Before you put that recreational vehicle in gear, it’s best to prepare thoroughly.
That will ensure your next trip is a joy, not a drag. It also means looking beyond the basics, such as a full gas tank and stocked refrigerator. Before you start your next journey, you might assemble a to-do list. Here are the essential things you’ll want to double-check before you pull out of the driveway.
Certain things are optional for travel, but in today’s world there are a few things that you just don’t want to leave home without. They include:
The Simple Things
Even though space can be limited, here are a few everyday items you don’t want to leave home without:
Working from home is the next big thing. According to the State of the Remote Job Marketplace report, in 2018, nearly 4 million people, or 2.9% of the population, worked from home. That’s a 115% increase since 2005, and that number is projected to grow even faster in the coming decade. Upwork’s Future Workforce Report predicts that as many as 38% of full-time staffs will work from home by the end of the next decade, and nearly 60% of hiring managers are using remote and freelance workers — that’s 24% more than were using freelancers the year before.
As more employers and hiring managers recognize the benefits of remote workers, employees have more opportunities to find jobs and enjoy careers with a commute from the bedroom to the home office. Even better, these legitimate jobs may pay comparable wages to what in-office workers are earning.
Finding great opportunities
Certain fields lend themselves to remote jobs; knowing what types of businesses and industries are more likely to have work from home opportunities can help guide your search. According to FlexJobs, the top five fields for working from home are:
Of course, these aren’t the only industries that offer telecommuting jobs. Define what kind of work you’re interested in and have good skills in. Then, you can start looking for jobs that are a good fit. If you want to figure out how to work from home, start by looking at what’s available in the area where you live.
Identify work from home job scams
The Internet has made it fairly easy to find work from home jobs, but it has also made it easier for scammers to take advantage of people looking for those jobs. Because of that, you’ll want to choose your search options carefully.
Using search terms like “work from home” or “work at home jobs” is more likely to lead to scam sites. Instead, use keywords like “remote jobs,” “telecommuting jobs,” “home-based positions” and “virtual jobs.” When you find a company you’re interested in applying with, conduct a quick search for reviews of the company to see what experiences others have had with it.
According to the FlexJobs report, there are about 60 to 70 scam listings for every one legitimate work from home job opportunity. Always conduct your due diligence to make sure you’re working with a reputable company. Look for red flags, including:
If you’re working from home, your company may require you to have a homeowner’s insurance policy that covers part of your house as a home office. Contact Sterling Peaks Insurance to make sure your coverage meets your needs. This is particularly important if you have a significant amount of business property or conduct business in person with customers in your home.
 “The State of the Remote Job Marketplace,” FlexJobs
 “How to Find a Real Online Job (and Avoid the Scams!),” FlexJobs
 “Got Remote Workers? 8 Key Points to Include in Your Remote Work Policy,” Business Insider
What is motorcycle insurance?
Motorcycle insurance is an agreement between you and your insurance company that protects your bike, scooter, moped, ATV, or UTV, any damage you cause while riding, and other events. As with auto insurance, you’ll select and purchase “coverages,” which represent things your insurer agrees to pay for.
In a nutshell: It’s like paying a little now to avoid potentially paying a lot later.
How does motorcycle insurance work?
Whether you buy motorcycle insurance on your own, from an agent, or through a representative at a dealership, you’ll be asked some basic questions about you, your bike, and the coverages you’re looking for. These factors will affect your price for insurance. Then, if you damage your motorcycle or you hit someone/something else, you’ll file a “claim” with your insurer. If your claim is covered, they’ll pay for the losses or injuries up to your coverage limits.
Generally, more coverages means a higher price.
Do you need motorcycle insurance?
Yes. Motorcycle insurance is required in all states except New Hampshire (New Hampshire still requires financial responsibility if you cause an accident, so you’ll want to be properly insured). If you ride without insurance or lack the proper coverages, you could get a fine, have your license revoked, suffer a court-ordered financial judgement that you can’t afford, or even land in jail. No worries, though—Progressive and most other insurers won’t sell a policy that doesn’t meet your state’s requirements.
