California Hot Weather Driving

hot-blogThe dog days of summer will soon be upon us, high temperatures take their toll on more than just us, they are tough on our cars. Hot days can push your car beyond its limits and leave you stuck on the side of the road. While many people think about preparing their car for winter, most of us never think about getting ready for the summer. A little early preparation can save you the frustration of being stuck on the side of the road.

AAA recommends drivers address five key areas to help their vehicle safely survive high summer temperatures:

1. Cool your Engine

Your car’s engine works extra hard in the summer, and it is the cooling system’s that protects the engine from overheating. In addition, additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Without proper maintenance, the potential for engine damage, and overheating, definitely increase.

With time, your engine’s coolant becomes contaminated and its protective properties are depleted. That’s why the system should be maintained periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Most newer coolant formulations are good for at least five years and 50,000 miles. See the owner’s manual or maintenance booklet to determine the service interval appropriate for a vehicle.

Always, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper levels by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with the correct fluids for your vehicle.

Rubber cooling system parts, like hoses and belts, also are susceptible to wear and tear caused by heat. Inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition. Worn parts are more susceptible to failure in hot conditions and should always be replaced.

2. Heat is Tough on Batteries

While many drivers think about their battery in the winter, few of us think about the battery in the heat. Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. While you can’t do much about the heat, you can make sure their battery is securely mounted to minimize vibration.

Another problem is faster evaporation of the battery fluid due to heat, leading to corrosion on terminals and connections. Clean all corrosion from the battery terminals and cable clamps, and ensure the clamps are tight.

If a car’s battery is more than 3-4 years old, it’s an always a good idea to have it tested, by your mechanic, to evaluate the life left in your battery.

3. Watch those Tires

Driving under-inflated tires can cause tires to overheat and increase the chances of a tire blowout. This problem becomes worse as road temperatures increase in the summer months.

Over half the cars on the road are reported to have one or more tires that are under inflated. You need to know the proper air pressure and keep your tires inflated. If you don’t know what pressure to put in them, look at your manual.

Tires should be checked after sitting for any length of time, and they should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, not the number printed on the tire. Recommended tire pressures can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker normally located on the driver’s door jamb. Watch out because some vehicles use different pressures for the front and rear tires.

4. Cars get Thirsty too.

Fluids are essential to keeping a car’s engine running smooth. Most fluids not only lubricate, they also serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from engine components. When fluid levels are low, the cooling is reduced. You should always check all of the vehicle fluids including transmission fluid, power steering fluid motor oil, and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the proper levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.

5. Stay Cool

Maintaining a comfortable driving environment reduces drivers fatigue, which can play an important part in driver safety. During extreme summer heat, a properly operating air conditioning system can be more than just a pleasant convenience. If a car’s air conditioning is not maintaining the interior temperature as well as it did in the past, it may mean the refrigerant level is low. Have the air conditioning system checked by your mechanic.

Many air conditioning systems are equipped with a cabin filter. If present, this filter should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the hot months.

If all else fails, prepare for the worst.

Even with proper maintenance, breakdowns can still happen. AAA recommends every driver have a well-stocked emergency kit in their vehicle. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools, and a first aid kit.

Winter Driving Tips

Watch those Brakes
If your car doesn’t have ABS, pump the brakes by quickly braking again and again. This keeps road traction, reduces skidding, and improves control.

Watch your Speed 
This is the biggest wet driving error. There is no right speed when roads are slick from rain and ice, except the speed that keeps you safe. Despite the posted speed limit, only drive as fast as conditions allow.

Give yourself room
Increase your normal distance between vehicles as it takes 5 to 10 times longer to brake on wet roads.

4 Wheel drive is not full proof
4 wheel drive may give you a false sense of security. It helps for traction on snow and rain, but doesn’t give the same traction when you brake. Be careful  on wet or slippery road conditions regardless of your vehicle’s features.

Pay closer attention
Changing road conditions are part of the winter driving. Focus on the road and pay attention to stay safe.

Eco Friendly Auto Body Repair

At Collision Pros, we are deeply committed to our customers and to our community. Therefore, keeping our environment clean and healthy is simply non-negotiable.

greenCollision Pros officially went green last year when we started using a low-VOC European waterborne paint called DuPont Performance Coatings. DuPont Performance Coatings brands have earned more commercial and OEM approvals than any other paint supplier. That’s why we can extend a lifetime warranty on all of our paint work. After the painting process, we recycle paint waste, oils, and coolant. Collision Pros now saves over 1200 lbs. of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), a.k.a. hazardous waste. This is the equivalent of eliminating emissions for more than 5000 cars per year.

