Mobile Claims: The Next Big Thing?

You can do everything else on your phone. Why not file car insurance claims? Yup, now you can … it’s the next big thing from Esurance, and we think it’s pretty cool.

File insurance claims on your smartphone

Our latest update provides a complete claims experience from the palm of your hand. With Esurance Mobile for iPhone® and Android, you can now:

  • Collect accident information and photos at the scene
  • Report a full claim
  • Set up a vehicle inspection with an appraiser or repair shop
  • Reserve a rental car
  • Monitor your claims status and receive notifications at key steps in the process
  • Watch your car’s repairs in progress with RepairView®

Of course, our policyholders can always call us to report a claim anytime too.

More tools on Esurance Mobile

But there’s so much more to our mobile app. From getting your car insurance quote to managing your policy (including updating your payment info and accessing your proof of insurance cards), you can do what you need to … on the go.

Then there’s that whole cupcake finder …

Esurance Mobile can also help you find nearby shops and services. Some highlights include:

  • Gas stations
  • Parking lots
  • Car washes
  • Tow trucks
  • Pizza
  • And yes, cupcakes

See a full list of Esurance Mobile’s functionality.

Take Esurance Mobile for a spin

Yet another perk of our mobile app? It’s free! So why not take it for a test drive and see what it can do for you. Download Esurance Mobile (and then treat yourself to a cupcake for a job well done).

Related link

Find out how Esurance handles claims

Impress Your Mechanic: 6 Important Types of Car Fluid

When I was young, no one told me (OK, fine, I ignored the fact) that cars need their oil and other fluids changed. Poor old Volvo ….

Now that I’m a super-mature grown-up (ahem), I know that regular oil changes are a must. But what about all those other mysterious fluids that make our car run? Do they need our attention too?

The answer is yes, they do. So for those of you who relate to young Jessica, here’s a simple breakdown of the types of car fluid that keep your vehicle running smoothly.

Motor oil … what does it actually do?

Changing your car’s oil is one of the most common car maintenance chores. But what has the stuff ever done for us?

Simply put, oil lubricates your engine. Because there are so many moving parts under your hood, oil reduces friction and keeps your engine from overheating. This lubrication also prevents rust by blocking oxygen from getting to the metal. And, as if it isn’t working hard enough already, oil traps dirt and other particles, leaving them behind in the oil filter (which is why it also pays to change your filter periodically).

So next time you’re due for an oil change, think about everything oil’s done for you lately and wipe that grimace off your face.

Transmission fluid: the other dipstick

There are 2 dipsticks under your hood: one to check your motor oil and one to check on that underrated worker bee, the transmission fluid. Transmission fluid performs many of the same functions as motor oil, like lubrication and cooling. As transmission fluid moves through an automatic transmission, it gets pressurized, which provides the hydraulic power needed to perform the transmission’s basic functions, like shifting gears.

For those of you with a stick shift, manual transmissions also require lubricant, but often use a different kind that has to be serviced from underneath the car (which means no dipstick).

Where does antifreeze stand on the whole freeze vs. no freeze debate?

Duh. Antifreeze wants nothing to do with freezing (or boiling for that matter). Adding antifreeze to the water in your radiator (a 50/50 mix is recommended) lowers the freezing temperature of the water, which helps prevent freezing in cold weather. After all, you want to keep your engine cool, not frigid.

Antifreeze can also protect that same water from boiling in the heat (hence its other name, coolant), but the name “antifreezeandboil” was a bit cumbersome.

Think you’ve seen it all? Well hold onto your hats because this overachiever even prevents corrosion and provides lubrication for the water pump.

Washer fluid is just water and colored soap, right?

Nope. Washer fluid combines several chemicals in order to perform services that soap and water alone couldn’t do. Standard washer fluid usually includes methanol, which can break down bug guts (yum!), as well as ethylene glycol, also common in antifreeze, to lower the freezing temperature of the washer fluid (unless you live in a warmer climate where antifreeze is less commonly added).

The good news is that more companies are now creating non-toxic washer fluids that still perform the same tasks as the other stuff. And some people even make their own washer fluid using household items. The Sierra Club recommends combining rubbing alcohol, liquid dish detergent, and water for a greener version.

What?! Even my brakes have fluid?

Hopefully. Because without brake fluid, you’re hosed. Like transmission fluid, brake fluid gets pressurized and provides the force that activates your brakes. When you push on the brake pedal, it engages a plunger in the master brake cylinder, which forces the brake fluid through a series of tubes and hoses and then into the braking unit of each wheel.

It sounds like a slow process, but for anyone who’s had to slam on the brakes to avoid a daredevil squirrel, we know that fluid moves fast!

Does power steering fluid truly give me power?

