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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Signs You Need New Tires

Figuring out the lifespan of your tires isn’t as simple as determining how long you’ve had them. You also need to pay attention to more than just the tread depth. Learn what makes tires wear out and how to tell when you need new ones.

Why Does Tire Tread Matter?

There are two main reasons why you should worry about the tread on your tires:

  • Safety: Tires are a vehicle’s single most important safety system. The condition of the tread determines how fast your car accelerates—and how effectively it brakes. If your tires are wearing out, the tread may not be able to handle wet or icy conditions.
  • Legal reasons: Driving with worn-out tire tread is illegal because of the safety issues associated with bald tires. Illinois, along with most other states, requires a tread depth of at least 2/32”.

Why Do Tires Wear Out?

The mileage you can expect from your tires depends on a combination of factors, including:

  • Road conditions: Roadways aren’t perfect. Driving over potholes, speed bumps, loose rocks, and sharp objects can increase tire wear. Hitting curbs and other obstacles also shortens the lifespan of your tires, as does driving through oil, road salt, and other chemicals.
  • Driving habits: Peeling out and skidding to a stop increases friction between your tires and the road, which wears out the rubber faster. Going over the tire’s speed capacity or load index could also cause catastrophic failure.
  • Improper inflation: If the pressure is too low, more of the rubber comes in contact with the road, which could cause rapid, uneven tread wear. If the pressure is too high, the tire could overheat at high speeds, increasing the risk of a blowout.
  • Neglected maintenance: Have your tires rotated, aligned, and balanced every time you get an oil change. If you swap out your tires for different seasons, store the unused ones in a cool, dry place until you need them again.
  • Improper use: Driving with winter tires in the summer or summer tires on snowy, icy roads will wear them out sooner. Mixing tire types and combining incompatible wheel and rim sizes are also bad ideas. In addition, driving faster than 50 miles per hour with a spare is not recommended, as this could damage the rest of your tires.

How to Tell If You Need New Tires

Even with excellent care and maintenance, you will need new tires eventually. Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Low tread: The easiest way to tell that you need new tires is by examining the tread. You know it’s time for a replacement if the rubber has worn below the recommended tread depth of 2/32”. Most new tires have wear bars built into them. These indicators run perpendicular to the tread so you can tell at a glance when the tires are wearing out.
  • The penny test: If you can’t locate the wear bars, conduct a penny test. Insert the coin somewhere on the tread with Lincoln facing downward. If part of his head is covered, your tires still have some life left in them. However, if Lincoln’s entire head is visible above the groove, your tire is worn out and needs to be replaced. Repeat this test in several places on all four tires to find out if they pass or fail.
  • Uneven wear: If you have neglected to rotate your tires, the tread may be wearing unevenly. If a single spot fails the penny test, the tire needs to be replaced. Make sure your wheels are properly aligned to help prevent uneven wear in the future.
  • Visual damage: The tread isn’t the only part of a tire that can wear out. Act quickly if you notice cracked or bulging sidewalls or cords peeking through the rubber. These problems can increase the risk of a blowout or fire, making the tire unsafe for driving.
  • The feel of your tires: Pay attention to how your tires feel as you drive. A rough ride may indicate tire damage or excessive wear. If you often get stuck when driving on icy roads, your tires may lack sufficient grip, making winter driving a hazard until you replace your tires.
  • Age: Even if you don’t drive much, exposure to temperature fluctuations and UV rays can cause structural changes in a rubber tire. Therefore, regardless of tread wear, many manufacturers recommend getting new tires after six to 10 years. You should also replace your spare tire every 10 years, even if you’ve never used it.

The collision repair specialists at B&L Automotive Repairs offer expert wheel alignment and computerized tire mounting and balancing to help your tires last as long as possible. For more information about our services, or to schedule collision repair in Chicago, please call us at (773) 463-1622 or contact us online.

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Spring Car Maintenance Checklist

Winter is a tough season for your car. Your tire pressure is probably low, road salts have likely accumulated on the undercarriage, and potholes may have thrown off your wheel alignment. Now that winter snow has turned into spring rain, it’s time to get your ride ready for new driving challenges. And just in time—April is National Car Care Month, so give your vehicle a thorough once-over. This 15-point checklist will make sure you don’t miss a thing.

