Car Maintenance by the Mile: What Your Mechanic Isn’t Telling You

Automotive manufacturers, dealers, and mechanics recommend a lot of mileage-based car maintenance checkups, but do you ever wonder if you really need them? I mean you just got your oil changed, right?

We decided to check out some of the most common mileage milestones and explain why they’re actually needed (along with how often) so you can keep your car running smoothly without spending more than you have to.

(Note: this guide is for a normal, well-maintained car. Heavy-duty vehicles, for instance, may need additional attention. But regardless, if your “check engine” light is on or something isn’t working right … get it checked!)

Oil change

First, let’s talk oil. Although oil should be changed on a fairly regular basis, you probably don’t need to change it as often as you’ve been told. A commonly cited number is 3,000 miles — but that’s a bit overcautious.

For the last few years, manufacturers have been backing away from the 3,000-mile recommendation because that number is based on older, less efficient oils that were used decades ago. Today, because of the improved lifespan of synthetic oils, many manufacturers suggest a change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. In fact, getting an oil change every 3,000 miles can actually be wasteful.

There are some reasons you might want to change it more often, however. Driving that includes a lot of stopping or slowing, for example, will put more strain on the engine and use up more oil, so if that’s you, you’ll want to get your oil changed more than once every 7,500 miles. But even then, 3,000 is still too often.

Tip: remember to get a new oil filter too. It should be replaced every time you change your oil. It’s $10 — just do it.

Scheduled servicing

Scheduled services are recommended by the manufacturer to ensure that your car doesn’t fall apart before it’s “supposed to,” and you’re often required to stick to this car maintenance timetable to keep your warranty intact.

Each car has a different schedule, though, so when in doubt, check your owner’s manual.

15,000 miles

About 15,000 miles down the road, most vehicles are due for their first service. This initial round isn’t too demanding, but it can still run you around $200. It should include an oil change, air filter, tire rotation, and inspection of key parts like the brake and cooling systems.

30,000 miles

This one will cost you a little more; expect to pay upwards of $500. Why is that? Well, in addition to all of the items on the 15,000-mile itinerary, this service includes new transmission fluid, a fuel filter, and a more thorough inspection.

Your mechanic might also suggest changing your spark plugs at this point. Not necessary! There are different levels of spark plug quality, but few need to be changed every 30,000 miles. In fact, you likely don’t even need to change the transmission fluid at this point.

45,000 miles

This milestone requires pretty much the same servicing as the 15,000 mark. If you haven’t changed the transmission fluid already, do that now.

60,000 miles

In addition to the items included in the 30,000-mile service, at 60,000 miles you’ll want to replace all the belts, valves, and hoses that are wearing thin. Depending on the type of spark plugs you have, now would be a reasonable time to switch those out as well.

100,000 miles

When you finally hit the big 100k, it’s time for the ultimate checkup. It’s a nice round number, your car has served you well, and it’s time to go all-out … right? Well, not necessarily.

There are a few items that generally don’t get addressed until 100,000 miles or more (orange coolant, long-life spark plugs), but 100,000 is nothing special — at least not in terms of car maintenance. If the car’s still running 100,000 miles down the road, you’ve already got the hang of it.

For more inspiration, check out Irvin Gordon’s 3 million mile Volvo. You probably shouldn’t expect to match that, but it’s nice to know that it can be done! Your car can live a long, healthy life if you know how and when to maintain it.

Esurance Supports LGBT Pride with the Married Rate and $100K

Here at Esurance, we take pride in embracing diversity in all its many forms and flavors. We are, after all, a modern company doing business in a modern world. As one of the first car insurance companies to offer the married rate to domestic partners, we’ve continued to push for it in all states … even those that don’t recognize LGBT unions.

Domestic partners get the married rate at Esurance

But we don’t just mean registered domestic partners or couples in civil unions (though they qualify too). We mean that if you and your partner are insured on the same Esurance policy, you’ll get the same great rates as married couples.

We offer this savings opportunity in every state where we do business, except Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Missouri where it has not been approved by the department of insurance.

There are 3 easy ways to get the married rate, depending on where you live. If you’re in a domestic partnership, select “domestic partner” for your marital status. For registered domestic partnerships in California, select “domestic partner (registered).” And, of course, if you’re married, just select “married.” (Note: in New York, where it’s legal to get married —hurrah!— you need to be married to qualify.) It’s as simple as that. Check it out here.

Additionally, if you and your significant other own more than one car and share the same garaging address, you might also qualify for the Multi-Car discount.

But beyond helping you save, we also believe in giving back. Each year, we ask our Facebook fans to take part in our donation campaign — whether through a simple “Like” of our Facebook page or a message of support for the LGBT community.

This year’s no exception. But we’ve decided to up the ante by donating $100K to LGBT causes!

