… A Recall is Issued for my Vehicle?

What if...

Vehicle recalls happen when a manufacturer or the government determines that a car has a safety defect. Recalls rarely mean that a car will be replaced, but often the repairs needed to fix or replace the defect may be covered at the manufacturer’s expense.

If there is a recall on your vehicle the manufacturer is required to send a letter to all owners of that particular vehicle. The mailing addresses they use are generally those that come from the DMV or where the car is registered, so it’s important to keep your mailing address updated when you register your vehicle each year.

If you purchased a used vehicle, you can check the NHTSA’s website for recalls as you may not receive a letter if it had already been sent to a previous owner. The recall letter or information provided by the NHTSA will include what the next steps are in handling the recall. Normally the information will have you make contact with the closest dealer that services your make of car to set up repairs.

Please note that a safety recall does not mean that driving your vehicle will place you in immediate danger. Generally it is safe to continue to use the vehicle until it can be taken in for repairs. However, the severity of the issue will be listed in the letter or on the NHTSA’s website, and that should be your first indication of how immediate the repairs are needed. Of course it’s best not to tempt fate, so if there is a recall of any sort on your vehicle it should be taken in for repairs as soon as it possibly can be.

Another item of note is that any recalls that have not been repaired appropriately may affect your car insurance rates, as a safety defect can raise the liability for which you are responsible if an injury or accident occurs. To be sure that the recall won’t affect your insurance premiums, it is best to contact Bob Johnson Insurance as soon as you receive the recall notice for recommendations about what should be done.

What If… My Car Breaks Down?

What if...

It’s not an uncommon sight to see, a vehicle on the side of the road, hazard lights flashing, hood up in the air, and with a frustrated driver stranded there. Nobody wants to be the victim of a broken down vehicle, but sometimes there’s no avoiding it.

There are usually two ways of experiencing a vehicle breakdown: walking out to the vehicle and it no longer starts, or the engine sputters to a halt while you’re driving. The worst of these two options is the latter, having a car break down while driving is scary and can leave you far from help.

If your car breaks down at your home, generally you can still make plans to work around it until you can find a way to get the car to a shop to get fixed. If you walk out of a store or leave work and the car won’t start then there’s certainly more immediacy to take action. When cars break down while driving, the situation becomes a roadside emergency that must be remedied immediately.

The important thing is to be sure your vehicle is in a safe place and away from traffic no matter where the breakdown occurs. If the car engine stops running while driving:

  1. First: Turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers that your vehicle is no longer functioning properly and may be a hazard to those around you.
  2. Second:  Pull the vehicle over, getting as far out of traffic as possible whether that means taking it onto the shoulder of the road or finding an open parking space that can be used.
  3. Turn your wheels away from traffic, and set the parking brake.  If you need to exit the vehicle, always ensure it is safe to exit the vehicle before opening the door.
  4. Under most circumstances it is best to stay in the vehicle and use a cell phone to call for help rather than getting out into traffic. If there are signs of smoke, fire or odd smells entering the vehicle then exit as swiftly as you can while still being safe.

It’s best not to try to fix the vehicle yourself on the roadside. Instead, use your roadside assistance provided by:

  • A third party such as AAA.
  • Your insurance plan.

If you do not have a roadside assistance plan, call a tow truck directly if necessary.  If there is any sort of dangerous situation involved as well, immediately dial 9-1-1 for police/fire/medical support.

If you’re unsure if you have emergency roadside assistance through your insurance, contact Bob Johnson Insurance today to find out, or see if you can add it to your insurance plan.

What If… My Car is Getting Old?

What if...

Cars get older every day they’re removed from the factory, and that age carries some serious liabilities with it. Older cars are harder to repair, and they need more frequent maintenance as the parts start to break down and fail. There comes a point when it’s time to ask yourself, what should I do with my old car?

If the maintenance costs per year are becoming more than the monthly payments for a new vehicle would be, then replacement is the best option. Why spend more for less, when it’s clear that you are already going to have to put the money out there one way or the other.

If the car has been well maintained and isn’t costing much from one year to the next then it may be worth it to fix those little issues that could use some attention. The old adage of “if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it” can be applied to cars by saying “if it isn’t broken then don’t replace it.”

Another aspect of car ownership that has to be considered is registration and insurance. These bills pile up every year, and in some states the registration fee can get worse with older vehicles than with newer ones. Likewise, if you’re paying for additional insurance that may not be necessary or worthwhile in the case of an accident then you may be throwing money away as well. (This is something your agent can help you determine during your annual insurance review.) If your car is paid off, you should give your insurance agent a call without a doubt to see if there is somewhere you can save money or determine if it may be more worthwhile to upgrade to a newer model after all.

While many cars become classics as they age, there are many more that just become scrap. While it’s tough to know what will become a valuable vehicle when it ages, sentimental value may be a reason to hang on to the car.  If you’re lucky then that sentimental value could turn into a return on value for that car you cared for.

Ultimately, knowing what to do with an older car comes down to understanding the cost of that car. If the car is becoming more costly to maintain and register than it should be, then the choice is clear. If you want to preserve your car and keep it as it reaches classic status then it’s important to care for it correctly. Either way, knowing all the costs from registration fees, maintenance costs and insurance costs are critical to making the right decision. Your next step should be to check in on those fees with the DMV and your insurance agent so you can start planning what to do with that old car.

Prepping for Spring: Easy Ways to Get Your Car Ready for Spring

Prepping your vehicle for Spring

Cars are a very important part of our daily lives, and as such they should be well maintained and ready to tackle every new season that rolls along. Getting your car ready for spring is a snap, if you pay attention to these tips.