In addition to minimizing our paint’s environmental impact, we also make sure to recycle extraneous items that go through our shop. We recycle all cardboard and paper, old bumper covers, tail lights, headlights, sheet metal, aluminum wheels, radiators, and condensers.

We look out for your car’s carbon footprint outside of the shop. When we recharge your air conditioner, we run the refrigerant through a special machine that removes all contaminants from the system before we refill the air conditioner. In this way, we effectively recycle the same refrigerant.

Will My Rates Go Up If I Report An Accident?

Customers often tell us they don’t want to file a claim with their insurance company because they fear their rates will go up. The fact is, if the accident was reported to the police, the insurance company will eventually find out from public record. Also, if the other driver involved in the accident decides to file a claim, it will no longer be a secret.

“ Will my rates go up after an accident?” The answer is ‘perhaps’. Your insurance carrier considers many factors before deciding to change your rate, and sometimes it may stay exactly where it was before your accident.

It’s no myth, auto insurance companies DO have a predetermined premium schedule for increases that occur if you cause a wreck. Key phrase: YOU CAUSE.
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 Factors affecting premium increases:

They take multiple factors into consideration when determining if a claim should result in an elevated premium.

  1. Cost of the incident – cost of the claim is often the biggest factor
  2. Driving record – was this your first or second accident? If you haven’t had an accident or ticket in decades, a minor problem will likely leave you unaffected.
  3. Age bracket – young drivers are normally more accident-prone, etc.
  4. Who’s at fault – you shouldn’t have to pay for misfortune. If it’s not your fault, you’re safe.
  5. Your policy’s details – does yours include “accident forgiveness”?

How to restore cloudy headlamps like a pro

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Removing the haze

Most cars and a lot of trucks today are manufactured with headlamp assemblies that use quartz-halogen bulbs plugged into the back of a large plastic reflector. The outer surface of these headlamp modules is molded polycarbonate plastic. That plastic is much lighter than glass and far more resistant to stone chips and cracks. However, after a few years of exposure to sunlight and atmospheric chemicals, polycarbonate has a tendency to get hazy. Severely neglected lenses can actually pit and develop a network of fine cracks, called craze, which makes the job of fixing them tougher. It’s worth a shot, though—and you’ll need only a few bucks’ worth of materials to get the job done.
Fortunately, there’s a simple and inexpensive solution. Unlike glass, the polycarbonate plastic can be polished back to a surface as smooth as new, in a procedure that won’t take more than a half-hour.

Mask off around headlights

Buy some good 2 inch masking tape. Mask the area around the headlamp that needs to be polished.

Buffing the headlamps

You can buy a prepackaged kit intended specifically for the task restoring headlamps. 3M and Permatex both sell a kit containing everything you need for around 10 bucks. Any auto parts store will carry them. You can also buy the sandpaper and polishing compound individually. If you only need to do one pair of headlights, it’s cheaper to buy the kit instead of the sandpaper one sheet at a time.

Sanding the headlight.

Soak a piece of 1000-grit wet/dry sandpaper in cold water for 10 minutes. Lightly sand the lens in straight strokes. Methodically cover the entire lens surface, always sanding back and forth in one direction. Keep the surface wet while you work. Again, be careful not to damage nearby paint or trim.

Sand until the pits, discoloration and scratches you’re trying to eliminate are gone. Don’t rush this part. And don’t be afraid to dry the surface with a towel and check the uniformity of your sanding. When you’re done, clean and dry the area.

Now perform the same operation with 1500-grit wet/dry sandpaper, this time sanding at right angles to your previous work. Again, be methodical. Keep the paper wet, cover the entire surface and then clean up to remove any abrasive powder. Repeat the procedure, every time at right angles to the last sanding, with 2000-, 2500- and 3000-grit wet/dry. If you don’t have 2500 or 3000, it’s fine, you’ll just have more buffing to do. Clean up all the sanding residue and dry the area.

Now go back to your compound and flannel to hand-polish out the scratches. Your lens should look like new—shiny and clear.

Clean up every last vestige of the abrasive polishing compound. Now wax the lens thoroughly with a paste car wax. This last step will keep acid rain, dirt and road salt from attacking the plastic, at least for a while. You can make it even better by applying an aerosol clear made for headlights. The factory headlights come with a clear to protect from ultraviolet rays. It will make your work last much longer.

Do I need to replace my child safety seat after an accident?

