Beat the Heat: Summer Car Maintenance Tips

It’s hot out there. As tempting as lounging at the pool or beach all day may be, sometimes it’s just not feasible. You’ve got places to go, people to see. And if a car is needed to get things done, the sweltering temperatures can lead to a malfunctioning A/C, burning hot steering wheel, or even a dead car battery. While we can’t bring you cooler weather, we can help you beat the heat with these hot weather car maintenance tips.

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Prevent battery meltdowns: Cold weather can trigger problems with your car’s battery, but hot weather is actually just as brutal. Excessive heat can cause battery fluid to evaporate, resulting in a malfunction in the charging system. This will potentially destroy the battery. It’s a good idea to have your car inspected for safety and serviced before you head out on a summer road trip.

Get the most out of your air conditioning: Your A/C should also be serviced regularly, but if it still doesn’t seem cold enough, Mechanic Matt has some tips on how to get the most out of your system. If you are in a dry climate with low humidity, use the “fresh air” setting to bring in outside air, which allows the A/C system to cool more efficiently. And if you live in a humid area, set the A/C to “recirculate”, which eliminates the use of high-moisture outside air and makes it easier for the A/C system to cool things down.

Keep an eye on your coolant levels: Your cooling system is working overtime to keep your engine from overheating. To keep it working efficiently, make sure the coolant and distilled water mixture is 50:50. But never open a hot radiator cap, because hot pressurized coolant can spray out! If you aren’t a DIY kind-of-person, your mechanic can change the coolant for you. This should typically be done once a year, but you should check your owner’s manual for recommendations on the frequency.

Avoid sauna status: If you aren’t lucky enough to find that coveted shady spot, your parked car can quickly turn into a sauna. This unfortunate predicament can result in a burning hot steering wheel, a faded interior, and a whole lot of sweat. Consider buying a windshield sun shade which shields your car’s interior from the hot blazing sun. When you return to your car, open the doors for a few minutes to let heat escape, because glass windows insulate heat inside. You could also leave your window cracked (just a bit – you don’t want someone to be able to reach inside!) or get your windows tinted. (more…)

Car Storage: What to Do When You Don’t Drive Much

Does your car ever sit unused for an extended period of time? Whether it’s because of a long vacation (lucky you!) or a newly found appreciation for public transportation, we’re big fans of using your car less. However, you don’t want a dead battery or engine problem the next time you decide to take your car for a spin. Follow these precautions to ensure your car is in running condition the next time you need to use it.

car storage

First things first: where should you keep your idle car stored? The ideal place is in a garage because it prevents theft and also protects against elements like that blazing summer sun or a torrential downpour. If you don’t have access to a garage, look for a car storage service, which is typically offered by most major storage companies. If the most viable option is keeping it outside you should consider purchasing a waterproof car cover to keep it clean. Regardless of where your car is stored, there are a few things you should do before leaving it in hibernation mode:

  1. Keep it clean: All dressed up and nowhere to go? It may seem silly to get your car nice and spiffy just to keep it locked away, but dirt and residue can eat away at your car’s exterior if left on for a long time.
  2. Fill’er up: It might also seem contradictory to fill up your gas tank to go… nowhere, but this will prevent moisture from accumulating inside the fuel tank. Excess condensation can lead to acceleration problems, and when the inevitable winter chill returns, a fuel line freeze. If you will be storing for a very long time, it also might help to purchase a fuel stabilizer to prevent gasoline from becoming gummy. Plus, you’ll be pleased to find a full tank of gas the next time you drive!
  3. Don’t lose power: All vehicles typically experience a very small amount of battery drain, even while turned off. Mechanic Matt suggests purchasing a battery tender, a small charger that keeps your battery topped off every day.
  4. Get some air: Use a tire gauge to make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended tire pressure (follow @Metromile to find us at a local event where we give them away for free). If the tires are under-inflated, head to the gas station to add some air because flat spots can develop as the vehicle’s weight presses down on the tires. Even while idle. It could also help to have an air compressor on hand to quickly inflate a flat if a gas station isn’t in close proximity.

