If you haven’t been in an accident before, the process, from collision to paid and repaired vehicle, can seem confusing. We’ve put together a simple list to help un-complicate the process for you.
At the accident, make sure you do the following:
● Take photos of the scene, preferably before any of the vehicles have moved. If possible, you should clear the road soon after.
● Make sure everyone is okay. Call an ambulance.
● Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. This includes name, address, phone number, email address, insurance name and policy, etc.
● Contact the police. Get witness contact information and statements – the police may do this.
● Give your insurance company an unbiased account of what happened.
If your car is badly damaged, it may not be drivable after the accident. If you need a tow, it saves time and money to already have a repair shop selected. Remember – you don’t have to go to the shop your insurance company suggests! They are obligated to work with any repair shop of your choosing.
An estimate will give you an approximate cost for repairs to your vehicle. Your insurance company may decide that your car is totaled if the cost of repairs is more than the value of the vehicle. An estimate shouldn’t take long, and you shouldn’t need an appointment.
Once you, the repair shop, and the insurance company have agreed on repairs, you can schedule a repair appointment at the shop of your choosing. You’ll have to sign a form to authorize the repairs, and you may owe your insurance company a deductible depending on your policy.
The cost of repairs will depend on the insurance policy you have. Damages caused in the accident should be covered by a collision policy. If you’re in a state that assigns fault and the accident was your fault, you will need collision coverage to cover the cost of your vehicle and not just the other vehicle. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company should pay for your repairs. If their insurance doesn’t cover enough, or if the other party doesn’t have coverage, you’ll need to pay out of pocket or have an uninsured/underinsured motorist package included in your policy. Check with your insurance company if you aren’t sure. Your insurance policy may also cover a rental car during repairs, but it depends on the policy you have.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your repair. When you pick up your car, it should be in the same condition it was in prior to the accident.
After each winter, the number of potholes on the road seems to multiply. Unfortunately, the damage a pothole can do to your vehicle is potentially devastating, so it’s important to be on the lookout for potholes and learn how to minimize the damage. Believe it or not, there are several things you can do to prevent pothole damage from destroying your car.
Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you on the road.
While this is good safe driving advice and required by law in many places anyway, leaving space between you and the car in front of you gives you time to spot a pothole as you approach it, and if possible, avoid it. Never swerve suddenly to avoid a pothole; you may cause a much worse accident hitting another vehicle, person, biker, oncoming traffic, or a solid object.
This may not seem like an ideal solution, but you’re more likely to suffer damage if you hit a pothole going fast than if you hit it going slowly. Ultimately, you’ll make it to your destination faster if you don’t have to stop and check out pothole damage.
Look out for puddles.
A puddle might be a small divot in the road that you hardly notice, or it could be a car-killing foot-deep pothole, just hiding under a pool of water. Be careful, slow down, and think of your poor tires.
Avoid sudden braking.
If you don’t have enough time to slow down before hitting a pothole, resist the urge to swerve out of the way sharply or brake too suddenly and harshly. Braking quickly compresses the front suspension, lowering the front of the vehicle, which can force the wheel deeper into the pothole and make it harder for it to come out the other side, rather than allowing it to glide over the top. While not ideal, gliding over the top is better for your vehicle in the long run.
Keep your tires properly inflated.
If you hit a pothole with under-inflated or overinflated tires, they’re less likely to hold up and more likely to suffer damage. Flat tires are a common result of hitting a pothole.
If you do hit a pothole, stop and check for damage as soon as possible.
The longer you drive a damaged vehicle, the more likely it is that the damage will grow. Check your tires, be aware of your steering and alignment, and if you are uncertain, have a technician take a look.
Pay attention to your steering.
One of the first things a pothole can affect is your steering and alignment, so make sure not to swerve when you hit a pothole, and pay attention to your alignment following a hit.
Going green, eating green, and protecting the environment are terms we hear all over the place now. It may seem like the latest trend, but do you know how easy it is to do?
Benefits of ‘Going Green’
Not only is green healthier for you and for the environment, it can save you some green by keeping more money in your pocket.
● Reducing the amount of fuel you use can improve air quality. This isn’t only important for the future of the earth – you’re breathing the same air that vehicles pollute right now.
● Increasing your gas mileage, meaning you get more miles out of every gallon you purchase, can help you save money. On average, getting 30 miles per gallon instead of 20 can save about $1,000 a year.
We’ve put together a list of a few simple things you can do to drive green.
● Check your tire pressure. Low pressure can cost you an extra tank of gas every year.
● Don’t carry extra things with you. Take only what you need – every additional 100 pounds reduces your gas mileage by around two percent.
● Change your oil regularly. If you notice your mileage dropping, you may be due for an oil change – that’s how much of a difference it can make.