Similar to many of the other fluids in your car, power steering fluid provides lubrication for the steering gear and makes it easier to steer your car. When you turn the steering wheel, a small opening allows pressurized power steering fluid to move in and help you direct the front wheels. If that’s not power, I don’t know what is.

Now that you know your car fluid types, make sure to ask your mechanic to check all of them for a better picture of your car’s performance.

Class dismissed.

Related posts

Car maintenance by the mile: what your mechanic isn’t telling you
4 reasons not to panic when your check engine light comes on

8 New Must-Have Car Features

Admit it: you thought flying cars would be on the market by now. Anyone who’s seen Back to the Future has been waiting around for the past couple decades, hoping to cruise through the sky like Doc Brown and Marty McFly. But while flying cars have yet to come to fruition, there are 8 amazing new car features on the market making driving safer … and cooler.

Cool car feature #1: cameras

Some newer cars are hitting the lot with special cameras already installed. If you’re a Subaru fan, for example, you can buy a model with their EyeSight system. Your ride will come equipped with a pair of cameras that sit over your rear view mirror for extra eyes on the road. This EyeSight system can warn you if you start to veer into the next lane or get too close to another vehicle. And it can even stop the car if it looks like you’re headed for a collision.

Cool car feature #2: sensors

Mercedes recently developed a new safety feature called Collision Prevention Assist, a sensor that monitors your ride’s distance from vehicles in front of you. If you accidentally get too close to the car ahead, you’ll be warned by several noisy beeps and a flashing light so you can apply the brakes.

There are also sensors that monitor driver fatigue, and if they sense you’re getting drowsy, they’ll kick in to wake you up. Depending on the sensor, you might hear an alarm, feel your seat vibrate, or get a sudden nudge from your seat belt.

Cool car feature #3 : back-up assistance

One of the coolest new inventions is back-up assistance. This feature detects when anything from a skipping child to another vehicle is approaching you from behind, warning you so you can hit the brakes. And some models even apply the brakes for you in case you’re not quick enough.

Cool car feature #4: self-parking devices

For those of you who dread parallel parking, there are new cars that will take care of this with just the push of a button. Several 2013 models are equipped with this awesome feature, including the Ford Focus, Escape, Explorer, and Flex, as well as the Lincoln MKS and MKT.

Cool car feature #5: adaptable air bags

Ford designed new air bags that adapt to different body sizes and shapes. The 2012 Focus, for example, features air bags that can sense your body size and vent unneeded air during a crash so you’ll get just the right amount of protection. They’ve also changed the shape of this vehicle’s air bags to lessen the impact on your chest and ribs.

Cool car feature #6: adaptable headlights

Driving at night can be challenging, but several new car models showcase adaptable headlights that turn along with the car, allowing you to better see upcoming hazards when taking curves. Adaptable headlights may also amplify light production, making it easier to drive at night.

Cool car feature #7: windshield-clearing assistance

If you experience freezing winter weather each year, you’re all too familiar with the annoyance of ice and snow crusted on your windshield. Magic Vision Control, a sweet new technology offered on the 2013 Mercedes Benz SL-Class Roadster, can bring that to a halt. It automatically heats your windshield wiper blades and your washer fluid when the temperature drops.

Cool car feature #8: tire pressure alert system

Get ready to toss that handheld tire gauge in the trash. Nissan’s Easy-Fill system not only alerts you when your tire pressure needs a little adjusting, but it also offers guidance when you’re adding air — once you reach the ideal psi, your car’s horn will honk.

What’s next?

With technology constantly evolving, what new car features do you think the auto industry will come up with next? What would you like to see? Weigh in below!

4 of the Weirdest Traffic Laws Known to Man

Some traffic laws are a pain — the speed limit on that back road across town, or a newly installed “No Right on Red” down the street — but there’s usually a good reason for having them.

Usually.

There are a number of traffic laws out there, however, that just don’t seem to make any sense. Here are a few of the weirdest (in our estimation). Though they sound too crazy to be true, these in fact are actual laws that are still in effect.

No carrying a minor on top of your car

OK, first up: according to Oregon state law, it’s illegal to transport a minor on top of a vehicle. Sounds reasonable, but why on earth would that law need to be passed in the first place?

Here’s the text:

A person commits the offense of carrying a minor on an external part of a motor vehicle if the person carries any person under 18 years of age upon the hood, fender, running board or other external part of any motor vehicle that is upon a highway.

Are parents really putting their kids on the hood of the car? Actually, the main reason the law was passed was to simply prevent kids from riding in the back of flatbed trucks. Alaska has a similar law for dogs, so maybe there’s something to it.

The law goes on to state that carrying a minor on top of a vehicle is not an offense if it’s for a parade, if the minor has a hunting license, or if they’re strapped down like lumber.

