Top 4 Reasons NOT To Panic When Your Check Engine Light Comes On

You’re driving along, singing a song, and everything’s fine and dandy.

Then you see it … the orange-red glow of the check engine light. And suddenly life’s not so hunky-dory anymore.

Do you drive straight home? Pull over? Check something? Panic?!

While there are literally dozens of reasons your check engine light may be triggered, there’s typically no need to panic. Here’s why.

1. It might just be your gas cap

Many people don’t know this, but a loose, cracked, or faulty gas cap can cause fuel to evaporate, thus cuing your check engine light.

So first things first, pull over (as soon as it’s safe) and make sure your gas cap is on tight. If this was indeed the trigger, your check engine light should go off within 10 or 20 miles once you’re back on the road.

2. A certified mechanic should be able to diagnose the problem easily

Technology is on its way to helping us figure out what’s gone wrong when the check engine light comes on. But for now, whenever that pesky light comes on, your best bet is to take your car to a certified mechanic and let them diagnose the problem.

3. It’s typically not an emergency

Here’s where there’s some good news. Unlike some of the other lights in your car (your oil light, for example) that could mean a big problem if you don’t address it right away, your check engine light rarely signals anything disastrous.

When it comes on you’re probably okay to drive a few more miles or even a few more days. (That being said, do the smart thing and take it to see a mechanic as soon as you can.)

4. There are numerous reasons the light may come on

Aside from a loose gas cap, all other reasons for your check engine light coming on are much more complicated to diagnose (and likely not things you can fix on the side of the road). Triggers can include everything from a damaged vacuum hose or ignition coil(s) to a failing catalytic converter to worn out spark plugs (just to name a few).

No idea what any of that means? That’s OK — most of us don’t. Most modern cars have an on-board diagnostic system that provides a code identifying the specific issue at hand. If you take your car to a pro or even select auto part stores, they can figure out what the code means so you can act accordingly.

So when you see that light flickering in the corner of your dash, know that while you will need to see a mechanic in the near future, there’s absolutely no need to panic. It’s ok to keep going, just make sure you have it checked out as soon as you can.

Got more roadside questions? Here’s how to change a tire, get a jump, and what to do when your car overheats.

Motorcycle Safety Tips for Navigating Bad Weather

Spring is here, at least according to the calendar — but that doesn’t necessarily mean clear skies from now till November. In some parts of the country, April means showers, while in other places, a spring snowstorm is hardly a rare event.

Riding a motorcycle in bad weather can pose a challenge for even experienced riders. I’m not one myself (and if you read my Segway post, you know why), but some of my friends have been riding for years, and when I asked for their bad-weather wisdom, they gave me great advice for all types of conditions.

Here are some motorcycle safety tips to help you safely handle the elements, whether you’re taking on snow, rain, or even a labyrinth of fog.

Riding in snow or light rain

Fortunately, riding in fresh snow isn’t much different from riding in a light rain, but both require you to be diligent and handle your bike more gently than usual.

Be gentle with your bike

  • Take it easy on your brakes and throttle, and always complete turns before accelerating. It’s good to avoid any sudden movements because your tires won’t be able to grip the road as well as usual.
  • When making a turn, slow down beforehand instead of braking for corners. You also reduce your risk of skidding by using engine braking (letting go of the clutch and allowing the engine’s RPM to drop so you slow down naturally) for junctions and corners.
  • When it starts to snow or rain, it’s safest to align your bike with tire tracks left by cars. The tire tracks are likely to be less slick than the center of the road.

Wet weather-proof your gear

  • Make sure that your visor/shield is clean and polished on the surface and inside. A clean, smooth exterior makes it possible to shake off raindrops and falling flakes more easily. Otherwise, droplets can collect on the surface, making it difficult to see.
  • Depending on your helmet, a rain-repellent product like Rain-X, which helps water bead up and fall more easily, can also help keep your shield clear.
  • Consider buying waterproof boots, a motorcycle rain suit, and waterproof gloves (particularly a pair with a waterproof lining and a squeegee-like piece on the thumb and/or index finger to help wipe water from your shield or helmet). You’ll be drier, more comfortable, and better able to focus on the road.

