Bad habits. We all have them. And sometimes, they can be hard to shake. This is especially true when it comes to driving. Depending on how many years you’ve spent behind the wheel, certain habits may be deeply ingrained by now. And many of them can be bad for your car.
DRIVING ON EMPTY
Whether you’re running late and forget to fill up, or you’re just not paying attention to your fuel gauge, finding yourself low on gas can happen from time to time. But running out of gas is more than just inconvenient; it can also be hard on your car.
Why? Because critical components, like your vehicle’s fuel pump, aren’t designed to operate without gas. The fuel pump is submerged in the gas tank, where it uses fuel to cool and lubricate the mechanisms in the pump. Most fuel pumps can last for the life of your vehicle.
But when you run your car on empty, the pump can overheat, which could lead to a costly failure. And because the gas tank typically needs to be drained and removed to replace the pump, this labor-intensive job could cost upward of $1,000 to repair.
DRIVING THROUGH DEEP WATER
If you approach any kind of flooding, including large puddles of groundwater, you may be tempted to drive right through. But your best—and safest—course of action is always to turn around and find another route. What may not seem like a lot of water can in fact be quite dangerous when you’re behind the wheel.
For starters, it can be hard to gauge how deep the water is, and you can’t see what debris or other hazards may be below the water.
On top of that, driving through deep water can damage or destroy your vehicle’s engine, transmission and other critical components. It can also cause irreversible damage to your car’s complex electrical system. Because of this long-lasting damage, a flooded vehicle is often considered a total loss by insurance providers.
Every vehicle manufacturer recommends following a routine maintenance schedule to keep your car running in tip-top shape. In the short term, it may seem like there’s no harm in skipping an oil change, air filter replacement or tire rotation. But the truth is, taking care of these preventative maintenance tasks now can save you from needing major repairs later.
IGNORING WARNING LIGHTS
Modern cars feature a host of warning lights, and each is there to notify you of a particular problem with your vehicle. Ignoring these warning lights could leave you with a major repair down the road. Depending on the problem, it could even jeopardize the safety of you and your passengers.
So don’t make a habit of ignoring your vehicle’s warning lights. The next time that “check engine” light starts flashing, consult your car’s manual and if need be, take your car to a qualified mechanic to get it checked out.
NOT CHECKING YOUR TIRE PRESSURE
One of the easiest car maintenance tasks to ignore is checking your tire pressure. After all, if your tire isn’t flat, what’s the big deal? But not running your tires at the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure can cause a host of problems ranging from premature or uneven tire wear to bad handling and poor fuel economy.
For that reason, experts recommend that you make a habit of checking your tire pressure once a month. And remember that when it’s cold, your tire pressure will drop between one and two pounds per square inch (PSI) for every ten-degree decrease in temperature. So pay extra attention to your tires as the seasons change.
RIDING THE BRAKES
Your car’s brakes represent one of its most important safety systems. But hitting the brake pedal too hard, or using the brakes too often, can leave this system severely compromised.
For example, applying the brakes for a prolonged period of time (like when slowing your car down a long hill) can cause them to overheat. And when your brakes get too hot, their stopping power is greatly reduced.
Overuse of your brakes can have long-term consequences, too. More braking means you’ll wear through pads and rotors faster, which translates to more frequent service intervals. You can also expect to pay more at the pump, thanks to lower fuel economy caused by frequent braking.
To “break” this bad habit, try to leave some extra space between you and other cars on the roadway. And if you’re descending a long hill, try shifting your car out of overdrive and into a lower gear; this will allow the engine to do some of the braking for you.
DRIVING TOO FAST OVER SPEED BUMPS
Speed bumps are installed to help slow down traffic, making areas safer for pedestrians. If you drive over a speed bump at a slow speed, your car will be unharmed. But hit a speed bump faster than about 10 miles per hour
, and you can do serious damage to your car.
The sudden impact of a speed bump could cause your suspension to bottom out, damaging your shocks and struts. It could also bend other important suspension components or knock your car out of alignment. So take it slow!
LETTING YOUR CAR SIT FOR LONG PERIODS
Parking your car for extended periods of time can take its toll on your vehicle. The time it takes for your vehicle to be damaged by long-term storage will vary based on several factors, including the location of your parked car and how well you’ve prepared it.