How to get motorcycle insurance
At Progressive, you can buy motorcycle insurance anytime and usually get coverage immediately. This is ideal for when you need insurance to ride your new bike home from the dealership. You can print proof of insurance or download it to your phone in most states. Here’s how you can purchase a motorcycle policy through Progressive. Prices can vary depending on how you buy.
Call a rep
You'll speak with a licensed representative who will guide you through everything.
Call or Text 970-314-9188
Through an agent
If you want local advice we'll connect you with Sterling Peaks Insurance, an independent agent near you.
Sterling Peaks Insuranace
Progressive is the #1 motorcycle insurer! Join Progressive today, and see why one out of every three bikes on the road is insured by us.
These are the coverages available in most states. Remember, insurance won’t cover maintenance or general wear and tear.
Damages/injuries you cause
Liability: Is the only required coverage in most states. While it’s true that motorcyclists usually bear the brunt of a collision, liability insurance is crucial if you’re in an accident and are responsible for someone else’s injuries or damages. Liability coverage pays for:
Damages to your motorcycle from events beyond your control
Comprehensive: This coverage protects your bike from:
Damages to your motorcycle from accidents
Collision: Covers any damage to your motorcycle if you collide with another vehicle or object, regardless of fault. You’re also covered if your bike is overturned.
Damages to your motorcycle from uninsured drivers/riders
Uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage: It’s estimated that about 13% of drivers are uninsured countrywide, according to the Insurance Information Institute. If your motorcycle is damaged by a driver who isn’t carrying insurance or doesn’t have enough to cover the damage they’ve caused, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will kick in. This coverage will then repair or replace your bike up to your policy’s limits. Same goes for injuries you suffer at the hands of an uninsured or underinsured driver—we’ll cover your injuries up to the limits of your policy.
Medical payments: Pays for the medical bills for you and your passengers if you’re in an accident, regardless of fault.
Coverages we’ll automatically include on your motorcycle policy
Keep in mind, some of these coverages are exclusive to Progressive!
Accessories and custom parts/equipment: Most motorcycle owners are very invested in their bike, and have made numerous upgrades and customizations to their ride. That’s why we automatically include $3,000 in accessory coverage if you have comprehensive and collision insurance on your policy. If $3,000 isn't enough, you can purchase up to $30,000 in coverage.
Original equipment manufacturer parts: Progressive always repairs your bike with OEM parts if that’s what you had before. Or, if your parts were customized, we’ll use custom parts. Know that no matter what parts you have, we'll always replace them with the same parts or better, if available.
No rate increase for certain accidents
Accident forgiveness: We won’t increase your rate if you have a claim that costs less than $500. Plus, if you ride accident-free with us for four years, we won’t raise your rate for your first accident over $500.
Brand new motorcycle if you total yours
Total loss coverage: Available for newer bikes. If your bike is totaled in a covered accident, we’ll pay you the full manufacturer’s suggested retail price for a new motorcycle, minus your policy’s deductible.
For example, if you bought your bike for $20,000 a couple years ago, it may only be worth $15,000 after depreciation. Now figure the latest model of the bike costs $20,000—well that’s exactly what you’ll receive after your deductible.
Roadside assistance and trip interruption: If you’re within 100 feet of the road and your bike is disabled, we’ll tow it to the nearest repair facility for free. You can also add “trip interruption” coverage which pays for food, transportation, and hotel expenses up to $500 per incident. Roadside assistance must be purchased before you can add trip interruption coverage.
Belongings on your bike
Carried contents and personal belongings: Covers personal items that you carry on your motorcycle, like phones, laptops, apparel, camping, and hunting gear, if they’re damaged, stolen, or fall off your bike.
25% deductible drop
Disappearing deductibles: For every claim-free policy term, we’ll subtract 25% from your deductible amount. For instance, if you buy a Progressive motorcycle policy and your collision deductible is $1,000, we’ll lower it to $750 if you haven’t filed a claim by your first renewal. If you’re still claim-free at your next renewal, your deductible amount will drop another 25%. And so on, all the way down to $0.
Lost wages if you’re injured
Enhanced injury protection: If you’re unable to work because you’re injured in a covered accident, Progressive will pay you up to $250 per week for two straight years. If you’re in a fatal accident, we’ll pay $25,000 to your beneficiaries, so enhanced injury protection also functions similarly to life insurance.