● Slow down. Driving over 60 miles per hour reduces your mileage, even if the speed limit is over 60. The more you speed, the lower your mileage.
● Take your time to stop and go. Stopping and starting abruptly is one of the best ways to decrease your mileage. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), it can affect mileage by 40 percent.
● Don’t idle unnecessarily. It’s better to turn your car off than to idle, in addition to wasting fuel, it can wear out your engine faster.
● As the weather warms, stay cool the right way. According to fueleconomy.gov, it’s best to use your air conditioning on the highway only, and roll down the windows at lower speeds.
● Avoid rooftop cargo if you can. Summer sports and vacations may call for equipment that won’t fit inside your car, but it’s better to mount them on the back than on top to reduce wind resistance. Remove it when you don’t need to use it!
● Use cruise control. Maintaining a constant speed, especially on the highway, will save fuel by minimizing the time you’re accelerating.
Five Myths to Stop Believing about Collision Insurance
Myth #1: Your insurance company chooses the repair shop you have to use after a collision.
In reality, insurance companies aren’t allowed to tell you where to have your vehicle repaired at any time; you legally have the right to choose where you take your vehicle to be repaired. Insurance companies may have lists of suggested shops, and they may have agreements with some shops, like direct repair options, but you don’t have to choose according to your insurance company’s suggestions.
Myth #2: The insurance company’s estimate is always right.
Both your insurance company and the body shop are likely to perform estimates on your vehicle, and they may not always be the same. Just because the insurance company comes up with a lower number, doesn’t mean they’re right, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be required to cover the difference between their estimate and the actual cost. It’s generally up to your collision repair shop to negotiate with your insurance company.
Myth #3: Comprehensive insurance coverage protects me from everything.
Comprehensive coverage is one kind of insurance coverage that you can include in your insurance policy, but it doesn’t cover everything. Usually, it covers damage that is NOT caused by a collision, like damage from vandalism, a fire, or a tree falling on your car. For coverage of damage caused in a collision, you’ll need collision coverage as part of your policy.
Myth #4: My insurance won’t go up if the accident is not my fault.
This isn’t necessarily true. There is always fault assigned in an accident, so even if it’s considered ‘no fault’ insurance, your rates may be affected if your insurance company has to pay and isn’t reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company.
Myth #5: Collision coverage pays for damages caused in any accident.
Collision insurance is meant to cover the cost of damage caused to your vehicle caused in an accident that is your fault. If you cause the accident, your liability insurance should cover costs incurred to the other driver. If you don’t have collision coverage, you may be held responsible to cover the cost of damage to your own vehicle if the accident is your fault. If the accident is the fault of the other driver, their insurance is usually responsible for your costs, unless the driver is uninsured or underinsured, in which case they can’t pay, and your own uninsured/underinsured driver coverage should pay.
Spring has arrived, the weather is getting warmer, and that means pedestrians and cyclists are coming out of hibernation and they’re on the streets and sidewalks. It may be wet, which means lower visibility and slicker roads.
In order to prevent or appropriately handle pedestrian and cyclist collisions, keep the following in mind.
Driver Safety Tips
Although pedestrians and cyclists have their own set of safety rules, as a driver, you’re the one who would be held responsible in the case of an accident. So, keep the following list in mind when you’re driving through towns and cities.
● Drive slowly when crossing sidewalks or pulling into our out of driveways. You may cross paths with children or others who have the right of way.
● When turning at an intersection, first check for oncoming traffic, then check for cyclists and pedestrians before you turn.
○ When turning left, it’s especially important to check for oncoming cyclists, and to look to your left for pedestrians.
○ When turning right, be aware of cyclists coming behind you (they should be on your left, but may not always be) and to look for pedestrians crossing at the light.
● Never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk; you may not see the pedestrians crossing in front of them.
● If you see a vehicle pulled over or parked on the side of the road, leave enough room for a door to open or a pedestrian to enter or exit the vehicle, just in case they do.
● Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles around you. Potholes or other road hazards can cause abrupt stopping or turning.
● When parallel parking, check your mirror before opening the door; approaching cyclists may not know you’re about to exit.
● If you can, fold your mirror in, especially on tight streets, when parallel parking so that cyclists have room to get by.
● Avoid distracted driving. Pedestrians and cyclists are already more difficult to see because they’re smaller than vehicles, so it’s up to you to stay focused on the road.
● Follow the speed limit. Driving too fast increases the likelihood that pedestrians and cyclists will misjudge the time it takes you to arrive at a crossing and the likelihood of an accident.
● Always use turn signals when turning or changing lanes so that other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists can see where you’re going.
● Always check your blind spot for cyclists.
● Only pass a cyclist when there is an open lane next to you; it is safe to pass a cyclist when it is safe to pass a vehicle.
When you’re having your car repaired after a collision, there are bound to be a lot of auto parts related terms thrown around. We’ve put together a list to help you understand some of them that are less common outside of the collision repair world.
