Tips to Drive Safely in Chicago

Driving in Chicago can be a harrowing experience. The streets are full of cars, bikes, and people, and not everyone is interested in keeping a cool head or protecting others’ safety. Auto accidents are common in Chicago, and in fact, nearly half of all car accidents in Illinois occur in Cook County. When you’re driving in Chicago, how can you stay safe and keep others safe as well? Follow some commonsense guidelines.

  • Stay calm. It’s easy to get flustered or angry when driving in heavy traffic, but road rage increases your risk of an accident. If you see someone else making unsafe choices, let it go and drive as safely as you usually would, rather than engaging with them or becoming angry. Remember, some people do things they wouldn’t normally do when in the heat of road rage. The best way to stay safe is to avoid engaging.
  • Don’t be a lemming. Sometimes, you’ll notice people on the road doing things you thought were illegal. The fact is, those things probably actually are illegal! Keep a safe distance, and if you see someone driving somewhere that seems wrong, don’t follow. The bike lane, for instance, is off-limits to cars. Don’t risk your safety just to follow someone else.
  • Use your turn signals. This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked in Chicago. Using your blinkers is a common courtesy: it informs other drivers of what you plan to do next. When you’re driving in traffic, always turn on your blinker in plenty of time for other cars around you to notice your intent to turn.
  • Don’t turn right on red. In many places, it’s perfectly legal to turn right on red once you’ve stopped to make sure there’s no traffic coming. This is true in much of Illinois, but in Chicago, it’s not allowed. Pay close attention to this rule, especially if you’re from out of town and not accustomed to stopping and staying at a red light. Chicago stoplights typically have cameras, and if you run the light, it will snap your car’s photo, and you’ll receive a bill for your illegal action. The best rule of thumb when driving in Chicago, or anywhere else for that matter, is to pay attention to all signage and obey the rules of the road.

No matter how carefully you drive in Chicago, you might still wind up in an auto accident. If this happens, bring your car to B&L Automotive Repairs. A family-owned business, we have over 30 years of experience handling every kind of body and mechanical repair, and we’ve even got a play area to entertain the kids while you wait. Our expert staff is continually trained and updated, and our state-of-the-art equipment allows them to serve you with the highest level of expertise. No matter what make and model you drive or which insurance company you use, we will provide fast and reliable service to ensure your needs are met. Call us today at (773) 463-1622, or contact us through our website for more information.

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Get Your Car Repaired After a Storm

Temperatures are beginning to warm up, which is excellent news, but it also means more storms are likely to be on the way. Unfortunately, cars often suffer damage in spring and summer storms. It doesn’t have to be a whole season of storms- just one major storm can lead to extensive damage to an automobile. What kind of damage does a storm do to a car, and what should you do if it happens to you?

  • The storm damage depends on the type of storm. Of course, a hailstorm can cause extensive damage, denting the body or even breaking the glass. However, a thunderstorm can do similar damage if the winds get high enough. When trees and limbs are blown down and hit your car, they can also damage the body and break the glass. Water from storms can also do serious damage, though, causing your car to rust prematurely or ruining engine components like the cylinders and electrical system. Water is hard on the interior of a car, too.
  • If your car is damaged, be careful. Don’t start it if it has flood damage; this might damage your engine. If you can, secure your car in a garage. If that’s not possible, though, be sure to cover it with a tarp if there’s any glass damage. You don’t want to allow water to get into your car and cause further damage.
  • Get in touch with your insurance company. After carefully documenting the damage by taking photos of the car and surrounding area, contact your insurance company. Your agent will be able to tell you the specifics of your policy, including the amount of your deductible and how to file a claim for the repairs. If you have items in your vehicle that were also damaged, call your homeowner’s insurance company as well.
  • Be aware of what insurance will cover. If you have comprehensive insurance, you’re probably covered for storm-related damage. Comprehensive coverage applies to damage not sustained in a collision, like flooding, hail, and damage from falling objects. Once you’ve paid your deductible, the rest of the cost to repair the car will probably be covered by your insurance, unless the car is not worth as much as it will cost to repair it. In that case, the insurance company will declare your car a total loss and pay you the cash value instead. Don’t expect your homeowner’s policy to protect the car, though, even if it was parked in the driveway.
  • Get your car repaired in a timely manner. This will not just keep your car looking and operating at its best but will also help it maintain its value. Often, minor dents and dings can be fixed using paintless dent repair, which is faster and less expensive than other types of dent repair. It’s important to get the glass repaired or replaced as quickly as possible because even small chips and cracks can grow and spread. When the glass is compromised, it has a major impact on your car’s safety and functionality. Of course, it goes without saying that major repairs like engine or electrical repairs should be done immediately.