Full value for replacement parts
If you’re in a covered accident, Progressive will restore your damaged bike to pre-accident condition or better. For example, your damaged five-year-old front tire with 10,000 miles may only have a depreciated value of $50, but a new one costs $150. With Progressive’s no depreciation policy, we’ll give you $150 for the brand new tire (similar model).
How is motorcycle insurance priced?
Insurers will consider a variety of factors, and pricing all comes down to risk: How likely are you to crash your bike and what will it cost to repair or replace? Here are a few of the main factors that will determine your price:
Driving history: If your motor vehicle and insurance reports are accident-free, your insurer will consider you less likely to have one in the future. Same goes for violations and speeding tickets.
Type of bike: Generally, the more powerful the motorcycle, the greater the risk. Bikes with big engines will likely cost more to insure.
Age: Experienced riders are usually less likely to have an accident, and your rate will typically decrease as you get older. Some insurers may increase rates for older drivers, starting around age 70.
There are few things more frightening while towing your recreational vehicle than trailer sway. A sudden gust, a passing semi-truck or a quick steering correction can start your trailer swaying or fishtailing. The loss of control can mean tipping your valuable recreational vehicle or causing a serious accident.
Even the most experienced drivers have lost control of their towed trailers with disastrous results. A brief encounter with sway on the highway can quickly put a damper on your vacation and make you think about putting the camper back in the garage or up for sale. These tips can help you understand what causes trailer sway, as well as help keep your RV upright.
What causes trailer sway?
Any trailer towed with a hitch set behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle can sway or fishtail while driving. The hitch acts as a pivot point in-between the centers of gravity of the two vehicles. Any trailer sway or side-to-side force will turn the vehicle and create an unexpected steering force.
If that sideways force is strong enough it can be more powerful than the road-tire friction for the drive wheels on the vehicle. This can cause the tipping over or separation of the trailer and maybe even the truck or car too.
Wind and drafts
Trailer sway can be a result of crosswinds, drafts from passing semi-trucks or descending hills using incorrect braking technique, according to Mark Polk in his RV Tech Tips series on RVTravel.com.
The front of trailers are aerodynamic to improve towing gas mileage, but the sides aren’t. A 35-mph crosswind could put as much as 3,440 pounds of force pushing on the side of a large trailer, according to a study on commercial vehicle towing accidents by Knott Laboratory in 2009.
Weight and balance problems
Loading too much gear on one side of your camper can also cause an unbalance, making them swing more dramatically once a sway starts, like a pendulum around its center of gravity. This can also make your RV more likely to suffer a blowout, or additional braking and steering problems.
Balancing weight to the forward and rear is also vital for controlled driving. Between 12-15% of the trailer’s weight should be resting on the tow vehicle’s hitch, according to Bill Estes, writing in Trailer Life Magazine. Any less weight forward may pull up on the tow vehicle’s rear wheels just when you need more traction and control. However, drivers have to be careful not to exceed the tow rating of the hitch or vehicle itself.
How to help keep trailer sway from happening
The best way to correct trailer sway is to avoid it in the first place. Follow these general tips when towing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
What products are available to reduce trailer sway?
Several hitch designs claim to reduce sway through friction control or weight distribution. Friction based hitches create a rigid connection, limiting sway but still allowing the trailer to turn. Weight distribution hitches use special parts to distribute the tongue weight of the trailer among all of the axles, both tow vehicle and trailer.
How to help stop trailer sway once it starts
If your trailer starts to sway on the road, the NHTSA recommends activating the manual brake control override by hand. Applying the tow vehicle brakes will generally make the sway worse. Lift your foot from the accelerator but don’t step on the brake pedal unless you’re in danger of hitting something, according to Estes.
Proper equipment, attention to weight balancing and keeping an eye on the weather and passing vehicles will help make sure the only sway you feel on your camping trip is that of the hammock at your campsite.
In the event sway does occur, it’s important that your RV is protected. Find out about Nationwide’s available RV insurance options today.
What is RV Insurance?
