Top Tips to Winterize Your Home and Autos

It happens just like that! Summer turns to fall, and the countdown to Christmas begins when the Halloween candy shows up on store shelves.

No matter how you track the time, all signs point to impending winter weather. Again.

It’s about this time of year that many people ask the perennial question: “Why do I live where the air hurts my face?”

We can’t answer that question for you, but like everything else, it’s best to be prepared for what’s coming, whether you like it or not.

“From an insurance perspective, preparing your cars and your home for the winter is just good business,” says Bill Lawrence, CIC, and President of P/L/R Insurance. “When the weather turns, auto and homeowner claims can increase if our clients aren’t properly prepared. We’re here to help, so follow these tips to make sure you’re as protected as you can be for freezing temperatures and snowy roads!”

Winterize Your Home:

Check the gutters.

When snow and ice fall into gutters that are already clogged with leaves and sticks, blockages can form, creating ice dams. If the water can’t get out of your gutters, it could get redirected into your home.

The problem is easily solved by installing gutter guards or cleaning your gutters regularly.

Protect the pipes.

We all know someone whose water pipes have burst during the winter. That happens when the water in the pipes freezes and expands. Protect yourself by properly insulating those pipes!

Before it gets cold, pick a weekend to visit the hardware store and buy a pipe insulation kit, then install it. The kits are affordable, and you’ll save your future self some serious time, money, and aggravation.

As additional protection against frozen pipes, keep a stream of water running in a few faucets when temperatures turn frigid. Consider adding an emergency pressure release valve to your plumbing system and be sure you know where your water shut-off valve is.

Drain the hose.

Unhook your garden hoses, drain them, and store them inside for the winter. Turn off the outdoor valves and insulate the faucet.

Clear the snow and stop the slips.

After a snow event, clear away the snow on all paved surfaces, handrails, and steps to minimize the risk for anyone who might slip and fall.

Once you’ve cleared all the snow, put down some rock salt, snowmelt, or something else that will offer a little bit of grip after the sun goes down and the wet pavement re-freezes. Even cat litter will work!

Trim the trees.

Winter weather like ice, snow, and wind can weaken tree branches, which could cause damage to your roof or fencing if they break.

A special note for snowbirds:

If you’re heading for sun and sand or out to the desert for the winter, take extra precautions. Turn the water to your house off completely, and plan for someone you trust to check in on your home regularly to make sure no issues pop up while you’re away.

If you’re going to be gone for more than 30 days, ask your insurance agent about “unoccupied” or “vacant” property insurance. That way, coverage will be in effect if you need to file a claim.

Winterize Your Car

When you know a winter storm is coming, but you must travel, be sure to keep a winter survival kit in each vehicle. It should contain blankets, candles, non-perishable food, water, flares, flashlights with extra batteries, a foldable snow shovel, and a solar charger for your phone.

For the car itself:

Consider installing snow tires.

Snow tires are just tires with deeper tread to help gain better traction on the snow and ice. If you don’t want (or need) to invest in snow tires, make sure your tires can pass the “penny test.”

Place a penny headfirst into each tread on your tire, and make sure you’re looking at the back of the coin. Make sure the top of the Lincoln Memorial is covered. Then you can be sure you have at least 6/32″ of tread, and your tires should be able to grip the pavement, even in wintery road conditions.

Keep your tires properly inflated, too. Fluctuating air temperatures can affect tire pressure, so be sure and check before you head out, especially if temps have dropped dramatically.

Test Your Battery

It’s a good idea to get older batteries tested at the beginning of the winter driving season because no one wants to get stranded with a dead battery. Most auto parts stores will test batteries for free.

Once you’re sure your battery will hold a charge, you should also test the connections and remove any visible corrosion with a solution of baking soda and water.

Most homeowner policies cover damages due to weather extremes, and many auto policies have special coverage options for similar situations. If you’re not sure what your policy covers, check in with the independent insurance pros at P/L/R Insurance before the weather turns.

After all, proper preparation is just good business!

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