Any time your vehicle is in an accident, no matter how major or minor the damage may be, contact B&L Automotive Repairs. We’ll make sure that the car is repaired completely, leaving no hidden damage that could potentially make it unsafe. A family-owned business, we have over 30 years of experience handling every kind of body and mechanical repair, and we’ve even got a play area to entertain the kids while you wait. Our expert staff is continually trained and updated, and our state-of-the-art equipment allows them to serve you with the highest level of expertise. No matter what make and model you drive or which insurance company you use, we will provide fast and reliable service to ensure your needs are met. Call us today at (773) 463-1622, or contact us through our website for more information.

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Learn About The Importance of Immediate Collision Repair

Is it essential to take your car to the shop after a fender bender? If you’re in an automobile accident, and the damage to your vehicle is minor, it can be tempting to ignore it. If the car still runs and you’re not bothered by the way it looks, why not just keep driving? Isn’t it better to just soldier on rather than taking on what seems like an unnecessary expense during an already stressful time? As it happens, there are some excellent reasons to take your vehicle in, so a qualified mechanic can look it over and take care of any necessary repairs.

  • Getting your vehicle repaired quickly after an accident keeps you in good standing with your insurance company. If you’ve got collision insurance, you should use it. If you don’t keep your vehicle in the best condition, your insurance provider is unlikely to continue to offer you that coverage. Your insurance company will compensate you for the damages, so why not go ahead and get your car repaired? If you don’t get it fixed after a small wreck, you’re likely to find yourself without coverage if you should have a more severe accident. If you’re leasing your car or making car payments, it’s imperative to keep your vehicle in good shape and maintain that collision insurance. Lenders require that insurance be maintained by those leasing or making payments.
  • Repairing a vehicle keeps the damage from getting worse. A small dent might not seem like a big deal, but it can cause further problems, like rust damage. What’s more, the collision may have caused damage that you can’t see, and the fact that you’re unaware of them doesn’t make them any less serious. Steering wheel issues, engine trouble, brake problems, and other damages you may be unaware of can worsen when you drive the car, leading to further damage and more expensive repairs.
  • Driving a car that needs to be repaired may not be safe. After any collision, even when the damage seems small, the safety of your vehicle may be compromised. Without taking the car to be inspected, you have no way of knowing whether the accident has degraded the vehicle’s ability to protect you in a severe crash. Internal damage that can lead to significant malfunctions can mean that you and your passengers are not safe when you’re driving that car, and others on the road around you aren’t secure, either.
  • When you neglect to repair your vehicle after an accident, you could be risking trouble with the law. Did you know that in many states, a car that’s been in an accident is not deemed worthy of being driven on public roads? To legally drive your car, you will likely need to get your car repaired as soon after the accident as possible. Taking your car in for inspection and repair promptly will keep you on the right side of law enforcement.
  • Having your car in good working order makes your life easier. For most people, a car is an invaluable tool as well as an investment. When your car is out of commission, it makes it much harder to do what you need to do and go the places you need to go. This might make you reluctant to take your car in if the damage doesn’t render it undrivable, but risking further damage means more time in the shop later. Worse, neglecting prompt repairs could lead to irreparable damage, and you’ll have to get a new car.
  • When the time comes for you to sell your vehicle, you’ll be glad you kept it in good repair. You’ve heard it time and time again: cars depreciate as soon as you drive them out of the dealership’s parking lot. While that is true, and vehicles depreciate over time, the ones that hold their value the most effectively are without damage. A car with dents and dings will be worth much less to a potential buyer, and every potential buyer will look at the outside of the car. Damage to the car gives a buyer wiggle room to talk you down on the price, but if you’ve taken care of your car and repaired it so that the body is clean and undamaged, you’ll be able to stick to your asking price. If you’ve left problems to turn into bigger problems under the hood, your vehicle will be worth even less.

If your vehicle is in an accident, whether or not the damage seems noteworthy to you, contact B&L Automotive Repairs. We’ll make sure that there’s no hidden damage that could potentially make your car unsafe. A family-owned business, we have over 30 years of experience handling every kind of body and mechanical repair, and we’ve even got a play area to entertain the kids while you wait. Our expert staff is continually trained and updated, and our state-of-the-art equipment allows them to serve you with the highest level of expertise. No matter what make and model you drive or which insurance company you use, we will provide fast and reliable service to ensure your needs are met. Call us today at (773) 463-1622, or contact us through our website for more information.

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How to Choose the Right Snow Tires

Winter weather in Chicago can be snowy, icy, and cold, leading to hazardous driving conditions. If you’re traveling for the holidays, having the right tires can make all the difference. Ready to swap out your all-season tires for snow tires? This guide can help you make the best selection based on your winter driving habits.

What’s the Difference Between All-Season Tires and Snow Tires?