  1. Install new wiper blades: There’s nothing mild about winter in Chicago. Revitalize your windshield wipers so they’re ready for wet spring weather. This is a task most people can handle without a mechanic’s help.
  2. Top off your fluids: Speaking of windshield wipers, make sure your washer fluid is topped off. Check the coolant level as well, and if needed, add a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water while the engine is cool. Other fluids that need your attention include the engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid.
  3. Test the battery: Cold weather is hard on a car battery. If the engine sputters to a start, headlights seem dim, or windows roll down slowly, the battery might be dying. To avoid getting stranded, have your battery tested and replace it if the charge is getting low.
  4. Change the oil: While you can top off the oil when needed, an oil change and engine filter replacement is necessary once the liquid turns from honey-colored to dark brown. If you take your car in to have the battery tested, you may as well get an oil change, especially if you didn’t have one all winter.
  5. Replace the cabin filter: An oil change comes with an engine filter replacement, but the cabin filter is something different. This sifts the air that blows toward the driver and passengers, keeping the cabin air smelling fresh and clean. Spring is a good time to replace the cabin filter to prevent you from breathing in pollen, dirt, and dust every time you go for a ride.
  6. Get a car wash and wax: If your car is still holding onto road salt and grime, a good wash offers more than just cosmetic appeal—it can also help prevent corrosion. Make sure you choose a car wash that sprays down the undercarriage to remove salty buildup. Finish with wax to protect the paint and make your car shine.
  7. Touch up chipped paint: While you’re at it, check your car for any body damage. If ignored, exposed metal could rust and degrade. Keep a bottle of touch-up paint on hand to fix small chips. For larger dents or scrapes, you may need to take your car to an auto paint shop.
  8. Check the tire pressure: Tires lose 1 to 2 pounds per square inch for every 10-degree temperature drop. This means you probably topped off your tires for winter driving. Now that it’s getting warmer, keep tabs on your tire pressure to make sure it’s not any higher or lower than the recommended psi.
  9. Measure tire tread depth: While you’re scrutinizing your tires, check the wear bars on the tread surface. Roads are likely to be wet this spring, so make sure your tires aren’t going bald. If you can’t find the wear bars, conduct a penny test. That is, insert a penny into the tread so Lincoln’s head is facing down. If the tread isn’t deep enough to obstruct any of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires. It’s also time to change back to summer or all-season tires if you switched to snow tires last fall.
  10. Test the air conditioner: Don’t wait until June to find out if your air conditioner is working. If the air feels weak or lukewarm, you might need to have the AC recharged. Do so now—you’ll be glad you did when summer arrives in full force a few months from now.
  11. Declutter and clean out the car: Junk may have accumulated on the floor and backseat over the winter months. Take a break from spring cleaning the house, and give the car a little attention. Bring your winter gloves and hat inside, and throw away fast-food wrappers. Vacuum the seats and floors. Dust the dashboard. Wash the inside of the windows, and finish up with carpet shampoo and leather conditioner.
  12. Remove debris from under the hood: While you’re cleaning the car, pop the hood and trunk, checking the compartments and hinges for leaves, pine needles, and other debris. Remove these to eliminate all traces of winter from your car.
  13. Get a wheel alignment: Does the steering wheel vibrate excessively or feel like it’s pulling to one side? You might have hit one too many potholes this winter. A wheel alignment will help your car drive straight and true once more.
  14. Replace burned-out lights: The days may be getting longer, but you don’t want to get caught after dark with burned-out vehicle lights. Make sure your headlights, blinkers, and all other interior and exterior bulbs are working properly. You may need help from another person to check your brake lights.
  15. Don’t delay repairs following an accident: From scraped doors to dented bumpers to cracked windshields, cars can experience all kinds of damage in a collision. If you recently had a run-in with another vehicle or a stationary object, don’t put off the repair. Your quick response following the accident will restore the safety, performance, and aesthetics of your vehicle.

B&L Automotive Repairs provides professional automotive painting, frame straightening, dent repair, computer diagnostics, wheel alignment, tire mounting and balancing, and much more! Come in, call us at (773) 463-1622, or contact us online to schedule collision repair in Chicago.

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The Cheapest and Most Expensive Cars to Insure

Car shopping is an exciting process. As you consider your budget, you need to account for more than just your down payment and monthly loan or lease amount. Other ownership costs include gas, yearly registration fees, maintenance and repairs, and insurance.

Did you know that the type of car you buy can greatly affect your insurance premiums? Take a look at the cheapest and most expensive cars to insure and why carriers price them so differently.

Cheapest Cars to Insure

The top 20 most affordable cars cost between $1,300 and $1,375 to insure in 2019. These include:

  1. Honda Odyssey LX
  2. Jeep Wrangler Sport
  3. Subaru Outback 2.5i
  4. Mazda CX-3 Sport
  5. Honda HR-V LX
  6. Honda CR-V LX
  7. Jeep Renegade Sport
  8. Ford Escape S
  9. Subaru Forester 2.5i
  10. Jeep Compass Sport
  11. Mazda CX-5 Sport
  12. Subaru Crosstrek
  13. Buick Encore 1SV
  14. Honda Fit LX (with Honda Sensing)
  15. Nissan Frontier S
  16. Jeep Cherokee Latitude
  17. Dodge Grand Caravan SE
  18. Ford Transit Connect SL
  19. GMC Canyon SL
  20. Chevrolet Traverse L

Most Expensive Cars to Insure

On the other end of the spectrum, these five cars ranked the most expensive to insure in 2019 at about $3,700 to $4,000:

  1. Nissan GT-R
  2. Mercedes Maybach S650
  3. Porsche Panamera
  4. Mercedes AMG GT R
  5. BMW M760i xDrive

Why Carriers Price Cars So Differently

Here are the factors that insurance providers look at when pricing different makes and models of cars:

  • Odds of being stolen: If you buy a car that’s popular among thieves, your insurance rate will be higher. Some of the most commonly stolen cars include Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, and Nissan Altima.
  • Vehicle size: The Honda Fit is the only sedan on the list of cheapest cars to insure—and that’s only for models with the accident-reducing Honda Sensing feature. Larger cars are more likely to keep the driver and passengers safe, so they’re cheaper to insure.
  • Durability and safety: Cars with good track records and advanced safety features are less likely to malfunction or be involved in an accident. Carriers know this, so they charge a lower rate.
  • Performance: What do the most expensive cars to insure all have in common? They’re sports and luxury vehicles. Carriers assume that people who buy high-performance cars are more likely to drive dangerously, so the rates are higher.
  • Repair costs: Exotic luxury cars tend to have specialty parts that make them more expensive to repair, yet another reason why insurance companies set high premiums.

No matter what car you drive, B&L Automotive Repairs can help you get back on your feet after an accident. We repair all makes and models and help you file a claim with your insurance company to get you the money you deserve. To learn more about our services, or to request a collision repair estimate, please contact our Chicago collision repair shop at (773) 463-1622.

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