However, the negative effects of time on an undriven vehicle can be observed sooner than you may think.
When your car is left undriven, the fuel and battery can go bad. Tires and rubber belts can crack. Rust can begin to form. And rodents could even make your car their new home.
If you have a college student away, for example, consider using a battery maintainer while the car sits. Since maintainers are used for maintenance during periods when cars aren’t going to be used, time isn’t of the essence when charging. This means that a maintainer can give a battery a “low and slow” charge, which is better for its health than a faster charge or a jump.
If you live in an area that sees cold winters, the constant freeze-thaw cycles can make potholes a common sight on the roadways. When driving, you should do your best to avoid hitting them at all costs.
Potholes can cause damage to your vehicle ranging from flat tires or bent wheels to much pricier damage to your suspension, steering system or exhaust system. Next time you encounter a pothole, try to swerve around it. If swerving isn’t possible, reduce your speed to lessen the impact—and any potential damage.
NOT REGULARLY WASHING YOUR CAR
Everybody can appreciate how good a freshly washed car looks. But the benefits of a clean vehicle extend far beyond the visual appeal. If you go long periods of time without washing your car, all that dirt and grime will embed itself in the painted surfaces and will eventually eat away at the clear coat, causing permanent damage.
The consequences are even greater if you live in an area that uses road salt to melt the ice and snow. That’s because salt creates chemical reactions that can corrode the components on your car. This is especially true for any exposed metal, like brake lines and fuel lines.
Whether you plan to take the summer off or your business is entering one of its busiest seasons, both individuals and business owners must protect themselves against unforeseen hazards that arise when the weather gets warmer. There are common insurance needs in the summer months that should be considered in the interest of mitigating risk and protecting your business and other valued assets from costly damage or claims.
Summer storms can cause major flooding during the warmer months. Because standard homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover damage caused by flooding, one of the most popular insurance needs in the summer months is supplemental flood insurance.
From swimming in pools to jumping on trampolines, outdoor play increases during the summer months and so does the risk of accidents. Taking safety precautions like never letting children swim or play unattended and building gates around these play areas are important. But it’s also essential to ensure adequate liability coverage or umbrella insurance as part of your homeowners’ policy in the event that something goes wrong.
SHORT-TERM & LONG-TERM RENTAL INSURANCE COVERAGE
If you plan to rent out your primary residence or vacation home this summer, you should consider added protection. Adding a rider to an existing insurance policy and purchasing a business or landlord policy are just some of the ways you can protect against claims related to property damage, personal property theft or damage, or other costly events when renting your property.
Hull insurance covers damage to any remote control models or drones. This can include recreational usage or business usage (such as drone photography). Additionally, On-Boarding Insurance would cover damage to anything these devices would be carrying (such as a camera).
You may also want coverage to protect yourself from liability, should your vehicle damage any person or property.
We are pleased to announce the hiring of Debra D’Anniballe as an Account Manager on our Commercial Lines Team.
Debra D’Anniballe joined Emerling Floss Murphy & Associates in May 2022.
She specializes in large commercial accounts, and brings with her 21 years of experience in the insurance industry. She is a member of The Institutes and has her CISR.
Deb graduated from Monticello High School and Bryant and Stratton College.
She resides in Lockport, NY with her two sons and her Boxer, and loves spending time doing “anything outdoors.”
If you’re looking for ways to tighten your monthly budget, there’s an unexpected place you can look: Your garage.
No, we’re not telling you to sell your car (although that’s certainly an option). Rather, it’s time to take a closer look at the way you drive and take care of your vehicle. As gas prices climb, both of these habits can make a bigger impact on your wallet than you think.
And if you’re looking for affordable car insurance, we can help with that, too.
WHAT IS GAS MILEAGE?
Gas mileage (also known as miles per gallon or MPG) is measured by calculating the number of miles that a vehicle can travel using a single gallon of fuel. Fuel economy is another term that’s commonly used. It’s often referred to in relation to improving fuel efficiency — which means using less gas when you drive.
HOW CAN I FIGURE OUT MY VEHICLE’S MPG?
Since 1977, auto manufacturers have been required to publish some form of miles per gallon metric on new car labels. For modern vehicles, this includes ratings for city, highway and combined MPG values.