Prepare for slick conditions

  • If your rear wheel locks, you run the risk of losing control. If you lock up, release the rear brake and immediately reapply it (and repeat if needed), in order to make your stopping distance as short as possible on a slippery surface.
  • If it’s icy and you can’t avoid the slick spots, try to ride in a straight line at a walking pace and avoid using your brakes at all.  Lightly skim the ground with your feet as you go, so you’ll be able to catch yourself if you begin to fall. If that works, you can then squeeze the clutch and coast until you reach a nonslip surface.
  • If there are other vehicles in front of you, be sure to maintain a distance of at least a few car lengths ahead of you. This allows you more time to react to changing conditions (like, say, there’s a hazard in the road or the car in front of you stops short).

Riding in heavy mist or fog

Dense fog can easily obscure your vision and the vision of drivers around you, so it’s especially important to preplan every move when you’re riding in these conditions.

Make yourself visible to others

  • In addition to wearing brightly-colored clothing and reflective gear (also a smart idea for night riding in any weather), use orange or yellow fog lights.
  • Trigger your brake lights frequently to help drivers behind you spot your motorcycle.
  • Use your low beam headlight (in addition to fog lights) when it’s difficult to see through the mist. High beams, on the other hand, reflect back and can cause glare.

Improve your sight

  • Think about investing in a fog-free coating for your glasses. It helps keep your lenses clear (inside and out) by turning condensed water into a clear sheet, rather than the dense film of water that naturally occurs from fogging.
  • Yellow-tinted glasses and shields can increase contrast, helping you see things more clearly.
  • When your eyes are trained on the road ahead, you might not give much thought to traffic coming from the opposite direction. But note their speed and direction as you ride; they might veer over the line if they can’t see well, and you need to know to get out of the way if that happens.

Maintain distance and reduce speed

  • Because you’ll need to increase your reaction time when braking, avoid sudden stops and use engine braking as often as possible.
  • Maintain a greater following distance than usual but let the tail lights of the car ahead of you help you navigate. Don’t rely on them too heavily, though — it’s dangerous and can give you a false sense of security if you’re dependent on another driver to show you the way. Just use their position as a point of reference on the road.
  • If you can’t see, go slowly. This might seem obvious, but there’s a temptation to ride faster in an attempt to shorten your ride in bad weather.

It’s important to ride safely no matter what the weather’s like, but biking in bad weather requires great concentration and caution and should be avoided if possible. If you have to ride in bad weather, make sure your traction and visibility aren’t compromised.

Another must-have for your bike (whatever the weather) is motorcycle insurance. It can help protect you and your motorcycle, and lend a hand when seasonal challenges threaten to wreck your ride.

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SR-22 Explained: What Is It and When Do You Need One?

At Esurance, we do our best to keep paperwork to a minimum — but a certain amount of documentation comes with the territory. One document that raises a lot of questions and causes a lot of confusion is the SR-22. If you have a good driving record and don’t let your insurance coverage lapse, you may never need one. But if you are required to get one, it’s important to know the right way to proceed.

Here, we answer your most pressing SR-22 questions, with the help of Nicole D., one of our super-knowledgeable insurance experts.

(Please note: These are general guidelines. Since regulations vary widely across the country, you should always confirm your local requirements with your state.)

SR-22s: what you need to know

What’s an SR-22?

An SR-22 is often required for a driver to reinstate or maintain their driving privileges after certain traffic-related offenses. It’s also sometimes known as an SR22 or a Certificate of Financial Responsibility.

Is it a type of car insurance?

No. It’s a document that the insurance company sends to the state (electronically or on paper) to confirm that the driver has an active policy that meets state liability requirements.

How do I know if I need an SR-22?

An SR-22 is required when someone who was involved in an accident or convicted of a traffic offense is unable to show financial responsibility (in other words, they can’t prove that they’d be able to pay for damages they may cause while driving).

You might need an SR-22 if you’ve had any of the following:

  • A DUI or DWI or any serious moving violation
  • An instance of being caught driving without insurance and/or without a license
  • An at-fault accident while driving without insurance
  • Repeat traffic offenses or too many tickets in a short time period
  • A revoked or suspended license

If the SR-22 is court-ordered, you’ll be notified at the time of your ruling that you need one. If it’s state-ordered, you’ll receive a notice of the requirement from your state DMV. If you’ve been informed that you need an SR-22, contact your insurance company so they can file it with your state.