Showing our Pride by donating $100K to LGBT orgs

Yup, this year, we ‘re giving away $100,000. That’s a lot of money. But rather than choosing just one recipient, we decided to spread the love … with a twist.

We selected 3 very different and very deserving LGBT organizations: GLAAD, The Trevor Project, and PFLAG. Each one received a portion of our donation based on input from our Facebook fans.

About GLAAD

GLAAD is the nation’s only organization working to build support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality through the power of the media. Learn more >

About The Trevor Project

Every day, The Trevor Project saves lives. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Learn more >

About PFLAG

PFLAG is the family and ally organization, committed to securing full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people through support, education, and advocacy. Learn more >

The results are in

Thanks to your input on Facebook, we’re donating $51,000 to The Trevor Project, $30,000 to GLAAD, and $19,000 to PFLAG. Thank you for helping to support equality.

Do Automatic Braking Systems Save Lives?

Braking? On your own? That’s so 2012. Yes, in this brave new driving age we call 2013, more and more carmakers want their rides to be able to brake for you — in an emergency, that is.

Crazy as it seems, autonomous braking (which used to be a fancy way to describe running out of gas) is now a pretty common car safety feature. In fact, of the vehicles coming out this year, a meaty 12 percent include accident avoidance technology.

Of course, with all automatic braking technology, the main question isn’t about popularity, but effectiveness. So let’s figure out exactly how automatic braking works and what the experts have to say about its ability to improve driver safety.

The science behind automatic braking

From fiddling with the radio to just plain daydreaming, there are tons of reasons you might briefly lose focus in traffic and risk rear-ending the car in front of you. And that’s exactly where autonomous braking comes into play. Automatic braking systems (like Volvo’s City Safety) use infrared sensors usually built into the windshield to track your position amid other vehicles. If you start approaching another car too quickly, the system taps on the brakes for you, either slowing you down or bringing you to an all-out stop.

IIHS finds reduced claims in autobraking cars

While there’s plenty of debate and ambiguity surrounding forward collision avoidance technology, autonomous braking seems to be one example of it that’s making headway. In a recent study, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) took an in-depth look at Volvo’s City Safety feature and revealed some favorable results.

When compared to SUVs that didn’t have collision avoidance technology, Volvo’s XC60 SUVs (equipped with City Safety) had:

  • 33 percent fewer bodily injury claims
  • 15 percent fewer property damage claims
  • 20 percent fewer collision claims

And for Volvo’s S60 midsize sedans, City Safety resulted in claims reductions of:

  • 18 percent for bodily injury
  • 16 percent for property damage
  • 9 percent for collision

Possible issues with automatic braking

While the IIHS findings seem like cause for celebration, there are some important things to keep in mind. For one, most of these independent braking systems are designed for moderate-to-low speeds. City Safety, for example, can only activate your brakes if you’re going 31 mph or slower — it’s meant as a backup in low-speed emergencies, not as a cure-all for actively neglectful or risky driving. This distinction is one that could (I fear) get lost on some motorists.

Furthermore, we can’t pretend that data on one carmaker’s forward collision avoidance system speaks to the effectiveness of other systems. Even though preliminary studies on similar technology from Acura and Mercedes-Benz have also yielded positive results, there is still much more info to be gathered before we start drawing cut-and-dry conclusions. So far, automatic braking is very promising.

Other collision avoidance features that impact driver safety

Aside from automatic braking systems, other crash avoidance technology merits attention, for good and bad reasons:

Forward collision warnings

Included in 29 percent of 2013 cars, forward collision warnings alert drivers (usually with loud beeps) to cars they may be approaching too quickly. Cars equipped with this technology have seen reduced accident claims, but to a lesser extent than cars with automatic braking.

Adaptive headlights

Basically, the aim of these lights can bend and redirect to help you see when taking sharp curves. In cases studied, they lowered property damage claims by roughly 10 percent — impressive, considering most car accidents happen during the day.

Lane departure warnings

This feature, which alerts drivers when they’re veering out of their lane, is one of the few crash avoidance inventions that hasn’t had much success. In fact, it’s been linked to increases in accident claims and driver injuries in Buick and Mercedes models. Part of this may have to do with false warnings, which cause drivers to eventually just tune out the system altogether.

 

Aside from seat belts“crash-proof” cars and other prudent measures,  one of the safest measures you can take is getting good car insurance. Get your fast, free quote now.

Warning: How Safe Are You from ID Theft?

This year, the internet’s been abuzz with bad news about online security, from North Korean hackers digging into databases at the New York Times to word of Java’s latest exploitable release. And while all the furor may leave you feeling like internet security is a pipe dream, rest assured there are still things you can do to limit your exposure to ID theft.

Here are our 3 favorite (and simple) tips for disappointing nefarious hackers.