In general, vehicles tout better gas mileage during highway driving rather than city (i.e. stop and start) driving. But the combined MPG rating, which represents 55% city driving and 45% highway driving, provides a quick and easy way to compare the fuel efficiency of gasoline vehicles — which is especially helpful if you’re shopping for a new car. You can find these values for your current vehicle through a quick internet search.
If you want to measure the real-world gas mileage of your car, it’s easier than you might think. Follow the steps below from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy:
- Step 1: Top off your tank. Fill your tank all the way up, then record the current mileage from your odometer (or set your odometer’s trip meter).
- Step 2: Run it out, then record your numbers again. Once it’s time to fill up again, record the new odometer reading as well as the number of gallons it took to refuel.
- Step 3: Subtract your readings. If you used the trip meter, you can skip this step. If not, put those elementary math skills to use and subtract your first odometer reading from your second to see how many miles you traveled on one tank.
- Step 4: Do a little division to determine your MPG. Take your figure from step three and divide the number of miles you drove by the number of gallons it took to fill your tank. Your final number is your MPG for that driving period.
WHAT’S CONSIDERED “GOOD” GAS MILEAGE?
Getting good gas mileage means that you can travel further using less gas.
As a general guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designed a fuel economy rating that evaluates vehicles on a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best). These numbers can also be found on new car labels. For the 2020 model year, vehicles earning a 1 rating return an MPG of 14 or less, while a score of 10 requires 44 or more MPG.
But there are a lot of other variables that factor into this ‒ from the type of vehicle you drive to the way you drive it. And all of these can add up when it comes to how much you end up spending on gas.
WHAT CAUSES POOR GAS MILEAGE?
Regardless of what kind of vehicle you drive, all of these factors can negatively impact gas mileage:
- Speed: The faster you drive, the more fuel your vehicle burns up. This includes how fast you accelerate, too.
- Idling: Keeping your car on for it to warm up or cool down, queuing up at a drive-thru or waiting to pick your kid up from soccer practice can all decrease your vehicle’s fuel economy.
- Aerodynamic drag and excess weight: Driving too fast or traveling with a rooftop cargo carrier? These can increase wind resistance, which causes your vehicle to use more gas. And towing any kind of trailer or hauling too much in your trunk, bed or back seat also requires more fuel.
- Poor maintenance: From underinflated tires to an unattended engine issue, failure to consistently “tune-up” your vehicle can cost you a lot more at the pump. It also can create potential safety risks.
- Quick trips: A quick run to the supermarket on Monday. Stopping by the bank on Wednesday. While it may be convenient to run these errands one at a time, it can wreak havoc on your fuel economy. Quick, short trips like this from a “cold start” eat up fuel, because your engine needs to warm up before it can run efficiently.
HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY GAS MILEAGE?
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and Consumer Reports offer several ways that you can improve your MPG:
- Drive more efficiently.
- Follow the speed limit, and drive sensibly ‒ not aggressively (e.g. quick accelerations, hard stops, etc.).
- On the highway, don’t speed up and slow down (unless you need to for safety). Once you get up to speed, stay there. Use cruise control when possible.
- Remove the unnecessary extra weight, avoid idling and take the cargo box off the roof of your vehicle (unless you really need to use it) to help even more.
- Keep your car in shape.
- Make sure your engine is tuned, keep tires properly inflated and use the right grade of motor oil.
- Plan and combine trips.
- Spend less time sitting in traffic by avoiding rush hour on daily commutes.
- Run all your errands on one day rather than taking multiple short trips during the week.
- If you have an especially long commute, ask your employer if you can work from home a day or two per week.
After a three-year hiatus, Emerling Floss Murphy & Associates are excited to welcome back Brandi Sisson to the agency as a Personal Lines Account Manager.
Brandi was with the Emerling Agency prior to the merge for over eight years and left in 2018 to work for her family business.
Brandi was born and raised in Clarence, NY. She is working for us from her new residence in Melbourne, Florida, where she now resides!
Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like you’re living out of your car. You drive to and from work. Shuttle the kids around. Get groceries. Run errands… The list goes on.
With all this busyness, your car can become a catch-all for everything you need throughout the day. But using your car as temporary storage space is a bad habit to get into. Not only can it leave you susceptible to a car break-in, but extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) can be bad for your stuff, too.