All-season tires are designed for a smooth, quiet ride in most weather conditions. They provide a “best of both worlds” solution, performing admirably well in wet and dry conditions alike. Some all-season tires claim to work equally well in winter and summer, but this is really only true in climates with mild winter weather. They are not meant for deep snow, ice, or prolonged cold spells of 45 degrees F or colder.

The only way to maximize traction, braking, and control on slick, snow-packed roads is to install winter tires. The tread compounds in these tires stay softer and more flexible in freezing weather, improving performance when the temperature drops. Plus, the tread is deeper, wider, and more jagged to enhance tire grip in the harshest conditions.

Do I Need Snow Tires?

Installing snow tires from November through March could be worthwhile if any of the following applies to you:

  • You live in a climate where snow, ice, sleet, and/or freezing rain are normal each winter.
  • It often stays below 45 degrees F for weeks at a time where you live.
  • You routinely make trips to the mountains or through snow zones during the winter.

What About Tire Chains?

Chains are important for improving traction on mountain roads. In fact, they are required in many places during the colder months. However, it would be best if you didn’t think of chains as a substitute for winter tires. After all, they’re not appropriate on bare pavement or for driving at highway speeds. Instead, consider tire chains an option to have available when you’re driving in the snow.

Is the M+S Rating the Same as the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake?

You may see an M+S symbol on the sidewall of your all-season tires. This “mud and snow” rating indicates that the tread has a more aggressive design than other all-season tires, delivering a longer lifespan and improved traction in less-than-ideal road conditions.

However, M+S is not the same rating as the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake. This designation signifies true snow tires that have been tested and certified to perform well in the worst winter driving conditions.

Do I Need Studded Snow Tires?

Some snow tires include small metal spikes staggered across the tread to maximize traction on ice or packed snow. Be aware that extra tread depth is needed to accommodate studs, so tire sizes are limited.

Also, because they damage pavement more quickly than studless tires, states regulate when they are allowed on the road. In Illinois, studded snow tires are not permitted any time of the year.

Is Safety Siping Necessary?

Siping adds small patterned slits on the tread to create more traction edges that help “bite” the road without damaging the tire’s important structural components. Most snow tires are already siped, but you can have additional safety siping added when you purchase your tires if you choose. This might be a good idea if you want added traction on slick roads where studded snow tires are not permitted.

Can I Buy Used Winter Tires?

You may be eager to save money by purchasing “lightly used” snow tires, but before you do, make three quick checks:

  • Verify the size. Any snow tires you buy should be the same size as your existing all-season ones. Follow this guide to help you read the letters and numbers on the sidewall. If you’re unsure whether the used tires you’re considering are the right size, call a tire dealer for assistance.
  • Measure the tread depth. This reveals whether the snow tires really are lightly used. New tire tread is typically 11/32” deep. Once the tread reaches a depth of 6/32”, it’s almost time to replace the tires. Keep this in mind when considering the asking price for used tires.
  • Make sure there isn’t uneven wear. Measure the tread of every tire in multiple places to check how evenly they’re wearing out. If you notice a disparity of more than 3/32”, look elsewhere for used tires. Better yet, opt for new snow tires instead.

Should I Buy Rims to Go with My Winter Tires?

The answer comes down to time and money. Here’s how to decide whether it’s best to buy separate rims for your winter tires or share rims with your all-season tires:

  • First, assume your snow tires will last five winters.
  • Add up the cost to swap your tires twice a year for five years (a total of 10 times) if they’re not on rims.
  • Compare this cost to the price of buying four rims. See if they are any savings.
  • Also, consider that the wait time is a bit longer if you don’t have separate rims since the mechanic must unmount and remount the tires from a single set of rims.

If you decide to purchase separate rims, consider opting for a physical vapor deposition (PVD) finish. Available in numerous color tones, this option helps seal out deicing salts to reduce corrosion and pitting that can occur when driving in wintery conditions.

At B&L Automotive Repairs, we advocate safe driving techniques to prevent accidents whenever possible. Of course, collisions still happen sometimes, especially on icy roads. If you have been in a car accident in the Chicago area, we can quickly and reliably fix up your vehicle! Let us eliminate some of your stress with 24-hour towing, car rental services, pickup and delivery options, free repair estimates, and a lifetime guarantee. Call us at (773) 463-1622 or contact us online for expert collision repair service.

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Holiday Road Safety

Traveling for the holidays often means driving on icy, snow-packed roads. Vehicle accidents are a leading cause of injury and death in the United States, but most crashes are avoidable with the proper precautions. Learn how to prepare for a holiday road trip and stay safe while navigating wintery conditions.

