Month: December 2020

Winter Car Care Tips: Keep Your Vehicle in Peak Condition During Frigid Weather

Don’t let cold temperatures wreak havoc on your car.

Keep these five car-care tips in mind as the mercury plummets. You don’t want to be stranded by a dead battery or get into an accident because you can’t see out your windows. If you haven’t taken some of these preventive-care steps, do them as soon as you can so you’re prepared for the next big chill.

Keep the Battery in Good Shape

Your vehicle’s battery is especially hard hit when the mercury plummets. Cold temperatures reduce its cranking power. In fact, at about 0° F, a battery has only about half the cranking power it has at 80° F.  To check a conventional battery, remove the plastic caps on the top and check the fluid level. (See your owner’s manual.) If the fluid is low, add distilled water. On maintenance-free batteries, check that the window at the top of the battery indicates a fully charged state. If it’s more than five years old and shows signs of weakness, replace the battery with a top-rated model.

You  can have the battery professionally tested at a service station, auto parts store, or repair shop. A tired battery may just need to be charged. But if it’s defective or just worn out, it’s best to replace it before it goes completely dead. (Check our buying guide and ratings for car batteries. Worst case, be sure you know how to jump-start a car.)

Replace Wiper Blades

You have to replace wiper blades more often than you might think. Our tests have found that even the best-performing wiper blades start to lose their effectiveness in as little as six months. Streaks or missed expanses of glass are sure signs that the blades are ready for retirement.

While it’s possible to stretch their life by cleaning the rubber edge of the blade periodically with a paper towel and glass cleaner, it isn’t safe to do that all winter long. Instead, get yourself new blades. We recommend replacing wiper blades as often as twice per year. Most wiper blades are easy to install, and some stores, such as Advance Auto Parts, will perform the replacement work free of charge.

Clear the Windows

If you can’t see out the windows, you’re a danger to yourself and everyone around. Don’t try to use the wipers and those brand-new wiper blades to remove ice from the windshield. Instead, use an ice scraper on frosty mornings. If you park outside, place the wipers in the raised position when it’s going to snow overnight to keep them from freezing to the windshield.

With dirt, mud, and salt residue being kicked up off the road, it’s likely that you’ll be using your windshield washers a lot, so keep your windshield-washer reservoir filled with a winter-blend washer solution that contains an antifreeze agent.

Also make sure the heater is functioning properly and that plenty of warm air is being directed to the windshield when it’s in the defrost mode. To help prevent your windshield from fogging up, run the air-conditioning system (with the temperature set at a comfortable level) to dehumidify the air.

Finally, check that all the vehicle’s lights are working properly and that the lenses are clean, so that you’ll have optimum visibility at night and motorists front and rear will be able to see you.

Check the Oil

Cold weather can beat up your engine, too. Motor oil thickens when cold, making it harder for the engine to turn over. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation. Generally, you should be using multi-viscosity oil that has a “W” in the viscosity index, signifying that it’s formulated for winter use. Typical formulas that are recommended for modern engines include 5W-20, 5W-30, and 10W-30, which provide good oil flow at low temperatures and can often be used year-round. Whenever you have the oil changed, replace the oil filter as well to ensure the system has the maximum amount of flow.

While the car is in the shop, have the radiator and heater hoses checked for cracks, leaks, or contamination from oil or grease. The hoses should be firm yet pliable when you squeeze them. Scrap them if they feel brittle or overly soft.

Try to keep your coolant mixture in a 50/50 ratio of antifreeze and water. This will keep your coolant from freezing until temperatures are well below zero. Colder conditions, however, can call for a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio. Under no circumstances should you use a higher antifreeze-to-water ratio than this.

Check out these 5 things to know about oil changes for your car.

Consider New Tires

Spinning out in the snow and ending up in a ditch isn’t the best way to discover your tires are worn out. So if you’ve been waiting to pick up a new set of tires, don’t delay as your safety depends on tire traction and winter-grade tires tend to be in short supply when the snow begins to fall. (Find out how winter/snow tires compare to all-season tires.)

If your area gets occasional snow, a new set of all-season tires should do the job. Look for a highly rated set that has performed well in our snow-traction and ice-braking tests. (Check our tire buying guide and Ratings.) Remember that it’s safest to replace all four tires at one time.

If you live where snow and ice are ever-present, consider buying dedicated winter tires mounted on inexpensive steel wheels. These have tread patterns and rubber compounds specially designed to grip snow and ice for optimum traction on slick roads. Winter tires typically have shorter tread life and generate more road noise than the all-season tires that your vehicle came with. But the extra safety they provide is generally worth the compromise.