RV insurance is an agreement between you and your insurance company that protects your motorhome, travel trailer, camper, fifth wheel, etc. You'll choose from a variety of coverages meant to protect your vehicle and provide peace of mind on trips and vacations or if you use your RV as a permanent residence. If you're "driving" a motorhome, you'll also need liability coverage to stay legal on the road. But if you're "pulling" a travel trailer, your state won't require you to insure the RV, as you're already covered for liability on your auto insurance policy.
Do I need motorhome insurance?
Yes. You must have at least the state minimum for liability, since motorhomes are driven and not towed. When quoting motorhome insurance, all insurers will let you know the minimum requirements in your state. Failure to carry liability insurance could result in a revoked license, fines, or even jail time.
Do I need travel trailer insurance?
Because you're not actually driving your travel trailer, you aren't required by law to have insurance on a vehicle that you tow with a car or truck. However, your travel trailer is often a valuable asset, and should be protected the same way you insure your home, car, etc.
Most travel trailer policies include comprehensive coverage. It's up to you if you want to add collision, but most financers will require you to carry both.
Recreational vs. Full-timer's
RV insurance is generally divided into two categories: recreational and full-timer's. Recreational is for you if you aren't living in your RV full time and will cover your RV inside and out while on the road or parked at a campsite. Full-timer's insurance is meant for those using a motorhome or travel trailer as their primary residence. Many of the coverages will match up with a recreational policy, but you'll be able to add additional coverages that are similar to homeowners insurance, like personal liability and loss assessment.
Standard RV coverages
Damages to your RV
Comprehensive and collision: Comprehensive protects your RV from theft, vandalism, windshield damage, acts of nature, rocks and debris kicked up by other vehicles, and accidents/impact with animals. A deductible applies.
Collision covers damage to your RV if you're in an accident and hit another vehicle or object, regardless of fault. Note that you won't be able to purchase collision without also purchasing comprehensive. A deductible also applies.
Damages/injuries you cause
Bodily injury and property damage liability: Pays for damage or injuries you cause while driving your motorhome. It also covers legal fees that may result from the accident. In most states, this is the only required coverage. Coverage does not apply to travel trailer policies.
Damages to your RV and injuries from uninsured drivers
Uninsured/underinsured property damage and bodily injury: If your motorhome is hit and damaged by a driver who isn't carrying insurance or doesn't have enough to cover the damage they've caused, uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage coverage will pay to repair or replace it (up to your policy's limits). Same goes for injuries you suffer at the hands of an uninsured or underinsured driver—we'll cover your injuries up to the limits of your policy. Coverage does not apply to travel trailer policies.
Medical payments: Covers medical bills, up to the limits you choose, for you and your passengers if you're in an accident, regardless of fault. Coverage does not apply to travel trailer policies.
Extra RV coverages
Sterling Peaks Insurance offers 24/7 roadside help by towing you to the nearest repair facility if your motorhome or travel trailer is disabled within 100 feet of a road or highway. You're covered for a mechanical or electrical breakdown, dead battery, flat tire, fuel delivery, or if you're just stuck on the side of the road in snow, mud or sand.
Total loss replacement
If your RV is totaled in a covered accident, we'll pay for a brand new motorhome or travel trailer, minus your deductible.
For instance, if you paid $50,000 for your RV three years ago, it may only be worth $30,000 today. But Insurance could pay you $55,000 on your claim, minus your deductible, as we guarantee the same model year or later. You can also choose not to replace your damaged vehicle and instead get reimbursed for the original purchase price.
If your motorhome is more than five years old, we'll pay you the amount specified on your insurance policy—minus your deductible.
Replacement cost/personal effects
Provides up to $99,000 in coverage for your personal property inside your RV. Certain items outside your motorhome or travel trailer may be covered.
Emergency expenseIf your motorhome or travel trailer is disabled more than 50 miles away from your home, we'll give you up to $750 for transportation and hotel expenses. You'll also have the option of upgrading to $2,000 in coverage for an extra cost.
Pet injury coverage
We'll pay up to $1,000 if your cat or dog is injured during a covered accident. There is no deductible!
If you're on vacation and someone is hurt in or around your RV, you're covered up to $10,000. For only a few dollars more, you can upgrade to $100,000 or more in coverage.
Vacation liability can also cover property damage. For instance, if your ice-fishing travel trailer sinks in a lake, you're covered for the costs of removing the sunken trailer.