Before You Leave on a Holiday Road Trip

The risk of mechanical failure and other car problems increases in harsh, cold conditions. Make sure your vehicle is ready with these tips:

  • Check your tire pressure every time you fill-up the gas tank. Pressure can decrease as much as one to two psi for every 10-degree temperature drop, so you may need to top off the air for the best performance during your holiday travels.
  • Consider installing snow tires, which make a huge difference in snowy conditions. You’ll especially notice a performance enhancement if your old tires are wearing out and going bald.
  • Test your battery. Car batteries have a harder time starting in freezing conditions. A quick test tells you if the battery is weak so you can replace it before you get stranded on the side of the road.
  • Check your brakes to reveal any developing problems. If a repair is necessary, you can have the work done before a disaster occurs on your holiday road trip.
  • Replace the windshield wipers to ensure good visibility, no matter how hard the snow is falling. Then, top off the windshield washer reservoir with cold-weather fluid that has a lower freezing point.
  • Check your other fluids. Washer fluid isn’t the only thing that should be topped off. Ensure your car has sufficient engine oil, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and transmission fluid.
  • Stock a winter survival kit with booster cables and an ice scraper, a flashlight and extra batteries, heavy coats for everyone, car cell phone chargers, a basic first aid kit and medicines, and non-perishable food. You never know if you might get stranded this winter, so be prepared.
  • Fill the gas tank often. It’s inconvenient to stop any more than necessary, but by never allowing the gauge to fall below a quarter of a tank, you reduce the chance of running out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Follow this habit all winter long to prevent condensation from forming and freezing in the gas line.

While on the Road

With the car loaded and ready to go, you can be on your way! Help make sure you arrive at your destination safely with these holiday driving tips:

  • Time your departure, so you don’t get stuck in rush hour traffic.
  • Make sure everyone is wearing their seatbelt, no matter their age or position in the car. Remember that puffy coats should not be worn beneath car seat harnesses for safety reasons. Instead, buckle your child in, and then place a coat or blanket over them.
  • Avoid driving at night, if possible, to decrease the chance of becoming fatigued. If you feel drowsy, don’t hesitate to swap drivers or pull over and rest for a while.
  • Keep your lights on, even when driving during the day. This increases your visibility, making it easier to see and be seen, especially if rain or snow starts falling.
  • Increase your following distance on wet or icy roads, so you have time to stop if the driver in front of you slams on the brakes.
  • Slow down if the weather deteriorates. You have less control over your vehicle on wintery roads, so travel at least 5 to 10 miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit.
  • Do away with distractions. This means putting away your cell phone, not eating behind the wheel, and letting a passenger control the radio.
  • Take alternate routes if necessary. Stay up-to-date with weather forecasts and road closures so you can take the least affected routes to your destination. Use a GPS, so you don’t get lost on unfamiliar roads.
  • Delay your trip if the weather is bad. It may be disappointing to arrive a day late, but attempting to navigate a blizzard is never a good idea. In the end, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Hopefully, these precautions keep you safe on the road this holiday season. However, if you get in an accident in the Chicago area, B&L Automotive Repairs can get your car fixed up fast. We’ll help you make the most of a bad situation with 24-hour towing, car rental services, pickup and delivery options, free repair estimates, and a lifetime guarantee. Your satisfaction is our top priority, so give us a call at (773) 463-1622 or contact us online to find out how we can help.

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Do You Know Why Cars Develop Rust?

It’s a heart-stopping moment for a car owner. Routinely looking over your vehicle, you see a spot of rust. If you’ve ever dealt with rust before, you know this is trouble, because rust is not only unsightly but also dangerous. Left to its own devices, it can damage your car’s structural integrity and decimate its resale value. How do you get rid of rust? Better yet, how do you prevent it from happening in the first place?

If you’ve already got a rusty spot, get to an auto body repair shop as quickly as possible. Rust doesn’t just damage the paint job, it can affect the brake and exhaust system, as well as damaging the subframe. It’s best to let a professional handle rust removal, to make sure the job is done correctly and thoroughly.

But what causes a vehicle to rust? Rust is technically called iron oxide, and it forms when an iron-containing metal oxidizes because of extended exposure to oxygen and moisture.  Steel, from which auto bodies are made, contains iron. So, even though steel is durable and strong, it’s also susceptible to iron oxide, or rust. What increases the likelihood that a vehicle will rust?