Even if your tires are in good shape, make sure that you keep them properly inflated. Big drops in temperature mean your tires will lose air, because tire pressure declines with the thermometer.

Finally, keep a roadside emergency kit in the car.


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Protect Your Home From Fires

Fire prevention tips

The thought of a house fire is incredibly scary, but most home fires are quite preventable. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of home fires, that couldn’t be more accurate. Follow these 10 fire prevention tips to protect your family and your home.

1. Keep your kitchen safe.

The kitchen is the heart of every home. But did you know that kitchens are the most common place where fires begin? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking is the leading cause of home fires.
Follow these tips to keep your kitchen safe:
     *Make sure nothing flammable is near the stove, such as curtains, towels, cookbooks, etc.
     *Clean your stovetop and oven regularly.
     *Stay nearby when something is cooking on the stove or in the oven.
     *Turn pan and pot handles inward so that no one accidentally bumps them off the stove.
     *Keep your clothing away from the stove by wearing short-sleeved shirts or shirt sleeves that are close fitting and tightly rolled.
     *Regularly clean your toaster and toaster oven to remove crumbs.

2. Install and maintain smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms are only helpful if they’re working properly. Make sure your home has a smoke alarm in the kitchen, in every room with a heat source (such as a fireplace), and in each bedroom.
     *If someone in your home is hearing impaired, install smoke alarms with flashing lights.
     *Test smoke alarms monthly by pushing the “test” button.
     *Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year to keep them functional. It’s easy to set a reminder on your smartphone’s    calendar to help you remember. If your smoke alarm starts chirping, that means it’s time to replace the batteries immediately.
     *Replace the smoke alarms themselves every 10 years (the average lifespan of a smoke detector).

3. Place fire extinguishers in the appropriate areas.

You should always have a working fire extinguisher in your kitchen and in any room with a fireplace. Just remember to store the fire extinguisher in a place that’s far enough away from the potential fire source (stove, oven, fireplace, etc.), allowing you to easily access it if needed.

4. Inspect electrical cords, power strips, surge protectors and extension cords.

When it comes to these items, attention to detail is key:
     *Be on the lookout for things like frayed wires and melted plastic—sure signs that the item needs to be replaced immediately.
     *Make sure electrical cords aren’t trapped under rugs or furniture. Since electrical cords can produce heat, this is a fire risk.
     *Purchase trusted name brands and highly rated power strips and surge protectors.

5. Maintain your clothes dryer.

Here’s how to keep your dryer safe:
     *Empty the lint filter on your clothes dryer after each use.
     *Regularly check beside and behind your dryer to pick up any stray lint or clothing (such as those pesky missing socks!) that may have become trapped.
     *At least once a year, clean your external dryer vents to remove all lint and trapped debris (you may want to hire a professional for this task).

6. Use proper wattage with light bulbs.

Lamps and light fixtures should have stickers on them indicating the maximum light bulb wattage that’s safe to use. For example, if a lamp says 60-watt bulb maximum, it’s a potential fire hazard to use a 100-watt bulb on that lamp!

7. Use candles with caution.

Yes, candles make your home smell lovely and add beautiful ambiance, but they can be risky. Always stay nearby when a candle is burning, and make sure there aren’t any flammable items near the candle (like clothing, curtains or furniture).

8. Follow fireplace safety best practices.

According to the NFPA, home fires are more common between November to March when people spend more time inside and use heating equipment, such as fireplaces.  Here are some tips to keep your fireplace safe:
     *Never leave a fireplace unattended when it’s lit.
     *Install a metal fire screen and keep it pulled together to prevent any sparks from escaping.
     *Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving your home or going to bed. Never go to sleep with a fire going in the fireplace!
     *Allow ashes to cool off before cleaning them out of the fireplace.
     *Dispose of fireplace ash in a metal container that isn’t used for anything else.
     *Hire a professional to clean your chimney at least once a year to remove any materials that could cause a chimney fire. According to the NFPA, chimney fires are the most common type of heating fire. 

9. Grill with safety.

When you’re grilling on your back patio, deck or outdoor living space, make sure the grill isn’t too close to your home’s exterior walls or next to a wooden fence or deck railing. And never leave your grill unattended when you’re cooking.

10. Make sure you have the right insurance coverage.

If it’s been awhile since you reviewed your homeowners insurance, now is a good time to take a look and make sure you have the right amount of coverage on your home in the unfortunate event of a fire. Contact McGriff today for a personalized and consultative review. We’ll take a look at your options and find the right policy and insurance carrier to meet your needs.

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