Full-timer's personal liability
If you use your motorhome or travel trailer as a permanent residence, this enhanced coverage works similarly to vacation liability. You're covered up to $500,000 if you're responsible (also called liable) for injuries in or around your RV.
Insurance pays up to $5,000 in charges that you could potentially face from your RV association. For example, your RV association may require all members to chip in and pay for damages to common areas (swing set, deck, trails, bathroom facilities, etc.) caused by a hurricane or major storm. We'd then cover whatever amount you owe up to the $5,000 limit.
For every claim-free policy period you have with Progressive, we will lower your deductible by 25%. For example, if your collision deductible is $1,000, we'll lower it to $750 if you haven't filed a claim by your first policy renewal. If you're still claim-free at your next renewal, your deductible will drop to $562.50. And so on...all the way down to $0.
If you file a claim and use the disappearing deductible you earned, you'll go back to your original deductible. Starting with your next claim-free policy, your deductible will start lowering again.
How is RV/motorhome insurance priced?
Like with other types of insurance, RV insurance pricing comes down to risk. How likely are you to file a claim and what will it cost to repair or replace your motorhome or trailer? Here are some factors that will help determine what you'll pay:
Type: A large, state-of-the-art motorhome will typically cost more to insure than a smaller, used RV. Typically Class A motorhomes are more expensive to insure than Class C motorhomes simply because they're bigger and more expensive. Similarly, a conventional travel trailer will usually cost more to insure than a truck camper.
Use: Usually, the more you use your RV, the more you'll pay to insure it. If you live in your RV, you are more of a risk to your insurer than someone who uses their RV recreationally, a few weekends per year.
Driving experience: It's a whole new ballgame when driving a motorhome compared to a car. Adjusting to a bigger vehicle, different blind spots, and challenging turns takes time, so RV drivers with more experience will pay less for insurance than newer drivers.
A small scratch can be a big deal when it’s on your beloved automobile. Even if it’s in a place where most people will never see it, you know it’s there. And you want to do something about it before it turns into a more serious issue.
When you have scratches without dents that don’t call for assistance from a body shop, what’s the best way to fix them? First, determine what kind of scratch you’re dealing with. Then, make a plan for your at-home car scratch repair.
Three kinds of scratchesThere are three basic kinds of car scratches, and each requires its own approach:
DIY scratch repairFortunately, the first two types of scratches often can be resolved with products from your local auto repair shop. When you discover a scratch and want to fix it, hand-wash your car first to remove any dirt or grime from the surface. Use a clay bar or a nanoskin towel or mitt to buff the surface. This removes swirls and hairline scratches, refreshing the look of your car. It can also help you see which areas need the most work.
Finally, give the vehicle a good waxing and hand-buff the surface; if your scratches are superficial, chances are they’ll be gone by now. If you still see scratches, try applying a liquid scratch remover. You can find them online or at your local auto parts store.
When the damage goes deeperIf your scratches haven’t gone away, you might have to put a little more muscle into your repair. There are several DIY kits available that include a rotary tool or have attachments that fit onto your existing drill. These tools can help hide light scratches. This method does sand away your clear coat, but you can easily refresh the look of the paint with a polishing compound or finishing paste.
If the damage has gone deep enough that no amount of sanding will remove it, get matching paint from your auto dealership and fill in the scratch yourself. Apply a small amount of paint to the scratch using a toothpick. Using the brush in the paint bottle will likely apply too much paint and can draw more attention to the scratch. Let it dry completely and repeat the process if necessary. Then, use a polishing tool to smooth everything out.
Minor scratches without body damage are relatively easy to fix for yourself. However, if your vehicle has suffered a dent or scrape that needs body work, talk to your insurance agent about the next steps. And, if you’re on a roll making small repairs to your vehicle, this is also a great time to learn about fixing your car’s upholstery.