  • Older vehicles are more susceptible to rust than newer vehicles. That’s because newer vehicles have paint that’s more protective, and they’re made of galvanized steel. In the right circumstances, galvanized steel can last up to 70 years without sustaining any corrosion. During the manufacturing process, however, the steel must be cut, drilled, and heated, and this compromises its integrity somewhat. Areas of your car like the panels and doors, though made of galvanized steel, are still vulnerable to rust.
  • Paint affords a level of rust protection. Automotive manufacturers use primer and paint designed to protect vehicles from rust. If this protective coating is damaged in any way, though, the bare metal under the paint is exposed to moisture. Even the smallest dents and scratches can provide a breach in protection that allows moisture to penetrate and start the oxidation process. That’s why it’s important to get any scratches or dents in your car repaired as quickly as possible.
  • Certain locations make cars more vulnerable to rust. To begin forming, rust requires an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte. The metal in the car provides the anode and cathode, and water provides the electrolyte. Saltwater is better at carrying electrons than water with a low salt content, which is why rust is more likely to form in areas near the ocean. The humid air means moisture is constantly in contact with your car’s surface, and because of its proximity to the ocean, that moist air has a high salt content. If you live in a cold climate, where salt is used to clear snow from the roads, the saltwater that splashes onto your car from the melted snow is also likely to cause rust spots.
  • Where you park matters. If you can possibly park on a paved surface, do it. Parking on dirt, grass, or snow exposes your vehicle to moisture that can cause rust. If you park on asphalt, apply a sealant to any cracks that form in the asphalt. Otherwise, those cracks will expose your car to unnecessary moisture.
  • A clean vehicle is less vulnerable to rust. Taking care of your car’s paint job is a good way to maintain rust prevention, so wash your car at least every week or two. Take care to wash the underbody, to remove any road salt or grime that’s collected beneath your vehicle. Once a month, apply a protective wax coating.
  • Rustproofing is the best defense against rust. For some car owners, it’s not worth the investment, and this is a subjective decision that you’ll have to make on your own. If you live in the desert, rustproofing may not be necessary. If you live near the ocean or in a northern climate, though, rustproofing is a good move if you intend to keep your car for a long time. Your auto body shop can make recommendations about the best rustproofing method for you. It’s wise to ask for expert advice, because there are many different rustproofing methods available, including:
    • Electronic Module: One of the newer rust protection methods, it’s also the most controversial. To protect your car against rust, a small device is installed in your vehicle. This device emits a weak current throughout the vehicle’s body, and this prevents it from reacting with oxygen. The technology was initially used on the bottom of boats and has been proven effective in that situation. On cars, though, many experts are skeptical as to its efficacy. Because it’s a costly rust protection method and the reviews are mixed, car owners are often reluctant to install it.
    • Tarbased Spray: This method of rust protection, also known as undercoating, is an affordable, non-invasive, and time-tested option. Tar-based rustproofing has been in use since the 1950s when it was introduced to provide quieter car rides.
    • Dripless Oil Spray: Designed to protect your car’s underbody, this spray forms a moisture seal. Compared to the tar-based sprays, dripless oil sprays cover more surface area.
    • Drip Oil Spray: This method is similar to a dripless spray but is generally more effective. That’s because it reaches more parts of your car than a dripless spray can. Because it has more leftover residue, however, it leads to dripping oil.

Whether you’ve noticed a spot of rust on your vehicle, you’ve let it go and have a larger rust area, or you simply have a dent or scratch that needs repair, don’t hesitate to contact B&L Automotive Repairs. A family-owned business, we have over 30 years of experience handling every kind of body and mechanical repair, and we’ve even got a play area to entertain the kids while you wait. Our expert staff is continually trained and updated, and our state-of-the-art equipment allows them to serve you with the highest level of expertise. No matter what make and model you drive, or which insurance company you use, we will provide fast and reliable service to make sure your needs are met. Call us today at (773) 463-1622, or contact us through our website for more information.

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Everything You Need to Know About Airbags

Airbags are one of those omnipresent safety features in modern cars that most of us probably don’t even think about. You might have airbags just in the front seat, but some vehicles have airbags practically everywhere! There are curtain airbags, knee airbags, and even inflatable seatbelts that act like airbags. Many vehicles, in fact, come with 10 or more airbags. Are all those airbags really keeping us safe, or giving us a false sense of security? And how much do you really know about airbags?

