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5 things to check on your car before your next road trip

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Are you planning to go on a road trip this summer? If so, it’s important to ensure that your car is in peak condition before you head out. Here are five things to check.

1. Lights. Before you hit the road, make sure all your lights work properly. Inspect your headlights, high beams, brake lights and hazards. Repair or replace them as needed.

2. Wipers. You can count on your windshield getting grimy while you’re on the highway. Plus, you never know when a rainstorm is going to strike. Test your wipers before heading out and make sure you have plenty of wiper fluid.

3. Tires. Check the air pressure in your tires. You should also inspect their overall condition and look out for any signs of damage or deterioration. Be sure to do the same for your spare.

4. Fluids. Make sure you have enough oil, coolant and brake fluid before you leave. Otherwise, you risk having your car break down en route.

5. Brakes. Ensure that your brake pads are in good condition. If they’re worn, it isn’t safe to operate your car. While you’re at it, be sure to also check that your handbrake is working well.

If you’re planning on making a multi-day trip, it’s best to take your car in for a tune-up before you leave. A mechanic will help you make certain that your car is in top shape and primed for the journey ahead.

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Automotive

Tips for choosing a roadside assistance plan

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Roadside assistance provides you with 24-hour towing and other car-related services. Here’s what you need to know about it and some advice on choosing the best plan.

What do you get with roadside assistance?
A roadside assistance provider can help you in the following situations:

• Your car breaks down, and you need it to be towed to a garage

• Your battery dies, and you need a jump start to get moving again

• You have a flat tire that needs to be changed

• You run out of gas and need fuel to be delivered

• You lock your keys in the car and require a locksmith to get back in

• Your car is stuck in the snow or mud, and you need another vehicle to pull it out

Roadside assistance provides these and other services free of charge for members. You simply call the provider on a toll-free line or use a smartphone application, and they’ll come to your location as soon as possible.

Who provides roadside assistance plans?
Most new vehicles automatically come with at least several years of roadside assistance through the car manufacturer. However, if you want more extensive services than what your car manufacturer provides, or if your plan has expired, there are a number of other companies that offer roadside assistance services, including certain insurers, credit card companies, retailers, the AAA, and other organizations.

What factors should you consider when choosing a plan?
Here are some questions to ask when selecting a roadside assistance plan:

• If you have several vehicles, does it cover you in all of them?

• Does it matter if you’re the driver or passenger?

• Does it cover your motorcycle, RV, trailer, or ATV?

• Is there a family plan available?

• Does it cover you if you travel to Canada or Mexico?

• What distance can your car be towed free of charge?

Everyone has unique needs, so take the time to shop around and find the right roadside assistance plan for you and your family.

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Automotive

Consider assets when buying auto insurance

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We’re inundated with car insurance ads at every turn, each pledging better rates or more personal service. But aside from knowing what your premium is, do you know what your coverage is and whether you have enough?

Your policy will cover liability, bodily injury liability (BIL), property damage, personal injury protection, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, collision, and comprehensive.

Many states require a minimum amount of coverage, but you probably want to consider insuring for more. Medical bills can add up to many thousands in a hurry, and you don’t want to be on the hook.

Liability packages often have three numbers, like 100/300/100. This refers to the amount of coverage for bodily injury per person (100k), per accident (300k), and property damage (100k).

Individuals with higher net worths may want to boost the first two.

The Wall Street Journal says a good rule of thumb is to get coverage for an amount equal to the total value of your assets (house, car, savings, and investments). Those could be seized to cover repairs or medical expenses otherwise.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is also vitally important. This pays for damage to your car and passenger injuries caused by an at-fault driver who doesn’t have liability insurance or a hit-and-run driver. Consumer Reports suggests buying the same limits as on your liability insurance.

Remember also to sign up for the highest deductible you can afford, which will reduce your premiums.

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Automotive

Winter safety tips: coats and car seats

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Did you know that wearing a puffy coat or snowsuit while sitting in a car seat can put your child in danger? Here’s what you should know about keeping little ones safe and warm in the car this winter.

The risks
A thick winter coat gives the illusion that a car seat’s straps are snug and that your baby is securely fastened. However, that bulky material will compress upon impact in a crash and create a gap between the harness and the child’s body. This space is large enough that your baby can easily slip through the straps or be thrown from the seat entirely.