 “Different Types of Car Scratches,” Michael J’s Collision Center
 “How to Fix a Car Paint Scratch,” Popular Mechanics
 “Scratch Level Chart,” Capitol Shine
 “’Tis But a Scratch: Misadventures in Automotive Scratch Repair,” Wired
“Want to save an additional 15 percent on your purchase today by signing up for our store card?” It’s the eternal question for retail shoppers these days. The bigger question is whether a discount card is worth the time, the effort, the credit impact and the potential added cost. Retail cards are easy to obtain and can help you establish credit when other lenders won’t take a chance, but you pay for it with annual percentage rates that can be as high as 25 percent to 30 percent, according to Consumer Reports. Before you apply for a store credit card, ask yourself these four questions:
Can I pay off the balance?
It may make sense to take advantage of a bonus signing discount for retail and department store credit cards, but not if you pay for it and then some in interest charges. So sign up for a retail card only if you plan to pay off the balance within a month or two. If you aren’t sure you can pay off the balance quickly, or if there is any chance you will be late with a payment, stay away from retail cards. Late fees can quickly increase your balance, and late payments can drive up your interest rate.
Do the perks add up?
For consumers who make the most of them, certain store credit cards can offer generous benefits beyond the signing bonus. But weigh each carefully. For example, some retailers regularly offer valuable coupons and rebates to cardholders. But coupons serve to lure customers back into the store to spend more on your card. Since many stores have cards with APRs as high as nearly 25 percent, it’s impossible for individuals carrying a balance to come out ahead.
Do I really understand the terms?
Of the most enticing retailer offers, one is the deal that promises no money down and zero percent interest for 6, 12 or 18 months. To be sure, it’s a great option if you are making a big purchase that you can otherwise afford to pay off within the given time-frame. If not, beware. One missed or late payment will immediately change your interest rate, often to the highest and most exorbitant APR. If you fail to pay off the debt before the end of the zero-percent term, you will be charged interest retroactively from the date of purchase.
How will it affect my credit?
Have you ever signed up for a credit card just to get the discount, then paid off and closed the card right away? This may seem like a savvy move, but holding a card for a short period of time can actually hurt your credit score, and retail cards can negatively impact your credit in more ways than that. Each time a retailer inquires about your credit history before granting you a card, your credit score takes a small hit. When stores do extend credit, they typically offer low limits. If you get a $600 limit and spend $400 immediately, your debt-to-credit ratio on that card already exceeds 60 percent. A debt-to-available-credit ratio above 35 percent on a card can negatively impact your FICO score. Apply for too many cards at once and you may do some real damage. It’s best to stay away from department store and retail credit cards when you are working on cleaning up your credit or improving your score in preparation for a major purchase like a car or a home.
For car owners, a visit to an auto repair shop can cause as much anxiety as a trip to the dentist. Who knows what unforeseen problems will turn up? It’s the reason finding a reliable, honest mechanic – someone with your best interests in mind – is so important to car owners, especially those with little knowledge of the workings of a car.
So how can car owners find such a car repair shop and ensure they won’t be taken advantage of? Fortunately there are a number of things you can do to find a mechanic who will provide reliable advice and honest quotes.
Research auto repair shopsBefore you even leave the driveway, you first need to do some research. Ask friends or family to recommend a car repair shop in your area. Ideally, you will want to find a mechanic who is located close to you so it’s convenient to take your car in for repairs. Query friends who own similar autos on their experiences with mechanics. Friends typically like to offer advice, and they are more trustworthy sources than any claims of “best shop in town” by a repair shop.
You can also conduct searches online on review sites such as Yelp and the Better Business Bureau, which offers an accredited list of businesses. You can also explore car-specific sites, such as Car Talk, which has a listing of mechanics reviewed by the NPR show’s online community. Google offers ratings of shops as well. Of course, it’s important to take online reviews with a grain of salt because issues and expectations can differ with each individual.
Another way to check out a potential auto mechanic is to search for any investigations or complaints about their work. For starters, many state attorney general offices investigate auto repair shops and keep a database of complaints. You can find your state AG office online and search for complaints against the shop you’re interested in using. If your state AG office doesn’t handle automotive repair shops, see if your state consumer protection agency has a database on auto mechanics.
Check for credentialsThere are other concrete things you can look for that will help you decide which repair shop to visit. “The first thing we like consumers to do is determine whether it’s a licensed repair facility,” says Joseph Henmueller, president of the Automotive Maintenance Repair Association. He cautions motorists to avoid mobile operators and individuals found on Craigslist who offer bargain rates. “If anything goes wrong, they’re not licensed by the state, and consumers have no recourse.”