  • Airbags do a great job of keeping people safe. According to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), frontal airbags have reduced driver fatalities by 29 percent. What’s more, those front-seat airbags reduce the risk of fatality by 32 percent for front-seat passengers age 13 and older. Most new cars have frontal airbags, side torso airbags, and side curtain airbags.
  • Many modern cars have airbags that go far beyond protecting the upper bodies of the driver and front-seat passenger. Knee airbags under the dash protect occupants from a lower leg injury, and middle airbags deploy between driver and passenger to provide them with support in a side-impact accident as well as keeping them from knocking into each other in a crash. Rear curtain and seatbelt airbags help lessen the severity of injuries suffered by passengers in the back seat.
  • Airbags can be painful, even though they’re protective. Airbags keep your body from hitting hard things like the steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, windows, and doors. However, the force of the airbag inflating can cause you to feel like you’ve been kicked in the face and chest. It’s not uncommon for airbags to cause injuries like broken bones or abrasions, though those injuries are typically less serious than injuries you’d sustain from the crash if you didn’t have airbags.
  • Airbags are much more advanced than they were when first mandated. Because injuries from airbags used to sometimes be severe and, in some cases, even fatal, auto manufacturers have come up with solutions to make airbags safer by deploying them with less force. Today’s vehicles are equipped with advanced frontal airbags, which can detect whether they need to deploy at full or reduced force, or whether they don’t need to deploy at all. They were designed to reduce the risk of injury to children and shorter adults. Some airbags have special vents that use the driver’s forward momentum to push gas from the inflated bag. This makes the impact less harsh. Frontal airbags are the ones that have had issues with injuries, though. Side and rear airbags are safe for children, as long as they’re properly seated and buckled in. However, car seat manufacturers do not recommend using an inflatable seatbelt with a car seat. There’s no evidence that this could be dangerous, it just hasn’t been well tested.
  • An accident that leads to airbags deploying is likely to total your car. This depends on the value of the car, of course, but if it’s been in a wreck that had enough force to set off the airbags, the car is probably significantly damaged. Further, your insurance company may consider it a total loss if the value of the car is less than the cost of replacing the dashboard and the airbags. Because replacing those things can cost thousands of dollars, an older car may not be worth fixing.
  • Airbags can cause a smoky smell without actually being on fire. If your airbags deploy and you smell smoke, don’t panic! Airbags are deployed quickly using small explosives, which can leave a smoky smell lingering in the air. If you’re in an accident, take a minute to get oriented to what has happened, and if you think there really is a fire, focus your energy on getting out. This may not be easy, because the frame of the car may have become bent in the accident, making it difficult or even impossible to open doors or windows. Then, too, the seatbelt may be locked. Consider keeping an emergency kit in your car with tools to break out windows and cut through seatbelts in case you’re trapped.
  • The safest car isn’t necessarily the one with the most airbags. There are many other safety features build into modern vehicles, and a new focus of manufacturers is active safety measures. This includes things like pre-collision systems and lane departure warnings, developed to prevent accidents. These active safety measures are different from passive safety measures, like airbags and car crumple zones, which mitigate injuries in an accident but don’t keep accidents from happening. When shopping for a car, look for one with a high safety rating, not just a high number of airbags. No number of airbags will keep you safe if your vehicle is structurally unsound, but the tests behind safety ratings look at all the factors that go into protecting drivers and passengers.
  • After an accident, always have a professional inspect your vehicle. Your safety depends on the proper function of airbags and other safety features. Whether or not they were deployed in the crash, the airbags need to be checked and scanned by a professional, as do the other computerized safety features.

Any time your vehicle is in an accident, even if the airbags did not deploy, contact B&L Automotive Repairs. We’ll make sure that there’s no hidden damage that could potentially make your car unsafe. A family-owned business, we have over 30 years of experience handling every kind of body and mechanical repair, and we’ve even got a play area to entertain the kids while you wait. Our expert staff is continually trained and updated, and our state-of-the-art equipment allows them to serve you with the highest level of expertise. No matter what make and model you drive, or which insurance company you use, we will provide fast and reliable service to make sure your needs are met. Call us today at (773) 463-1622, or contact us through our website for more information.

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How to Determine if Your Car Needs Frame Straightening

The damage a car sustains in an accident isn’t always apparent. After all, a dented door from being T-boned could be purely cosmetic, or it could impair the function of the door. Worse, the entire frame of the car may be bent. Even low-speed impacts can damage car frames because impact-absorbing crumple zones are built into newer frames with the intent of saving lives.

It may still be possible to drive a car with a misaligned frame, but you do so at your own risk. After all, much of the vehicle’s structural integrity could be compromised. If you get into a serious collision with a bent frame, you risk more severe damage to the car and a greater potential for injuries. For this reason, you should seek frame straightening as soon as possible.

The best way to check for a bent frame is to take your car to a local auto body repair shop. You may also be able to spot a bent frame by watching for these warning signs.

Visible Damage on the Exterior of the Car

The first place to check is the outside of the car. Walk around it and look for creases or cracks in the exterior. If these areas are rusted, it could mean a bent frame has been ignored for a while. Next, look under the car. Lift it on a secure jack and crawl beneath the vehicle to check for visible parts of the frame under the chassis. Look for bent or cracked sections that indicate damage.

Parts Not Aligning Properly

A warped frame may prevent moving parts of the vehicle from aligning properly. The doors may refuse to shut, even if there are no visible problems with the latches, and the windows may get stuck when they roll up and down. Other bolted and mounted items may also show signs of stress or damage.

Excessive Vibration

A bent frame throws off the balance of an evenly weighted vehicle, placing additional stress on one side. One symptom of this is excessive vibration that seems worse on one side of the car than the other.

Uneven Shock and Suspension Wear

Throwing off the weight of a vehicle also puts additional strain on the shocks and suspension system—but only in some places. If you notice that these components are wearing out unevenly, have your frame checked.