Let’s look at what the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association has to say. This federal governmental agency oversees the policies on child passenger restraints, and they base their decisions on scientific data. At one time they stated that any car seat that was in an accident needed to be replaced. Since that time, NHTSA has revisited that policy.

baby-seatThe clarified policy recommends that all child passenger restraint seats involved in “moderate to severe crashes” should be replaced in order to ensure the highest level of protection for the child. This allows for a bit of judgment on your part.

So what makes it a minor accident? When can you keep your current car seat? You should ask these questions. If you can say “yes” to all of these question, NHTSA would say you could keep using the seat.

  • Was the car able to be driven away from the accident safely?
  • Was the area nearest the safety seat undamaged?
  • Were all occupants of the vehicle uninjured?
  • Did the air bags remain intact?
  • Is there no visible damage to the car seat?

The reason they made these changes is has to do with what studies and science have revealed about what happens to car seats in minor vehicle accidents. Basically, they are saying that seats in minor accidents continue to meet federal standards for performance.

Can you waive my deductible?

deductible-savingsThere is a lot of misinformation out there about the legality of waiving a deductible. My understanding is an agreement between a private party and the body shop is between them. However, That being said, you have to consider who is offering it and what you are going to not get and are their illegal activities occurring that make this possible. There just isn’t enough profit in the collision repair business to eat deductibles. You will find that most of the time, the customer is going to get something different than what the insurance is going to be billed for. It may save you money but it may be unethical and possibly fraudulent.

Typically an auto body shop that works with an insurance company will not discount your deductible amount. This would seem unethical in that it would appear they would just over-inflate the estimate to cover your deductible amount so that the insurance company ends up paying the entire amount for repairs, which is not right since you agreed to a deductible amount in your policy.

If the body shop did not inflate the estimate to cover the deductible (which is insurance fraud) but instead took your deductible amount off their profit it is likely they would then find ways to cut corners to make up for this amount they did not receive. We would advise against repair or body shops that would cheat insurance companies since they are also likely to cheat you as well.

If you read through your insurance policy you will see that it says that you are responsible for paying the first portion of a repair bill in form of a deductible. If the cost of damage repair comes in less than the estimate, you are still responsible for the amount of the deductible. Any savings legitimately belongs to the insurance carrier. Remember your contract says you will pay the deductible first. Often the amount of the deductible can be more than the body shop makes on a repair so if they discounted customers this amount it would be hard for them to stay in business for long.

When you purchased your insurance policy, you signed a contract agreeing that you will pay the first amount of the claim up to your deductible. Repair shops should not try to hide or pay your deductible for you. This would be considered insurance fraud and thus illegal by both parties in most states. Penalties for insurance fraud are usually quite severe.

Insurance company and body shop appraisers know the cost of repairs and are rarely tricked by inflated or inaccurate estimates. Be wary of the repair shop that offers to save you your deductible. They may be taking short cuts in your repair, which could depreciate the value of your car. There must be a reason they are willing to involve themselves in violating your insurance contract and possibly committing insurance fraud depending upon your state’s laws.

Be wary of anyone who is desperate enough to take these tactics. The chances of them being around long term, to honor any warranty, is slim.

I suggest you shop around. You will definitely feel a difference of professionalism at a shop that isn’t taking these desperate tactics.

Your Insurance and Choosing the Right Body Shop

In the state of California, you are not required to use the body shop your insurance company recommends. However, there may be advantages to you though. Here are some things for you to think about before making the decision.

You Have the Right to Choose Your Own Auto Body Shop

customer-on-phoneAfter the accident, you can take your vehicle to the auto body shop of your choice. If you have developed a relationship with a particular body shop, you may want to have them take a look at the vehicle to determine the extent of the damage.

If you choose your own body shop, as opposed to visiting the one the insurance company recommends, and you aren’t happy with the work then you will have to deal with the dispute yourself. The insurance company will take a “hands off” approach and only reimburse you for the cost of damages, after you pay the deductible. You may also need to pay for the cost of the repairs up front and wait to be reimbursed by the insurance company if insist on having the repairs completed by your own collision repair shop.

Using the Body Shop Recommended by Insurance Company

Your insurance company wants to retain you as a customer. It is very important that the claims experience goes as easily as possible for you. They do not want to refer you to a place that you will have a bad experience. If you have a problem with an auto body shop, the insurance company will have more pull with one where they refer a lot of work. Don’t underestimate the value of that.