To help you protect your vehicle (and the things inside it), here’s our list of 19 things you should never leave in your car.
- Electronics. Not only are expensive electronics an invitation to thieves – but the information they store is often more valuable than the device itself.
- Water bottles. On a hot day, the high temperatures in your car can cause chemicals from the plastic bottle to leach into the water. The biggest offender is bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to a range of health problems – including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Medication. Did you know that fluctuating temperatures inside your car could impact the effectiveness of your prescription drugs? According to Baystate Health, most medicines should be stored at 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit in a cool, dry place. When your medications are stored outside that range in hot or freezing temperatures, the chemical properties of certain drugs can change, potentially making them less effective.
- Purse or wallet. Obviously, leaving a purse or wallet in a visible location can attract the wrong type of attention to your parked car. But even when stowed out of sight, it’s unwise to leave a purse or wallet in your car. Not only does it contain cash and credit cards, but a thief could also gain access to your driver’s license and other important personal data.
- Important documents. Speaking of personal data, any documents or forms that contain sensitive information should never be left in your car. That includes things like tax forms, financial statements, school transcripts or your passport. Information from these documents could be used by a thief to commit fraud or identity theft.
- Wine. Wine enthusiasts go to great lengths to store their vino at the perfect temperature and humidity. Leaving a bottle of wine in a hot car is pretty much the exact opposite of that. Not only can extreme heat produce off-flavors in the wine, but heat can also cause the air in the bottle to expand – pushing out the cork enough to contaminate the liquid inside.
- Canned beverages. Extreme hot and cold temperatures could cause the cans to explode. And trust us – your car will never be the same after cleaning up the sticky aftermath of that soda bomb.
- Pets. This one should be obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning. Never leave your pet alone inside a parked car. Time passes faster than you realize, and on a hot day, car temperatures can quickly climb to well over 115 degrees Fahrenheit, putting your pet’s life in danger.
- Groceries. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), refrigerated foods should never be left out for more than two hours. And if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, that time is reduced to one hour. Leaving perishable food in your car beyond these limits can promote the spread of harmful bacteria. The takeaway: On a hot day, keep your food safe by heading straight home after your trip to the grocery store.
- Aerosol cans. A hot car is no place to leave an aerosol can. Whether it’s spray paint, deodorant, hairspray or a household cleaner, these pressurized cans can explode in temperatures above 120 F – which is definitely possible to achieve inside your car on a warm summer day.
- Lighters. Similar to aerosol cans, cigarette lighters can also leak or explode in high temperatures. The resulting explosion could even start a fire.
- Plants. Leaving a plant inside your car for too long can lead to dehydration. And fluctuating temperatures can stress – or even kill – the hardiest houseplants.
- Art supplies. If you’re a parent, you’ve likely experienced the joy of scraping melted crayons off a car seat. It doesn’t take much heat for art supplies like crayons and pastels to soften and melt – leaving a colorful mess in their wake.
- Cosmetics. You’ve invested a lot of money in that bag of makeup. So don’t ruin it by leaving it in your car. Just like crayons, that new lipstick can also melt into a waxy puddle in your hot car. And other cosmetics, like mascara, can become unusable if they freeze – even after they thaw back out.
- Cash. Leaving cash visible in your car is asking for trouble. Even if it’s only a few dollars, or some spare change in the cupholder, you may be surprised how little it takes to convince a would-be thief to break your car window.
- Musical instruments. Storing a wooden instrument, like a guitar or violin, in your car could result in permanent damage. That’s because rapid changes in temperature and humidity can cause the delicate wood used in the instrument to warp, crack or split.
- Glasses. Did you know high and low temperatures can affect the frames of your glasses and sunglasses? In a hot car, plastic frames can warp and bend. And when it’s freezing out, the plastic can become brittle – making it easier to accidentally break them.
- Sunscreen. It’s nice to have some sunblock handy at a moment’s notice. But keeping your bottle of sunscreen in a hot car can cause the protective chemicals to break down – reducing its effectiveness.
- Batteries. Extreme temperatures aren’t good for batteries, either. High temperatures can cause your sealed batteries to leak. And low temperatures can reduce the energy storage capacity of a battery.
WE’VE GOT YOUR BACK
Life is full of unexpected moments. When something you value has been damaged or lost, filing an auto insurance claim shouldn’t add to the stress.