Vehicle Pulling to One Side

A bent frame causes wheel alignment issues. Here’s an easy way to test your alignment: pull onto a straight stretch of road and slowly take your hands off the wheel. If the car pulls to one side, this means the wheels are misaligned. Try having the wheels realigned at an auto body shop. If the mechanic can’t fix the problem, ask them to check the frame.

Unusual Noises When Driving

Listen for new creaking, squeaking, or other unusual noises that weren’t there before your recent accident. The sounds may come from anywhere in the car, depending on where the frame is bent.

Increased Tire Wear

Tires may wear out unevenly for many reasons, including a bent frame. If you rotate your tires regularly, but they are still wearing unevenly, have your frame checked. Ignoring this problem raises the cost of replacing your tires and could increase the risk of a blowout.

When in doubt, bring your car to B&L Automotive Repairs, an auto body repair shop in Chicago, IL. Our knowledgeable mechanics can determine if the frame bent in a recent collision. Then, we can perform professional frame straightening to help your car drive normally and dependably once more.

To request information about frame straightening and other collision services, please contact us online or call (773) 463-1622. You can also drop your car by our shop today to receive a repair estimate.

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A Guide to Car Insurance Claims

If you were recently in a car accident, filing an insurance claim can help you cover the cost of repairing your vehicle. Insurance agents and adjusters deal with this every day, but this is probably only the first or second time you have ever gone through the process. Use this guide to car insurance claims to help ensure a smooth process.

Collect Information at the Scene of the Accident

First, make sure everyone is okay. If anyone is injured, call an ambulance. Even if there are no serious injuries, call the police. Having an officer record the details and compile a police report will prove useful when you file your claim.

Next, exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Collect the following:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Insurance company name and policy number
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number

You’ll also want to document the accident and any injuries before they’re cleaned up so you can prove the extent of the damage. Taking photos is the best way to do this.

Provide Information to Your Insurance Company

Call your insurer as soon as it’s safe to do so. You may have a better chance of answering all your agent’s questions if you call from the scene of the accident. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Facts about the other drivers involved (see the list above)
  • Location, time of day, and weather conditions when the accident occurred
  • Names and badge numbers of the officers who responded to the incident
  • Copy of the accident report
  • Photos of the vehicle damage (may need to be emailed later)

Ask About Your Insurance Coverage

Make sure you understand your coverage before you pay for anything out of pocket related to the accident. Here are the most important things to clarify:

  • The deductible: This is the amount you owe before insurance benefits take effect. For instance, if your deductible is $1,000 and you accrue $2,500 in damages, the insurance company will reimburse you $1,500.
  • Transportation expense coverage: You may be eligible for a free tow truck to get your car to a shop, as well as a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired. Review your policy to check for coverage and limits.
  • How a total loss is determined: 22 states, including Illinois, don’t assign a specific threshold percentage for designating a car as “totaled.” Instead, they use a total loss formula, which accounts for the cost of the repairs plus the scrap value of the vehicle. If this number is equal to or greater than the actual cash value of your car before the accident, it is considered totaled.
  • Gap insurance: If you still owe money on your car, it’s wise to have gap insurance. This requires the insurance company to pay off your auto loan if the car is totaled in an accident.
  • Time limit for submitting a claim: If you wait too long, you could forfeit benefits for vehicle repairs and medical bills. To avoid this possibility, file the claim as soon as possible.

Work with an Insurance Adjuster

Once you report the accident and file a claim, your insurance company will issue you a claim number and assign you an adjuster. This specialist will work with you to get your claim settled. Here are the kinds of things to expect from your insurance adjuster:

  • Arrange for a tow truck and/or rental car, if covered by your policy
  • Investigate the circumstances of the accident
  • Speak with other people involved and their insurance companies on your behalf
  • Recommend a repair shop where you can take your car if you choose
  • Review and approve repair estimates
  • Go over potential injury claims and handle payments
  • Answer any questions you have, such as when your claim will be paid out

Repair Your Car

Never accept, offer, or approve any car repairs until your insurance company gives the all-clear. In fact, it’s best to hand over control of the entire process to your adjuster to ensure you don’t pay for expenses that are not approved for reimbursement.

Let the insurance adjuster work with the car repair shop and share the estimated cost with you. Once you and the adjuster agree on the price and the work to be done—including the use of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vs. generic parts—the repair can begin.

Be aware that your insurer might pay the car repair shop directly, or pay you and let you handle the bill. Either way, have your claim number with you when you bring your vehicle in for repair to speed up the process.

Decide How to Proceed if the Car is Totaled

If the repair estimate plus the scrap value of the vehicle exceeds what the car is worth—in other words if it’s totaled—you’ll need to decide how you wish to proceed:

  • You can go forward with the repair, but you’ll be responsible to pay the difference between the cost and your car’s value.
  • You will receive an offer from your insurance company for the actual cash value of your car, minus the deductible, in exchange for surrendering the totaled vehicle. You can put this money toward the purchase of a new car. If you owe more money on the car than it’s worth, gap insurance should help pay off the rest of your auto loan.
  • You may be given the option to collect a lower claim payment and keep the totaled car for your own purposes, such as tinkering with or salvaging it.