Also, look for certifications and accreditations with auto repair licensing organizations. Besides Henmueller’s association, others include ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) and iATN (International Automotive Technicians Network). “Look to see if they have an AAA association, and have ASE technicians in their shop,” Henmueller says
Make sure the technician assigned to work on your car is certified for your specific problem. ASE certifications require separate tests for different parts of a car, such as brakes or transmissions. “You want to know if the guy working on your brakes is ASE certified in brakes,” Henmueller says.
Ask for documentationWhen trying to find an auto repair shop, it’s also important for the shop to have a process in place to provide written documentation for each step of the transaction. Your initial concern should be documented, and customers should get written reports of any inspections and estimates before any work is started, with separate line items for parts, labor, taxes and fees. And parts should always be identified as new, rebuilt, remanufactured or used. At the same time, whatever warranty is offered should be printed on or attached to the invoice. A typical minimum warranty is three months or 3,000 miles.
Another sign of a reputable shop, Henmueller says, is a policy that offers to return any replaced parts to the consumer, or at least to make them available for inspection. “If you replace four tires, you want to be able to see the tires before they send them to recycling,” he says. “It gives you some assurance that parts were taken off and new parts put on.”
Do an in-person visitBefore committing to a mechanic, you should visit in person to get a look at the shop itself. If the shop appears to be unprofessional or in disarray, that may be an indication of how your car will be treated. “If there are indiscriminate cars pulling up delivering parts, they could be coming from a junkyard,” Henmueller says. “Professional organizations look, sound, smell and feel professional. If it smells funny, it is funny.”
See where you can save moneyGoing to a repair shop shouldn’t put a dent in your wallet. When shopping around for a mechanic, it’s important to keep in mind:
They can come, seemingly, from out of the blue. One minute you’re driving your car and everything seems fine, and the next moment you hear a strange noise coming from your car as you accelerate.
Before you turn up the radio a little louder in hopes that sound goes away, take a closer listen and find out where that sound is coming from. Learning a little bit about some of the common noises your car might make, can help you identify what the problem may be and help determine when you should visit your mechanic. That might be the difference between some preventative maintenance and a costly repair bill.
Here are a few common car sounds and — and helpful tips on what to do about them.
Noises under the hood
Sound: A screeching sound that has a continuous pattern and seems to come from under your hood.
Probable cause: A loose or worn serpentine belt.
What to do about it: Your serpentine belt drives several vital pieces of equipment in your car, including the alternator, water pump, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor and radiator fan. If you think the screeching sound is a loose or worn belt, make an appointment to have it looked at. Your mechanic can tell you how serious it is and how soon you need to replace it. The most important thing is to avoid having it give out unexpectedly; your car won’t run without it.
Sounds from underneath your car
Sound: Chugging or rattling noises.
Probable cause: Exhaust system.
What to do about it: A damaged exhaust system can produce a veritable symphony of sounds and each unique sound may mean something different. A chugging sound could mean there’s a blockage in the exhaust system. A rattling sound might mean it’s out of alignment. A hissing sound could mean there’s a crack in the exhaust system. Take your car in for an exhaust system check.
Sound: A low-pitched humming from under your car.
Probable cause: This could be a few different issues. Note when the noise happens so you can better help your mechanic diagnose the problem. If your car makes a humming noise, it could mean the differential needs lubricant, the transmission is failing or the universal joints or wheel bearings are wearing out.
What to do about it: Pay close attention to what happens before and when your car starts making the sound. Try to give your mechanic as much information as possible to work with; without a thorough, professional inspection, it can be difficult to tell what the problem is. Don’t let the noises continue without having an expert take a look at your vehicle.
Sounds from your brakes
Sound: A squealing or loud grinding sound when you apply your brakes.
Probable cause: Worn out brake pads.
What to do about it: The sound you’re hearing is likely the calipers grinding against the rotors. Get your car to a dealership or brake repair shop ASAP. If you’re not tapping the brakes but you still hear the sounds, don’t think that everything is OK. This issue will only worsen, and your brakes are extremely important for your safety while driving.