Insurance companies have also developed relationships with a number of body shops. They have a history of working with the insurance company’s adjuster and its policyholders to get the repairs completed. The body shop will provide an initial estimate the adjuster and to you before the work is started.

If there is additional damage to the vehicle that is discovered after the work has started, the estimate will need to be adjusted to reflect this additional damage. Additional parts and labor costs will be taken into consideration. Since the insurance company has already established a relationship with the body shop, the auto body shop may agree to bill the insurance company directly for the additional cost. This means that you will get your vehicle back faster, without having to pay this expense out of pocket and waiting for the insurance company to issue a check, since the body shop may agree to release your vehicle before it has been paid. This can save days on the amount of time it takes to repair your car.

Deciding to get the repairs completed by the body shop the insurance company recommends may also mean that the work will be guaranteed for as long as you own the vehicle. This gives you peace of mind that if there is a problem with the work that was done, you have recourse to get the matter dealt with. Be sure to ask about guarantees on parts and labor before the work starts.

Deciding What Body Shop to Use

You have the right to get an estimate for the repairs and a detailed description of the damage from your own body shop, as well as one that has been recommended by the insurance company if you choose to do so. You can also make arrangements for an shop, who is not connected to the insurance company in any way, to take a look at the damage and work up an estimate for you.

If you simply want to get the repairs completed quickly, the easiest way may be to arrange to have your car taken to an approved auto body shop. You can take a look around at that point and ask any questions you feel are relevant.

Another factor to consider is your rental car coverage and how long you can get benefits under this policy provision. The insurance company will only pay for the time allotted to finish the job on the estimate. If hidden damage becomes apparent after the work has started, the insurer may refuse to pay for the rental car for the additional days unless you have taken the vehicle to a body shop that is on its approved list.

As always when dealing with insurance matters, it’s a good idea to make a list of questions for the adjuster and/or the customer service department with your insurance company. You don’t make a claim under your car insurance coverage every day, and you want to make sure that you are making the kinds of decisions that will get you back on the road as quickly as possible.

How to Choose a Body Shop

I will be writing a series of blogs as to “How to choose a body shop.” In doing some research for this, I went to the internet and I was really surprised at how bad the misinformation is. There are a lot of opinions out there and I suppose mine is just another one, but at least mine is based off of over 30 years of industry experience in Auburn, CA.

customer-wreckFor this first article I will do my best to answer the question, “Do I need a factory certified body shop?” The answer to this is, “maybe”. A better question might be, “Does the auto body shop have the training, information and equipment to repair my car correctly?”

Factory certification means something different for every car manufacturer. Some are nothing more than a fee a body shop pays and an agreement to not use non-factory parts. That’s right, no training at all. Other manufacturers have very extensive training. In those cases it’s so expensive and time consuming that the collision shop often only trains one or two technicians. That means they only use the certified tech when it’s needed. The other 95% of the time they use a trained technician, but not specific to that manufacturer. Just like every other body shop.

I-CAR is the leading trainer in the collision repair industry. In most cases it isn’t manufacturer specific, unless there is something unique about the way a certain vehicle needs to be repaired. I-CAR trains to materials and philosophies that are used in all cars. A body shop can fix almost any car with I-CAR training only, because most manufacturers use the same available technology to build their cars.

What is my dealer referred me to a certain auto body shop? I would take this as another piece of information towards making a decision, nothing more. Usually dealers refer to body shops that pay them fees or provide them with free lot damage. Even if they do all that, it doesn’t make that a non-reputable body shop; it just means the referral isn’t an unbiased opinion based on what’s best for you. It’s based on what’s good for the dealer.

“Should I just have the dealer fix it?” I’ve never been a big fan of the dealer run body shop. They tend to be treated by the dealer as a side line business and they don’t pay much attention to the way cars or repaired and even more to the way customers are being treated. I personally think you’re better off in a shop that collision repair is their only business.

Alright, I said at the beginning that in some cases you could need a factory certified body shop. That is true for the highest end of cars. If you’re driving a Lamborghini or a Ferrari go to a certified shop. Even if you’re driving a car that’s 2-3 years old and upwards of $100,000 you might be wise to take your car to a certified technician. I said factory trained technician instead of body shop because it doesn’t help you if a non-certified collision repair technician repairs your car. The reason that I recommend for only the first years is because it takes longer for the industry to catch up on the latest technology. However, the training is usually out there way before a technology becomes main stream. If you don’t need a factory trained auto body repair technician, don’t use them because you will wait longer and pay more for them.