Aftermarket Parts – Replacement parts for a vehicle that were not built by the original equipment manufacturer.
Basecoat – This is a layer of highly pigmented paint that goes over the primer and under a clear coat. It provides color, but requires the protection of a clear coat.
Body Filler – A material that is used to fill in dents on car panels.
CAPA – The Certified Automotive Parts Association, located in Washington D.C., exists to manage testing and inspection of auto parts used in collision repair.
Clear Coat – A top layer of clear paint (it contains no pigment) that protects and covers a pigmented basecoat.
Collision – The loss that occurs when a vehicle hits or is hit by another vehicle or moving object.
Competitive Parts – This is another term used for aftermarket parts.
Ferrous – This describes metal that contains iron.
Filter – A filter removes contaminates from a material. Your vehicle contains many kinds of filters, like an oil filter, a fuel filter, and an air filter.
Finish coat – Another name for a top coat, clear coat, or gloss coat. However it can also be flat, or without gloss.
Frame – The skeleton of the vehicle is called the frame. It is usually made of steel or other strong metals and holds things like the suspension system, the engine, and the body together.
Galvanized – A steel that is coated with zinc is galvanized.
LKQ – Like Kind and Quality describes an auto part that was salvaged from another vehicle – usually another of the same make and model, or one that uses the same exact part.
Panel – The outer parts of a vehicle. The painted surface that you see on a completed vehicle is made of different parts, each of these is called a panel.
Putty – A plastic material used to fill deep holes and wide gaps.
OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturers make auto parts for new cars. If your vehicle is damaged and the part is replaced with an OEM part, it’s being replaced with a piece made by the same place that made the original part.
Substrate – An unpainted and uncoated panel.
Quality Recycled Part – An auto part salvaged from a yard.
Quality Replacement Part – Also called an aftermarket part, this is a new part that was not made by the original equipment manufacturer.
Having poor alignment can lead to a collision, and a collision can lead to poor alignment. There are many other things that can lead to both, but it’s important to understand how to identify, correct, and maintain proper alignment of your vehicle to keep it, and its passengers, safe.
Sometimes, after a collision, your vehicle can suffer damage that doesn’t directly affect alignment, but it can affect things that will rapidly decrease your alignment.
What is alignment?
Alignment, when used in terms of a vehicle, refers to how well the wheels line up with the steering wheel. Simply, poor alignment happens when the steering wheel is straight, but the tires are aimed to one side. There are varying degrees of misalignment depending on how vast the difference in direction is.
What causes poor alignment?
Poor alignment can be caused by many things, from a collision, especially one involving the front end of the vehicle, to a repair involving the parts surrounding steering, tires, suspension, etc. Over time, alignment will vary especially if tires aren’t maintained, roads are bumpy, or the car is accustomed to rough driving.
Why is alignment important?
● With properly aligned tires, it’s easier for the vehicle to navigate any road. You’ll save on gas and repair costs by maintaining alignment.
● Because a car with aligned tires doesn’t work as hard, it uses less gas, saving the environment.
● Tires that are misaligned tend to wear unevenly (uneven tires can also cause misalignment), which means they’ll need to be replaced sooner.
● Misaligned tires make the vehicle harder to steer and control, which can lead to accidents. Alignments make your vehicle much safer to drive.
How to identify alignment issues after a collision
If you’ve recently been in a collision that involved the front end of your vehicle, it’s a good idea to have the alignment checked as you have your vehicle repaired. Look for damage to the following systems as well, because they can cause poor alignment.
● As you drive, does the car pull to one side or the other when the steering wheel is straight? Alignment and steering are directly related.
● Do you hear a squealing noise during slow turns? Your wheel well, brakes, or steering and suspension system may be affected.
● Is your steering wheel off center?
● Does the steering wheel vibrate as you drive?
You may know that the engine has coolant, which is one of the fluids under the hood that needs to be regularly checked. But, do you know what the coolant does, or that it’s part of a cooling system within your vehicle? There are different kinds of cooling systems in vehicles today, including liquid cooled systems and air cooled systems.
What is coolant?
Water is a highly effective material when it comes to holding heat, but it’s freezing and boiling temperatures aren’t compatible with an automobile engine. So, coolant fluid was invented to improve on water’s usability.
Coolant liquid is usually a mixture of antifreeze and water. It is pushed through a series of pipes within the engine to bring the temperature down by absorbing the heat, and traveling to the radiator, where it is cooled.
How does a liquid cooled system work?
The engine and the cylinder head, which contains part of the combustion chamber, both contain a system of cooling channels, through which the coolant liquid flows. As it flows, it absorbs heat from the engine, moving it along the channels. Near the cylinder head, all channels come together into one outlet. At this point, a pump takes coolant from this system toward the radiator, where it is cooled by a fan, and sent back through the channels to continue cooling the engine.