You can read the full text of the law here.

No driving around town with dirty tires

In Minnetonka, Minnesota, driving a vehicle with dirty tires is considered a “public nuisance.”

The following are declared to be nuisances affecting public peace, safety and general welfare . . . a truck or other vehicle whose wheels or tires deposit mud, dirt, sticky substances, litter or other material on any street or highway.

Luckily for Minnetonkans, this law is primarily directed at construction vehicles. There isn’t much background available on why they chose to be that specific, but if a skip loader left trails of tar and rubble along the road outside your house, you might be tempted to say something too. The same law requires that wood be kept neatly stacked — but that doesn’t mean the police are going to inspect your fireplace.

Check out the full text here.

RELATED: Are Our Speed Limits Too Low?

No parking in front of Dunkin’ Donuts

South Berwick, Maine, is host to one of the strangest traffic laws we’ve come across: you can’t park in front of Dunkin’ Donuts. What? But before you get Congress on the phone, here’s some context:

No person shall park a vehicle at any time upon any of the streets or parts of streets described: . . . Main St. (West) In front of Dunkin’ Donuts to a point 25 feet south . . .

It’s not that South Berwick officials have anything against Dunkin’. The law only states that cars aren’t allowed to park in front of that specific Dunkin’ Donuts.

We’re guessing this has more to do with the location than the business that resides there. But, as it turns out, the next closest Dunkin’ Donuts is 9 miles away, in a different city. So technically, it is illegal to park in front of any Dunkin’ Donuts in South Berwick.

Read the full text here.

No spilling salt on the street

According to a Hermosa Beach, California, law, it’s illegal to spill salt on the road. Pepper is fine.

It is unlawful for any person to spill, pour, drop or place . . . upon any asphalt or bituminous pavement . . . any salt, rock salt, common salt, salt brine, acid, chemical, broken glass . . .

No twist here. They won’t prosecute over a pinch, but enough salt could potentially damage the pavement, and Hermosa Beach ain’t havin’ that.

See the full text here.

Really, most traffic laws, as silly as they may seem, do have some logic behind them — some more obvious than others. It’s fun to marvel at the goofiness of them, but the fact is that you probably won’t get a ticket for driving through a bit of mud in Minnetonka.

However, you will get a ticket (or worse) if you drive down an Oregon highway with a minor on top of your car. Just to be clear.

Related links

4 Weird Car Traditions Explained
Car Horn Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Honking Your Horn
Warning: You May Be Using Your Hazard Lights Incorrectly

Is Coal the Next Gasoline?

At Esurance, we pride ourselves on being the foremost authority on coal and all of its scientific uses.

OK … maybe that’s not entirely (or even remotely) true.

But one coal trend is of particular interest to us: the notion that this resource (often associated with West Virginia and empty holiday stockings) could actually power our cars.

And the crazy thing about this new idea is that it’s not really that crazy — or new. In fact, Germans have been liquefying coal for use as motor fuel since WWII (when they were cut off from the Middle East and its oil supply). And here in the U.S., we’ve been tinkering with new versions of that very process since 2009.

Now, you might be asking, “If turning coal into motor fuel is so time-tested, why aren’t we doing it on a regular basis?”

The case against coal as gasoline

The main argument against using coal as liquid fuel is simple. It basically says that while the shortage of oil on our planet is a big deal, the threat of global warming is a bigger one — and liquefying coal would not help.

Even the newest methods of transforming coal into fuel (ones that cut back on carbon monoxide) aren’t enough to make fuel clean. Experts say there’s no way to prevent harmful emissions from hitting the atmosphere and causing both health and environmental dangers when we liquefy coal.

The case for coal as gasoline

Those who support using coal for gasoline feel a bit differently. Many of them say that cutting dependency on foreign oil, not halting climate change, is the more urgent matter. And while liquefying coal, and the harmful emissions that come with it, wouldn’t be a permanent solution, supporters believe it would be a solid intermediate step. In other words, it would let us break our oil dependency and search for more sustainable options without neglecting our energy (and driving) needs.

Along with that, there’s another positive aspect to liquefying coal for gasoline: we know we can do it. It’s actually a piece of cake (relatively speaking). And with all the brain-busting our scientific leaders have been doing in search of energy, it can be comforting to know we have at least one option nailed down.

The hung jury

One other issue at play here, one without such defined sides, is how using coal as gasoline for vehicles would affect the burgeoning electric car industry. Is this whole coal craze simply getting in the way of the electric movement, which could prove to be the best option down the road? Or, in the true fashion of capitalism, would coal competition be a good way to keep the electric car business striving and improving?

Clearly, there’s a lot to consider when discussing coal as a viable fuel option. Where do you stand on the matter? Leave a comment below.