A bigger tell as to if an auto body shop is capable of fixing your car is if they subscribe to factory repair specifications. A lot of body shops train their technicians but still only about 30% of the collision repair industry repairs vehicles without the factory information or instructions as to how it should be done. This is key because most cars are now uni-body and designed to behave in a certain way when in an accident, so that the passengers walk away safely. If a car is repaired differently than it is engineered to be repaired, the results can be deadly. Ask your shop, “Do you subscribe to a service that provides factory repair specifications?” If the answer is anything other than, “yes”, run don’t walk to another body shop.

To conclude the first part of this blog on, “How to choose a body shop” I attempted to answer the question “Do I need a factory certified auto body shop.” My answer is, not usually. But, you do need a well-trained shop that knows how to repair your car and more importantly, has the information to repair your car.

My next article, I’ll do my best to answer the question, “Should I go to the body shop my insurance company referred me to?”

8 TIPS FOR HOW TO DRIVE IN THE RAIN

rain_tipsDriving in the rain can be disorienting, stressful, and dangerous. Dozens of cars around you, rain crashing on your car, and limited visibility out of your windshield. But there’s a reason more wrecks occur when it’s raining, and it’s not only because drivers can’t see.

What most drivers don’t realize is just how slick roads are, even in the summer. Grease, oil, fuel, dirt, and dozens of other materials are caked onto our highways from millions of passing cars. Each of these materials, when wet, create a slick surface for your tires. Oil materials don’t mix with water, so even heavy rain will take several minutes to wash away any contaminants. That makes the first 15 minutes of rain very dangerous. How can you prepare yourself for driving in the rain?

Driving in the Rain Tip #1 – Replace Windshield Wipers Regularly

How do you know when to replace your windshield wipers? Some professionals recommend a six to twelve month replacement schedule, which is pretty standard. To avoid replacing perfectly good wiper blades, simply test them regularly with a heavy stream of windshield wiper fluid. If your windshield is left streaked and partially wet, you should probably replace the blades. Cracked or torn rubber is also a good indication of worn out windshield wiper blades.

Driving in the Rain Tip #2 – Drive Slow (But Not Too Slow)

Do you ever notice how awful city traffic can be during a rainstorm? It’s not uncommon to pass several wrecks in one commute. Again, it’s not the visibility that gets most drivers, it’s the initial lack of traction due to materials on the road. When you brake, your stopping distance will be significantly increased in the rain. Drive slow in the rain, but not too slow. Then again, if you’re in city traffic, you probably don’t have a choice.

Driving in the Rain Tip #3 – Time Your Trips

Is it going to start raining during the 10:00 movie? Be responsible and try to catch the 7:00 movie if it’s possible. Avoiding the initial rain downpour significantly improves your chances of getting there safely.

Driving in the Rain Tip #4 – Use Proper Tires

Most vehicles are equipped with all-season tires that are capable of performing well in rainy conditions. However, these tires are the jack of all trades and the master of none, so if you’re constantly driving in the rain, you might consider tires specifically for heavy rain environments.

Driving in the Rain Tip #5 – Turn on Your Headlights

Turn your headlights on in a light rain and in gloomy, foggy, or overcast conditions to help you see the road and help other drivers see you. In fact, since 2008, California law says you must turn on your headlights when you turn on your windshield wipers.

Driving in the Rain Tip #6 – Safe Following Distance

Maintain proper following distance (3 second rule) and increase that distance in wet weather. Cars directly in front of you will cause water to spray on your windshield which reduces vision. Large trucks and buses are particularly poor vehicles to follow during a rainstorm because they kick up more rain than smaller vehicles.

Driving in the Rain Tip #7 – Brake Correctly

Anti-lock brake systems have revolutionized the way cars stop, but they’re still not perfect. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid. Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.

Driving in the Rain Tip #8 – Understand Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of the tires builds up faster than the vehicle’s weight can push out of the way. The water pressure causes the vehicle to rise up and slide in a thin layer of water between the tires and the road. At this point, the vehicle can be completely out of contact with the road, and in danger of skidding or drifting out of the lane. Three main factors contribute to hydroplaning:

Vehicle speed. As speed increases, wet traction is considerably reduced.

Tire tread depth. Maintaining adequate treading on tires and replacing them when necessary can help prevent hydroplaning. 1/32 inch (according to driversed.com). From the California Vehicle Code online: (1) One thirty-second (1/32) of an inch tread depth in any two adjacent grooves

Water depth. The deeper the water, the sooner you will lose traction, although even thin water layers can cause a loss of traction, including at low speeds.