When you are ready to brush those cobwebs off your car (hypothetically speaking, hopefully) do a quick inspection before starting the engine. Check the windshield wipers, tire pressure, fluid levels, brakes, and under the hood to see if anything looks off. If it’s been awhile and you are uneasy about the condition, take your car into your local mechanic for a professional opinion. And if you are often leaving your car unused, you could be a great candidate for per-mile insurance because your monthly bill is based on the miles you drive. Check out metromile.com/insurance to learn more!

Maintenance Monday: Get the Most out of Your Car’s A/C

 

Maintenance Monday

Summer is upon us and those triple digit days are right around the corner. Is your car’s air conditioner ready? Here are some simple things that I suggest you do to get the most out of your A/C system:

My A/C was recently serviced but still doesn’t seem cold enough.

If your car’s A/C system has been recently serviced but still doesn’t seem cold enough, you can maximize its efficiency by following these easy steps. If you are traveling in a low humidity or dry climate such as Arizona, use your car’s “Fresh Air” setting. This brings in the outside air and allows the A/C system to cool the hot, dry air more efficiently. If you are traveling in a humid area, set your air conditioner to “Recirculate”. This will eliminate the use of the high-moisture outside air, making it easier for the A/C system to cool off the air and keeping you nice and comfortable.

Why isn’t my air conditioner blowing cold anymore?

It’s probably due to a lack of regular maintenance. Just like everything else in your car, like the brakes, hoses, and tires, the A/C system also requires routine service. The condition and level of the refrigerant is the leading factor in determining your A/C’s ability to cool. As the A/C refrigerant deteriorates or leaks, the system is less efficient at turning the liquid into a gas. This transition makes the gas cold. If you suspect your A/C system is low on refrigerant, most automotive repair shops have the ability to recharge the system. This service will usually cost less than 200 dollars, but can save you thousands of dollars in the long run as systems running low on refrigerant can damage very costly components within the A/C system itself.

One trick in determining if your A/C system is low on refrigerant is to start your vehicle, put the A/C on “High” and listen for the compressor clutch to come on. The compressor clutch will make one loud click sound as it engages. It should stay on steady. If the compressor clutch is cycling or clicking every few seconds, your system is low on charge and should be serviced. (more…)

Ask a Customer Experience Expert: Car Ownership 101

 

The following is a post from Isabel Siragusa, a Customer Experience Expert at Metromile.

Dealing with car trouble is never easy. It’s costly, inconvenient, and hard to know who to trust with fixing your car. As a Customer Experience Expert at Metromile and a car owner in a busy city like San Francisco, I feel your pain. I may talk car insurance every day, but when I first started, I realized I knew very little about how my own car works. Since Metromile is all about making car ownership as simple and affordable as possible, I’ve compiled a list of things that I think every car owner should know.

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Do your homework. Every car works a little differently. Whether you are trying to figure out how much air to put in your tires or where to check your oil, it’s worth doing a little research before calling for help. Many answers can be found with a quick internet search or in your owner’s manual. You might even save some money because mechanics sometimes charge extra if you don’t know what you are talking about. And if you have the Metromile driving app, you can diagnose car troubles right from your smartphone.

Geography matters. According to my mechanic, if you’re living in San Francisco, the hills are going to cut the lifespan of your brakes in half. And if you are in Chicago, cold weather could put a lot of pressure on your car which means your tires and battery won’t last as long. If you can, park the front of your car near to a building to keep it warm.

Know the basics. There are a few car maintenance tips that all owners should know:

Dealing with flat tires. Don’t freak out if your tire looks like it might be losing air, but definitely deal with it or you’ll end up spending more on gas. If you can drive, go to the nearest gas station. Note that tire pressure readers at gas stations are generally inaccurate, so bring your own gauge (Metromile will even send you one for free). And if you’ve driven more than a few miles, the reading might be high because driving increases air pressure. After filling up the tire, check it again in a few hours. If it’s decreasing slowly, find a local tire store. If it’s in the 20s or lower, call a tow truck.