How to test the seat

Place your child in the car seat while they’re wearing the coat, and tighten the harness until it’s snug. (You shouldn’t be able to pinch the strap at their shoulder). Next, unfasten the straps without loosening them, remove the coat and place your child back in the seat. If the straps need to be tightened more, it means the coat is too bulky.

Safe alternatives
To keep your child warm in the car without compromising their safety, dress them in fitted layers such as a thermal knit sweater and fleece jacket. Once your child is fastened in the car seat, you can cover them with blankets or their coat. Just be sure to leave their face uncovered.

For a baby, you can use a car seat cover, but only if it doesn’t have a layer that goes underneath the infant.

To find everything you need to keep your child safe and warm in the car, visit the stores in your area.

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After an accident, here are the people who’ll be by your side

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A car accident can be traumatic, even if you don’t suffer any physical injuries. Fortunately, a variety of professionals will be by your side every step of the way to ensure that you and your vehicle are in good hands.

Police officers
If a car accident causes an injury or property damage over a certain value, the police must be notified. You should also call the police if you suspect the accident was caused by a violation of the highway safety code.

Doctors

If you sustain a serious injury in the accident, you’ll be taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. There, you’ll be examined by a team of health-care professionals and given the necessary care.

Tow truck drivers
If you’re injured or your car’s unsafe to drive following the accident, a towing company will be called to bring your vehicle to a nearby mechanic or auto body repair shop.

Insurance agents
Call your insurer as soon as possible to report the accident. They’ll make arrangements with you to assess the damage and, if applicable, guide you through the process of filing a claim.

Car rental agents
While you wait for your car to be repaired, which can take days or even weeks, your local car rental agency can provide you with a temporary set of wheels. This makes it easier to resume your day-to-day activities following an accident.

Finally, be sure to turn to friends and family members for emotional support following an accident. If you experience anxiety, nightmares, or panic attacks following the accident, consider speaking with a mental health professional.

Your responsibilities
It’s important to note that all drivers are obliged to stop if they’re involved in an accident, no matter how minor. If no one is injured, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver and document details about the accident.

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5 unsafe winter driving habits

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When the roads are covered in snow and ice, motorists need to be extra careful to avoid being in an accident. Here are five driving practices that have no place on the roads in winter.

1. Driving too fast
Fast driving and icy road conditions can be a lethal combination. Slow down, especially in bad weather.

2. Following too close

It can take up to 10 times longer to come to a full stop on an icy road. It’s important that you give yourself more braking distance in the winter by leaving ample space between your car and the one in front of you.

3. Using the wrong tires
Driving with summer or all-season tires on winter roads is simply unsafe. Winter tires improve traction and vehicle handling on snow-, ice- and slush-covered roads.

4. Neglecting to clear off your car
Clearing snow and ice off your car can be tedious, but it’s a must if you want to have adequate visibility on the road. Make sure to clear off your car’s headlights and taillights too.

5. Looking at your phone
Distracted driving is always dangerous, but it’s especially hazardous on snowy and icy roads. Drivers must be able to respond quickly to changing road conditions.

Finally, try to limit how often you drive and choose your route carefully. In winter, accidents can happen to even the most careful drivers.

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How to safely brake in winter

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In icy driving conditions, braking suddenly can end in disaster. This is why you should always strive to come to a gradual stop in winter. However, in some cases, you may have no choice but to hit the brakes. Here’s how to come to a quick and safe stop on an icy road.

With anti-lock brakes
Almost all newer cars have an anti-lock braking system (ABS). When engaged, the ABS automatically pumps the brakes and prevents them from locking up. Pumping the brakes is the best way to bring a car to a stop when sliding on ice. To engage the ABS, firmly press down on the brake pedal and don’t let up until your car has come to a stop.

Without anti-lock brakes

If your car isn’t equipped with an ABS, pressing down on the brake pedal is the last thing you want to do on the ice, as this will cause the brakes to lock up and your car to skid. Instead, manually pump the brakes by applying and releasing moderate pressure at a steady rate.

The best way to become comfortable using these braking techniques is to take a winter driving course. Sign up for one in your area if you want to learn how to be safer on the roads.

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