Noisy tire sounds
Sound: A thudding noise from your tires.
Probable cause: Low air pressure in your tires or improper tire alignment.
What to do about it: Check the air pressure in your tires and make sure they’re inflated to meet the tire manufacturer’s recommended levels. If that doesn’t take care of the problem, see about getting them aligned. Improper alignment wears out your tires faster and can result in poor gas mileage or a bumpy ride.
Sounds from your windshield wipers
Sound: Scraping noises
Probable cause: Your wiper is wearing down.
What to do about it: Fix this issue as soon as possible. If the worn-out wiper scratches your windshield, it can be expensive to replace. A bad wiper will also reduce visibility when raining, making it much more dangerous to drive.
Additional noises to watch out for
Clunking noises: If this happens while you’re driving, it might be a bad shock absorber, which has an impact on handling, steering and even braking. Get it checked out.
Loud clicking noise: If this happens while you’re turning, the CV joint, which lubes the front axles, is the likely culprit. When it wears out, it loses the grease that keeps the axles lubricated. It’s best to replace the CV joint rather than waiting until you need costly axle replacements.
Ticking noise: Typically, you’ll hear this while you’re stopped—if you’re low on oil. Get an oil change as soon as you can.
It’s important to pay attention to the noises your car makes and take care of things promptly to avoid facing more expensive repairs. Find a mechanic you trust so you’ll know your car is being properly maintained.
Taking good care of your car also means making sure you’re properly insured. Create a policy that fits your specific needs and helps keep you and your car protected.
 “Noises From Belts and Pulleys,” My Car Makes Noise
 “How can I tell if my exhaust needs attention?,” KwikFit
 “8 Car Noises: What They Mean and If You Should Worry,” Firestone Complete Auto Care
 “6 Car Noises to Keep an Ear Out For,” Paul Campanella’s Auto & Tire Center
You’ve given your car the royal treatment – cleaning, removing dents, getting rid of scratches – and it’s never looked better. For the final installment of our Creative Car Hacks series, we’re switching gears and listing hacks specifically for you – the driver. You’ve probably found yourself in some of these common scenarios below. Next time, you’ll know how to deal with them.
Don’t know which side your gas tank is on?
Check the dashboard. You’ll likely find an arrow on the gas gauge pointing left or right.
Having difficulty separating your key rings?
No need to break a nail trying to separate your key rings. A staple remover will do the trick – no injury involved.
Nervous about parking on a slope?
If you’re parking uphill at a curb, turn your steering wheel away from the curb so your front wheels are facing the road. In the event your car rolls backwards, the curb will catch your tires and act as a block. Do the opposite for downhill parking. When facing uphill without a curb, turn the wheels to the right so that if your car rolls, it will go off the road rather than into traffic.
Are you filling up your gas tank way too often?
Keep gas station trips to a minimum by adapting certain hypermiling techniques to boost your car’s fuel economy. Two simple ways: Reduce idling and check your tire pressure monthly.
Picked up dinner & want it to stay warm on the ride home?
If your car has a seat warmer, you’re in luck. Place hot food on the passenger seat and turn on the warmer to keep it toasty.
Seem to always forget where you parked?
Download apps, such as iFind My Car or iCarPark, to assist. The apps record the location of your parking space and direct you there with ease.
Want to protect your car & perfect your garage parking?
Not only do they keep you afloat in the water, but pool noodles can keep your car door protected, too. If you’re prone to opening the car door into the garage wall, maybe you need a cushion. Simply cut the tube in half and nail it to your garage wall.
You can also use a tennis ball to ensure you park in the right spot in your garage every time. You’ll need a tennis ball, a string and two screw hooks. Then:
1. Park your car in the proper spot
2. Measure from garage ceiling to the middle of your car’s windshield (add about 12 inches) and cut string
3. Screw one hook into the tennis ball and the other into the ceiling above your car
4. Tie the string to both hooks
Key stuck in the ignition?
Don’t panic. It may mean your steering wheel is locked in the wrong position. Turn your car back on to unlock the wheel, point the steering wheel straight ahead and turn off the ignition. Your key should come right out.
SPI Reflections Blog
Our blog is about educating our customers and the public about important insurance information that we feel is meaningful.