Even if you don’t have a flat, it’s good to still your tires properly inflated. Most cars have an optimal PSI between 30 and 40. If you look on the side of your tire, you’ll find the maximum PSI. Don’t go over that number and ideally stay somewhere slightly below. Make sure all four tires have the same amount of air in them. If you need to let air out, push the pin on the air valve in towards the tire.

Changing your oil on a regular basis. I’ll be perfectly honest. I’ve never done this myself, but you can easily have this done by a mechanic. Changing your oil keeps your car running smoothly and extends the life of the vehicle. Try to get it changed every 5,000 miles, and if you live in a cold climate then you should do it more often. If you want to check your oil level before it gets changed, locate the oil in the front of the engine and pull out the dipstick, wiping it clean. Dip and pull it out again, and you should see two lines. If you don’t, you can buy more oil at the gas station. When you are checking your oil level you can also see if it’s time for the oil to be changed altogether. If you see dirt when you rub the oil between your fingers then its probably time.

Fixing your brakes. Squeaky brakes are never a good sign because they mean the brake lining is starting to wear thin. But how long can you go until you need to get them repaired? The longer you wait, the more expensive it’ll be. If you notice squeaky brakes or your brake light comes on, you don’t need to stop your car on the side of the ride, but you should get them serviced soon. According to my mechanic, you still have 20% of the pad left which could be up to 2000 miles. However, if your brakes start to grind or grumble it means you’ve worn through the pad and it’s definitely time to see a mechanic!

Hope this helps! If you want more tips, send us a tweet @Metromile .

Get Your Car Road Trip Ready

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us which means that summer is unofficially here! Whether you are heading to the beach, the wilderness, or a BBQ at your friend’s new condo, a healthy car is probably a prerequisite for your weekend plans. Here’s a handy list to prepare for smooth driving ahead.

 

Road Trip

 

Flat-out protection
It is possible to pre-emptively stop flats before they turn into a major detour. Check your tires to see if anything looks off, such as weird bulges or uneven tire wear. To be extra safe pick up a tire gauge, which could cost less than a rest stop meal and tells you exactly what your tire pressure is. Your tires should be inflated according to the vehicle manufacturer recommendations, which can be found in your owner’s manual or on the inside of your car’s door. And as Mechanic Matt suggests, make sure your spare tire is also inflated because it can leak slowly over time.

Fill’er up
We all face the same road trip conundrum: how do you know when to fill up your gas? What if gas is cheaper in the next town you pass? Don’t wait until your tank is empty because you might be stuck going to the most expensive gas station. Check a site like GasBuddy ahead of time to find the areas that have the best prices along your route. While you’re at it, check your washer fluid levels too so you can refill if needed and aren’t stuck with a bug-laden windshield.

Be (extra) prepared
Even if you take the time to make sure your car is in tip-top condition before a long drive, you could still hit unexpected roadblocks. Keep some basic tools in your car, such as a jack wrench, lug wrench, jumper cables, and a flashlight. A first aid kit is good to have on hand also. And don’t forget those extra snacks in case you get stuck in traffic; no one likes a hangry driver. Check out our road trip checklist to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything.

Know your way
Whether you use an app on your smartphone or the old-fashioned paper map, familiarize yourself with the route before you step on the gas. Checking directions while driving is considered distracted driving; taking your eyes off the road for even a few moments could cause an accident. Waze is a great app to use because it updates your route in real-time based on traffic patterns and user-submitted tips, and you can set directions to be read out loud so you never have to look at your phone.

It is important to note that these tips are in addition to the comprehensive check-up that your mechanic should be doing throughout the year. Your brakes, cooling system, transmission service, oil levels and exhaust system can all deteriorate over time, and if you aren’t confident about the inner workings of your car it might be best to leave this stuff to an expert. Just make sure you are staying on top of the maintenance schedule suggested by your manufacturer. If you have the Metromile app, you can check your car’s health.

Planning to road trip more this summer? We will be compiling these and other tips into a road trip guide which will be fueled by the Metromile community. If you’d like to contribute to the guide, tag your photos, tips and more with #HowIRoadtrip. Happy travels!