Check on Your Tires

As winter comes to an end, it may be time to change from snow tires back to summer tires. If not, then it’s still a good time to check out your tires to make sure the air pressure is still adequate and the tread is good for another season. After winter driving it can be worth it to have tires balanced and rotated as well, as the changing road conditions could have an impact on how well they ride.

Give the Battery a Once Over

 Popping the hood to see if there’s any built up corrosion, road salt or mud where it shouldn’t be is a good idea. Cleaning the battery terminals and checking the strength of your battery along with that is a great idea as well. Batteries with corrosion won’t work as well, and over time their strength dips, so making sure your battery is ready for spring should be part of a regular spring cleaning routine.

Consider Replacing Wiper Blades

Winter freezes and snow can be a nightmare for wiper blades. Take the time to make sure they are free of cracks, breaks or brittleness to make certain they can handle those spring showers. If there are signs of damage, or if it’s been awhile since they were replaced, including new wiper blades with your spring shopping list can save you the hassle of not being able to see in the rain later.

A New Season Should Mean New Oil

Depending on your manufacturer’s recommendations, it’s likely time to replace the oil in your vehicle as well. While the three month rule has been pushed to the wayside a bit with modern cars and engines, it’s still a good idea to check on the oil now, and it doesn’t hurt to have it changed to keep your engine running at its best for the coming summer months ahead.

Double Check Your Paperwork

While you’re doing spring cleaning on your car, it’s a good time to clear out the glove box and make sure that only the most current registration and insurance paperwork are inside. Having old paperwork can lead to mistakes if anything happens while you’re on the road, so it’s best to get rid of outdated documents. It will also remind you to make sure the registration hasn’t expired.

Did You Do Your Insurance Review?

An insurance review is when you sit down with your insurance agent and go over the specific details of your policies. It’s best to do this with all of your insurance so that you can catch any gaps in coverage and solve that issue immediately. If you didn’t do an insurance review in January, then this is a good time to call Bob Johnson Insurance to see if any changes should be made to your policy. (865-922-3111 or toll free 1-800-624-3339)

Prepping for Spring SeriesPrepping for Spring Series

Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter

Preparing for Winter

Depending on the kind of car you drive, winter weather can be a hassle for several reasons. First, the roads are going to be tough to traverse, with black ice and snow causing you to skid and slide all over the place.

Second, if your car is exposed to the elements, it may get damaged in the process. In many cases, your battery will die from the cold temperatures. In extreme cases, some of the fluids in your engine could freeze, or the whole engine block could crack.

So, with that in mind, here are some ways to keep your car in good shape this winter.

Prepare a Winter Supply Case

If you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow, you never know if you will get stranded somewhere. In these situations, it can be crucial to have supplies on hand to get out safely. Some items to include are road flares, emergency blanket, radio, an ice scraper, some water and snacks, and jumper cables. If you really want to be prepared, then keep a spare charger for the battery.

Check Your Fluids

Antifreeze and coolant are going to be the most vital liquids for your engine during the winter, so make sure that they are topped off before the first snowfall.  Be sure to test them to make sure they are appropriate for the surrounding temperature.

Inspect Your Tires

Although you may have to rely on chains to get around, you also want to be sure that your tires have sufficient traction for the roads. If they are getting bald, you need to replace them ASAP. This is also good advice in general, not just for winter.

Another thing to make sure of is that your tire pressure is sufficient. With cold weather, it’s best if they are a little underinflated (maybe five psi lower than normal) so that you can get better traction.

Switch to Winter Wiper Fluid

Usually, the fluid that stays in your car to keep your windshield clean is going to freeze during the winter. A specialized mix will remain viscous during the season and allow you to clean your windows without worry.

Use Winter Oil

Like wiper fluid, your oil may not be optimized for colder weather. As such, be sure to get an oil change before the temperatures drop dramatically so that you can keep your car in pristine shape during the frozen months.


Preparing For Winter Series

How Much Car Insurance is Enough: Low vs. High Deductible

Many questions come to mind when you are getting your car insurance.  Questions like:

  1. What do all these numbers like 100/300/100 mean?
  2. What is an umbrella policy and do I need it?
  3. How much coverage do I really need?

That third question is one that we all face.  We know how much we want to pay — as little as possible so it doesn’t hurt the budget too much. We know how much the highway patrol requires — hopefully.  However, that might not be enough.  Let’s take a look.

Low Deductible vs. High Deductible

The most commonly chosen deductible for vehicles is $500.  We recommend, however, that you should do a break-even analysis.  You might consider raising your deductible to save money. The national average for car claims is 7 years.  Divide the change in deductible by the amount of savings. If it is greater than 7 years, it’s probably not a good thing to do.

The actual savings of raising your deductible can vary from one insurance company to the next and it depends on too many variables for us to actually use accurate numbers here.  However, let’s make up some numbers.

If you raise your deductible to $1000 per year, let’s say that saves you $50 per year.  Your break-even:

$500/$50 each year = 10 years to break even

The national average of having an auto claim is 7 years, so that’s probably not a good thing to do.  But what if raising your deductible saved you $150 per year?

$500/$150 each year = 3.3 years

Raising your deductible might be a good idea in this case.  You should contact us to get actual rates.  In addition, our experienced agents will be able to help you choose exactly the best coverage for YOU.  (And we’re also happy to answer all the questions you may have about it!)

How Much Insurance Do You Need?

Low vs. High Deductible
Liability Insurance
Collision and Comprehensive Coverage