Are SR-22s expensive?

The SR-22 itself is not typically very expensive. Though it varies by state, most insurance companies charge a processing fee of around $15 to $25. Some insurance companies won’t insure drivers who need an SR-22, or may add surcharges to the policy because of the SR-22 requirement, but that’s not generally the case. Since SR-22 availability and fees can vary by company, this might be a good time to shop around and get some comparison quotes.

Will an SR-22 cause my insurance rates to go up?

Depending on the violation, you might see an increase to your premium. But it would likely be due to the violation rather than the SR-22 itself.

How long do I need to carry an SR-22?

In states that require SR-22s, you usually have to maintain continuous insurance coverage with an SR-22 for 3 years (though it can range between 2 and 5 years depending on the state and the reason for the SR-22).

Wouldn’t it be easier to skip the insurance and just not drive for 3 years?

You could choose not to drive for 3 years, but that won’t necessarily waive the requirement. When you go back to the DMV after that 3-year hiatus, you may find that you’re still expected to obtain a policy with an SR-22 for another 3 years in order to reinstate your license.

The requirements can vary by state depending on the violation, so your best bet is to check with your DMV to confirm exactly what they need.

I want to get my license back as soon as the state allows. When should I contact my insurance company to get my SR-22 going?

This may depend on how your insurance company files SR-22s with the state. If they’re set up for electronic filing, the SR-22 can potentially be sent to the state the same day you make the request.

If the SR-22 is filed manually through the mail, however, we suggest allowing 10 to 14 days for it to be delivered to the state and processed by the appropriate department. You might get your copy before the state has finished processing the original. If so, you may want to take your copy to your DMV office to see if it’ll be proof enough to speed up your license reinstatement. But it’s up to the DMV to decide if they’ll accept your copy as proof of SR-22 or whether they’d want to wait for internal confirmation that the original SR-22 has been received.

Does having my license reinstated mean I don’t have to carry an SR-22 anymore?

Not necessarily. In most cases, you’re required to carry the SR-22 for the entire time period mandated by your state. It may be that the end of the license suspension also marks the end of the SR-22 requirement, but it’s also possible that the suspension will be reapplied if you don’t keep the SR-22 for the entire mandated period. We suggest checking with your DMV to confirm.

Have more questions about SR-22s?

Post your comment below and we’ll do our best to get you an answer. And if you’re an Esurance customer, you can call our customer service experts anytime at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262).

Not an Esurance customer (yet)? Get a car insurance* quote online now.

* Not available in all states.

How Insurance Could Conquer the NBA Playoffs

With all that today’s basketball coaches go through before the NBA Playoffs — all the painstaking prep, the Xs and Os — it must really ruffle their feathers (and sport coats) to know it’s all for naught.

Because in the end, it only takes one thing to find hardwood harmony: insurance savvy.

I know what you’re thinking: Insurance and basketball? What do a bunch of squares in neckties know about hoops? Gee, let’s ask James Naismith … or John Wooden … or Craig Sager. Do these icons of the game look like jocks to you? Or do they resemble, dare I say, all-star insurers?  

With that airtight evidence in mind, and just in time for the 2014 NBA Playoffs, here are 5 helpful insurance tips that double as a foolproof primer on getting your team to the promised land.

1.  Drive cautiously

For your insurance: It’s no secret that driving responsibly helps keep you safe, but it can also save you money. Obeying traffic rules, staying under the speed limit, and even limiting time behind the wheel are all ways to keep your rates low and help you score perks like our Claim-Free discount.

Not to mention, with Esurance DriveSense® the safer you drive, the more you could save!

For the NBA Playoffs: As injuries to stars like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook have shown, nothing derails your team’s championship dreams faster than injuries. And that’s exactly why the reckless dribble-drives and wild dunk attempts of the regular season won’t fly in the playoffs. Instead, implement a more restrained driving style — built on careful dribbling, smart passing, and expert spacing — you know, something to make Bobby Knight giggle. Your boys’ ACLs and hamstrings will thank you. (And just for safe measure, avoid the T-shirt cannon too.)

2.  Dress appropriately

For your insurance: Riding a motorcycle, snowmobile, or ATV is a blast — with the right safety gear. Designated helmets, pads, and jackets can help reduce your injury risk. And staying claim-free can help keep your insurance rates from increasing,

For the NBA Playoffs: A simple jersey with shorts was fine for Larry Bird. But success in today’s NBA is all about accessorizing.