The hotter the engine, the more coolant needs to be topped up in a water cooled system. It’s important to check your levels, especially if you notice the gauge on your dashboard shows that the engine temperature is nearing or reaching higher temperatures.
Most cars today use a liquid cooled system.
How does an air cooled system work?
Air cooled engines maintain the right temperature by allowing air to flow over the hot surfaces. The engine block and cylinder head in this kind of engine have large aluminum fins that reach outside of their containers that pull the heat from the engine and spread it over a larger surface, allowing it to cool faster as an engine powered fan pushes air hot air over them. This cools the fins and removes heat from the engine block, maintaining a safe and constant temperature.
Air cooled systems are more common in older vehicles.
How do I know if there is a problem with my coolant system?
The first way to identify a problem with your coolant system is to watch the temperature gauge on your dashboard. This lets you know if your engine is warmed up enough in the winter, or if it’s overheating, which may signal a problem with your coolant system.
The check engine light can also signal a coolant system error, so make sure to have it checked out if it turns on.
Check the coolant level in your vehicle regularly, or have it checked professionally. If you notice a coolant leak below your vehicle, you may have an issue!
How to Handle a Collision with an Uninsured Driver
Ideally, and according to the law, every driver in the United States would be insured. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, uninsured and underinsured drivers are on the roads, and you have no way of knowing when you’ll come across one.
What is an underinsured driver?
An uninsured driver is one who is on the road without auto insurance. An underinsured driver, however, is one that has insurance, but the limit isn’t high enough to cover the damage caused in an accident.
Every insurance policy comes with a limit to what the insurance company will cover, and individuals can choose the limit they want for their policy. But, if a driver is in an accident with an expensive car or a collision that causes a lot of costly damage, the limit may not be high enough.
How do I handle a collision with an underinsured driver?
The basics of a collision with an underinsured driver are the same as an accident with any other driver.
● Make sure you and your passengers are okay,
● Check on the driver and passengers in the other vehicle,
● If the other driver is leaving the scene, make sure to get as much information from them as possible, including:
○ phone number,
○ insurance information, and
○ license plate number.
● Call the police and ask if they have any requests before they arrive,
● Request an ambulance,
● Take photos of the scene,
● If possible, move the vehicles out of the way of traffic,
● Wait for the police to arrive and make an accident report,
● Contact your insurance company and your collision repair technician to take care of your car and make a claim.
The main difference between an accident with an underinsured driver and an adequately insured driver is that you’ll need to see if your insurance company will cover the costs that the other driver and his or her insurance company is unable to pay.
Do I have to pay?
Whether or not your insurance company will pay for the costs associated with your accident depend on your insurance policy. Many insurance companies offer uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, so that when you are in an accident with an underinsured motorist, your policy is intended to cover the costs, up to your limit.
The oldest among us may be the wisest, but sometimes, tasks that were once easy to tackle can be more of a challenge. It’s important to be careful driving in winter weather, especially with slick roads, low visibility, colder temperatures, and less daylight.
Keep Your Car in Shape
Your car needs to be prepared for the weather every time you drive it. That means it’s important to keep it well maintained. Are winter tires allowed in your area? They may help improve traction in the snow and ice.
● Check the tire pressure and treads regularly,
● Keep the gas tank at least half full,
● Change your oil regularly,
● Keep your windshield wipers in good shape and your wiper fluid filled,
● Have dashboard warning lights checked quickly,
● Have your battery inspected – they tend to wear out faster in cool weather.
● Keep your brakes in good working condition, and
● Check that all of your lights work.
Always Be Prepared
It’s also important that you are always prepared to drive. That means making sure that you’re comfortable driving in the current conditions, and that you have everything with you that you’ll need in case you do get stuck. In addition to a winter ice scraper, keep an emergency kit in your car with the following:
● Warm clothing,
● Non-perishable food,
● A cell phone, and
● Comfortable shoes.
You can also prepare by having your health and vision checked! Don’t drive after taking certain medications, or if you’re feeling tired or sick. Keep in mind that certain times of the day have more traffic, and it’s safer and easier to plan your travels around these times. That also makes it easier to stick to main roads that are likely to be less slippery and snowy.
Every time you get behind the wheel, do what you can to make this trip easy for yourself.
● Clear all the snow and ice off windows and mirrors to improve visibility as much as possible,
● Let your car warm up – it’s not good to drive a cold engine,
● Use your headlights, even during the day. They’re not just for you to see – they help other drivers see you better as well,
● Keep in mind that bridges tend to be icier and windier, and be alert, aware, and cautious,
● If the weather is bad and your journey is not an emergency, consider putting it off until conditions improve, and
Bring your cell phone with you in case of emergencies, but don’t use it while driving