Tackle Any Problems with Your Claim as They Arise

Insurance companies are supposed to help their clients, but it doesn’t always go smoothly. If you have difficulty communicating with your adjuster, contact your agent directly. You can also ask your insurance company about how to submit a complaint.

If you feel as though your insurance company is neglecting you or taking too long to reimburse you, contact your state commissioner’s office to learn what can be done. Only after all of these attempts to resolve the issue should you consider hiring a lawyer.

If you are unhappy with the service you received, you may want to look into changing insurance companies. Be aware, though, that finding coverage at or below your current rate shortly after getting in an accident could prove difficult, even if you weren’t at fault.

B&L Automotive Repairs has experience working with car insurance companies. We’ll facilitate the claims process so you can go about your busy schedule until your car is repaired and returned to you. Bring your vehicle to our Chicago auto repair shop for an estimate, or give us a call at (773) 463-1622 for more information.

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Road Trip Safety with Kids

Summer is here, and for many families that means it’s time for the great American road trip! If you’re hitting the road with your kids this year, be forewarned that your car is going to become just as much a living space as it is a vehicle. To safely travel with your kids, you’ll need to do a little bit of childproofing ahead of your trip.

  • Take your car for a check-up. Your car needs to be in good working order before you entrust it with your precious cargo. Stop in for a tune-up and have your tires, battery, belts, fluids, and air conditioner checked out by a qualified mechanic.
  • Get some sleep before you get behind the wheel. Prepping for a road trip can be hectic, but make sure you get a full night’s rest before starting your drive. Drowsy driving contributes to 100,000 accidents each year, so you should only drive when you’re well-rested. If there’s another adult along for the ride, try to switch off driving every few hours. Here’s another trick: use good posture. Sitting up straight can help keep you awake and alert.
  • Give your car seats a once-over. Did you know that 8 of 10 car seats and booster seats are installed incorrectly? If you’re not sure yours are installed correctly, call 866-SEAT-CHECK to find a location where you can go for a free inspection.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises people to keep a safety kit in the car, with water, warm blankets, a flashlight, jumper cables, flares, tools to change a tire, a fully charged cell phone, and a first aid kit. Additionally, it’s wise to have a subscription to a roadside assistance plan, so you’ll have help in case of an emergency.
  • Protect your family from the sun. Everyone in the car should have sunblock and sunglasses. For little kids, sun hats offer great protection, as does a sunshade for the backseat. Keep the car seats covered with blankets when you leave the car, so that they don’t get too hot. Before buckling in your kids, check the seatbelts and car seat buckles to make sure they’re not hot to the touch. Remember that the inside of a parked car can reach deadly temperatures in a matter of seconds, even when the temperature outside is only 80 degrees. For that reason, you should never leave kids (or pets) alone in your car.
  • Inspect the back seat before you load up the car. Child safety locks should be activated on the doors and windows. Make sure there’s nothing hazardous in the back seat, like washer fluid or loose change that could poison or choke. Don’t keep hard toys or books loose in the car, because they could become projectiles in an accident.
  • Secure your luggage. Anything heavy should be stored low in the seat wells, and anything stored in an open cargo area should be secured. Just like a toy with a hard surface, these can become projectiles if you slam on brakes suddenly.
  • Break your trip into manageable chunks. Every two hours or so, take a quick break to use the restroom, switch drivers, or just stretch your legs. Drinking water is a good way to stay alert, and it will also necessitate more frequent bathroom breaks.
  • Be careful with your eyes at night. Oncoming headlights can be hard on the sensitive receptors in your eyes. Keep your eyes focused on the right shoulder of the road, and you’ll be able to see oncoming traffic in your peripheral vision. If you’re on the road with a lot of other cars, try to pay attention to at least ten cars in front of you.
  • Get off the phone. Even hands-free phone calls can be dangerous because they’re distracting. Here’s an interesting fact: the part of your brain that processes moving images slows down by about a third when you’re listening to something. You don’t want to miss anything while you’re driving, so save the phone calls for later.

We hope you have a safe and happy road trip, making fun memories with your kids. If you find that your vehicle needs any kind of repair, contact B&L Automotive Repairs. A family-owned business, we have over 30 years of experience handling every kind of body and mechanical repair, and we’ve even got a play area to entertain the kids while you wait. Our expert staff is continually trained and updated, and our state-of-the-art equipment allows them to serve you with the highest level of expertise. No matter what make and model you drive, or which insurance company you use, we will provide fast and reliable service to make sure your needs are met. Call us today at (773) 463-1622, or contact us through our website for more information.

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