  • Tasteful arm sleeves and headbands are good beginner options.
  • Stylish goggles and neon leggings show serious commitment to winning.
  • Nothing says “Hello, finals!” like a paisley ascot.
  • Skipping the games entirely to attend the Versace show in Milan is exactly the chess move your championship opponent will never see coming. Just ask Dwyane Wade and his capris! NBA dynasties are forged not with sweat, but fine designer silk.

3.  Go green

For your insurance: Esurance values the environment more than Michael Jordan values tongue-wagging. (You’re right … impossible. But we value it a lot.) That’s why we provide plenty of tips about greening your home, reducing your car’s carbon footprint, and lots of other planet-friendly propositions. Carpooling, for example, is an easy way to go green and could even qualify you for a low-mileage discount if you’re driving less.

For the NBA Playoffs: “Green” happens to be one of the NBA’s most popular last names. The Golden State Warriors have a Green, and so do the San Antonio Spurs and the L.A. Clippers. Could it be that every contender’s first priority, before drawing up plays or scheduling a single practice, is making sure their roster’s surname game is strong?

To play it safe, make sure your squad has a Green of its own. Even if he’s just the towel boy or locker room decorator, your title hopes likely hinge on him.

4.  Utilize technology

For your insurance: You’d be amazed how current technology can improve your insurance experience — and life. For instance, with Fuelcaster™, our gas price predictor, you can know whether to buy gas today or wait for cheaper prices tomorrow.  And Esurance DriveSafe® uses Bluetooth technology to monitor your teen’s driving habits and limit their cell phone use behind the wheel. (Whoa.)

For the NBA Playoffs: Pro hoops has come a long way from its humble, peach-basket beginnings. It’s now a hotbed for tech innovations, from advanced stats to medical equipment to arena light shows.

Of course, that all pales in comparison to the only tech marvel that matters: the Kiss-Cam. You want to energize the crowd and galvanize your team? Then flash the glorious spectacle of 2 acquaintances begrudgingly pecking on your Jumbo-Tron. “The NBA: It’s FANtastic!”

5.  Avoid the heat

For your insurance: As temperatures rise this spring, staying cool pays off. Parking your car in the shade or installing sun visors can keep your interior comfy, which means you’re not busy fanning yourself or burning your arm on hot seatbelt buckles when you should be watching the road. Plus, regularly monitoring your tire pressure is wise when dealing with hot pavement to help prevent cracks in your tires, blowouts, and costly accident claims.    

For the NBA Playoffs: Seriously, I hear this ragtag Miami Heat bunch is pretty good. Probably best to steer clear.

Oh, and Go Warriors!

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Volunteering with the Warriors at Golden Gate Park

On April 9, volunteers from Esurance, the Golden State Warriors, and the Bay Area community teamed up to beautify San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. And if our sore muscles and dirt-encrusted fingernails were any indicator, the event was a huge success.

300+ volunteers came out to weed, plant, paint, and refresh trails throughout the park. That’s equivalent to more than 1,200 hours of work! Thirty-seven associates from Esurance gave their time as did Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, who got his hands dirty painting park benches.

An afternoon of working up a sweat in bucolic Golden Gate Park was invigorating and due to the sheer number of volunteers, we accomplished a lot. My crew helped with weeding and trail maintenance (I, personally, logged about 4 miles wheeling wood chips down the trail). Have a look!

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We G.I.V.E.

The Golden Gate Park event capped off a tremendous season of volunteering with the Warriors. Through the WE G.I.V.E. program, Esurance teamed up with Warriors players, staff, and fans to Guide, Inspire, Volunteer, and Educate within the Bay Area community. During the 2013 – 2014 season, we worked with the San Francisco Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity in addition to San Francisco Recreation and Parks.

Esurance in the community

With 18 offices around the country, we think it’s important to give back to the communities where we live and work. In 2013, our associates donated nearly $110,000 to various causes, which Esurance matched dollar for dollar. Additionally, through the Esurance Grant Program, each year associates vote for local organizations to receive a donation and volunteer support from Esurance.

If you’re interested in getting involved in your community, check out VolunteerMatch to see what opportunities are available near you.

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