Spring Break Road Trip Checklist

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Spring break is getting closer and for many people, that means road trip! Road trips used to be a lot more DIY than they are now (remember paper maps!?) — Our cell phones have changed that. These days, the connected car is making driving, including long road trips, much easier and enjoyable but it’s still a luxury that many don’t have. Metromile, however, is on a mission to empower drivers by creating a more connected and informed driving experience by putting the right tools in drivers hands. 

As we approach Spring Break, especially with road trips in mind, Metromile offers benefits that will help take the guesswork out of car travel but there’s a few other must have’s for every road trip:

  • Your cell phone – make sure you can check in with family and friends on the road or have it handy in case of an emergency. Plus, there’s fun apps to help you find the cheapest gas in the area or keep up with your MPG, trip logs and car health with the Metromile app (and plugged in Pulse device)
  • A phone charger
  • Water – stay hydrated!
  • Roadside assistance You never know what could happen on the road. Make sure you have the number ready on who to call. Services like AAA are great to keep you protected on the road and Metromile insurance customers receive free roadside assistance no matter where they are on the road!
  • A second set of keys– give them to one of your passengers to hold onto in case you get locked out.
  • Change your oil before the trip and check tire pressure – it’s always important to check the basics of your car health before you head out on a road trip. Metromile users will always have access to their car health via the app and if there’s a problem, they’ll be alerted.
  • Bring insurance information – keep a copy of your insurance card in your glove box! Metromile insurance customers can always access a copy of their policy directly via their Metromile App so there’s less panic if there’s trouble.
  • A road emergency kit – It’s a good idea to throw in jumper cables, a gas can, road flares and the like just in case. It’s also not a bad idea to pack a medical emergency kit even if you find you just need an Advil or a Band-Aid.
  • Film for your camera

Enjoy the road and wherever it may take you!

5 Tips for Spotting a Shady Mechanic

It’s not uncommon for people to feel insecure when something goes wrong with their car. If you don’t have a long history with a mechanic that you trust, starting out with someone new can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, the give away of a corrupt mechanic is more than just having a sixth sense or reading body language. While body language can certainly help scope out someone who isn’t very trustworthy, the red flags will be found in what they say to you – it also matters what’s hanging up on their office wall. Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t get taken for a ride…

Looking for Certification

If you don’t see a certification up on your mechanic’s wall that’s from ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) or from AAA, you’re likely dealing with trouble. Any of these reputable certifications will assure you that the mechanic knows what they’re doing. A reputable one will proudly display these certifications somewhere so every customer can see them. If they don’t have them visible, it doesn’t necessarily mean the mechanic isn’t certified, just ask them to prove it to you.

A Mechanic Refusing to Answer Questions

If a new mechanic just opened shop and you’re not familiar with their background, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Ask them about where they came from, and their education. Also, ask them about the repair equipment they use in the shop. If they refuse to answer any of these, they may be hiding something and it may be best to take your car to another shop that’s been around for a while.

Refusing to Estimate or Guarantee Their Work

A common sign of a shady mechanic is when they refuse to give you a written contract on how much the repair will be. Never give the go-ahead to do something until you know exactly what’s wrong and how much it’s going to cost you. Mechanics using a blank contract can end up charging you whatever they want. They also should offer warranties on the parts they install. Otherwise, unbeknownst to you, those parts may be used and go out within days or weeks.

Needless Flushes

While certain quickie lube companies are known for forcing people to have coolant, steering, and transmission flushes, sometimes they aren’t even necessary. If your mechanic insists you get a flush not long after you’ve had one done, you’ll know there’s an issue. 

Finding Additional Problems with Your Car

It’s the oldest trick in the book. It could be the mechanic showed you metal shavings from your transmission in an attempt to make you think a new transmission is in order, or any other scam, but when a mechanic says extra repairs are necessary, think twice.

Your best bet is to consult the MetroMile app for notification of any engine trouble codes and to search the Web yourself on what the true signs are when they say that something needs repair. Shady mechanics prey on the naive and uniformed, and armed with our app and the mighty Interwebs, you can show that mechanic that you know what’s up!