1. Power up your passwords

Protecting your various online accounts may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to preventing identity theft, but it’s a key step. After all, a hacker with access to one email address can potentially barge into any other associated account, from Amazon to Facebook.

Dos and don’ts of password optimization

DO

  • Fake your security answers. Attend high school at Lemony Snicket’s Orphanarium for Malodorous Infants. Grow up in Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Portishead, or Beetlejuice’s Model Mausoleum. Name your pet Squidelicious.
  • Create a dedicated password-recovery email account. Don’t use it for anything but password changes and don’t link it to personal characteristics like your name or workplace.
  • Get your contact info offline. Don’t put your phone number or email on Facebook and opt out of sites like Spokeo and WhitePages.com.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts. That way, getting into your email won’t mean getting at your credit card number too. (Hopefully.)
  • Make it looooooong. Just like Longcat, your password should be as long as practical. The longer it is, the harder it is to crack.
  • Change your passwords regularly.

DON’T

  • Use a bona fide dictionary word.
  • Rep1ac3 l3++3rs with common number or symbol substitutions. Hackers are onto this tactic.

2. Keep your browsers updated

The developers of browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer are constantly updating their software — and not just to keep up to date with evolving technologies.

They also update their browsers to respond to potential security issues. So when Chrome says it’s time to update and restart, let it do its thing.

Also, if you use browser extensions and/or plug-ins, be sure to keep an eye on those too. If one of your extensions has a security issue (as Java recently did), it can make your browser and all the sensitive info you input there vulnerable too. This is a less obvious routine, so here’s how to get it done in various browsers:

  • Firefox – Go to Tools > Add-ons. Firefox handily displays warning messages for potentially vulnerable add-ons and will sometimes even go so far as to disable problem features itself. Thanks, Firefox.
  • Chrome – Click the menu button (3 stacked horizontal lines up in the right-hand corner) > Settings > Extensions (in the links on the left).
  • Internet Explorer – Tools > Manage add-ons > All add-ons (listed under Show).
  • Safari – Click Safari > Preferences > Extensions.

3. Update your anti-malware software too

Anti-malware and antivirus programs are only able to identify viruses and hacks that exist in their databases — so you’ve got to make sure your security program of choice is as current as possible. Typically, anti-malware automatically searches for updates, but you may need to open the program to initiate the update search, so make a habit of that. Recurring calendar notifications can be a lifesaver here if you’re the type that needs reminders.

Have any other online security tips for us?

Obviously, there are a variety of other things you can do to keep your identity safe online (utilizing common sense being a powerful one), but these 3 tactics are among the easiest and most effective around.

If you’ve got your own tips to share, add them below!

Comprehensive Coverage Defined

Not surprisingly, a lot of our readers come to us for detailed information about car insurance. Because, let’s face it, while comprehensive coverage, medical payments, and personal injury protection are part of our daily vocabulary, they may not be standard in yours.

So why not make the most of this opportunity to fill in any holes you might have about understanding car insurance and how it all works?

Today, we’ll check out comprehensive coverage. Is it really as comprehensive as it sounds?

What is comprehensive coverage?

Car accidents aren’t the only way to cause damage to your car. Natural disasters and hooliganism can also send your car to the repair shop. And that’s where comprehensive coverage comes in.

Typically, it can help pay for damage to your car from:

  • Fire
  • Natural disasters
  • Falling objects
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Hitting a deer or other animal

Glass damage is usually covered under this coverage too.

Comprehensive coverage is a bit of a misnomer, however. It may cover a lot, but it doesn’t cover everything. Towing, rental reimbursement, and personal property (and, of course, collision and liability) coverages have to be purchased separately.

For more on this, check out Comprehensive Covers Everything: Debunking a Car Insurance Myth.

How does comprehensive coverage work?

When you file a claim, comprehensive coverage typically pays for your car repairs, minus your deductible. If the repairs cost more than your car is worth, however, you’ll be reimbursed for your car’s actual cash value (your car’s replacement price, or fair market value, minus depreciation). Your deductible still applies to replacements, so choose a deductible you can afford.

Is comprehensive coverage required?

In a word: no. But in several words: if you finance or lease your car, your lender may require you to purchase it.

Even if it’s not required, you should consider buying it if you have a newer car or one that would be expensive to repair or replace … especially if you live in an area that’s prone to natural disasters or wandering woodland creatures.

Do comprehensive coverage and collision coverage always go together?

Though comprehensive and collision are 2 separate coverages, they tend to go hand in hand and are sometimes referred to together as “physical damage coverage.” In most states, if you buy collision coverage, you must also buy comprehensive coverage (though not the other way around).

Try the Esurance Coverage Counselor®

Wondering if comprehensive coverage is right for you? Answer a few questions from our online Coverage Counselor and it’ll help you select the right coverage for you based on your input.

While you’re at it, here are some handy guides on collision coverages and other common questions.