Surviving the Winter of 2019

Last Week Michigan got hit with some of the coldest temperatures and LOADS of snow and ice. Everyone was stuck inside with a lot more down time than we had planned, and you should stay inside to be safe! Most of us were somewhat unproductive during that time, posting on Facebook, eating, watching movies, etc.… but we have a couple of things that you can do during a Polar Vortex to help you get ahead! You may even be looking forward to the next polar vortex!

Update your schedules: I’m sure we all have plenty of times that we’ve “made plans” with someone and then not followed through. Now is the time to sit down and analyze your calendar. You want to be spending time with friends and family so schedule them in! Make your doctor/dentist appointments too while you’re at it! We can always stand to get our eyes checked or our teeth cleaned.

Clean: You have an entire home to clean and all of the supplies with you! Get to work! You’ll function better with a clean home and you don’t have much else to do when stuck inside.

Restock your home: I do this about every other week. It keeps me relaxed so that I’m not running out of random things. I just go through and make sure that I have all of the basics (toothpaste, deodorant, plastic bags, etc) and then I double check that I have a spare of everything.

Family time: What a great time to have some family fun! Break into the game cupboard or bake desserts together! This is the perfect time to take advantage of the bad weather and use it to build stronger bonds with family.

New recipes: I’m sure we all have a couple of fun things saved that we’ve been waiting to make! If you have extra time then you can make one of those recipes that takes longer than usual and master something new!

Call your insurance agent: It’s always good to review your coverages and make sure you’re completely up to date. Especially with this crazy Michigan weather, make sure your vehicles and home are covered properly!

Pay your bills: We all dread doing this task but if you get this done on a cold day in then you’ll feel accomplished and prepped for the rest of the week!

Do your taxes: It’s that season! We’re all working so hard and yet we HAVE to make time to do this. Sooner is better than later and once it’s done you’ll instantly lose the stress that this puts on you. It’s best to get it done now instead of putting it off until the last minute!

Make a budget: This is a great way to get organized and get productive! Everyone should have a budget so if you don’t have one then now is the time to make it! If you already have one, then you should update this every year and tax season is the perfect time to get it done!

Online shopping: We all do this with our spare time already, there’s no shame in online shopping when it’s too cold to go out. Find those things that you’ve been wanting and have them delivered! We all love this activity and it’s easy to lose track of time while filling up your cart.


Fall Daylight Savings Checklist

Daylight Savings TimeAn Extra Hour of Sleep… An Extra Hour to Organize 

Every year, Daylight Savings Time sparks debate and frustration. But there’s one thing we think everyone can agree on – an extra hour of sleep is always welcome! ‘The words “Fall Back” are sweet music to the ears of many sleepy people looking forward to the extra hour of sleep that comes with the fall time change. But Daylight Savings Time can also be a reminder to home and automobile owners to patch up any holes or leaks before colder weather approaches.

Now that you’ve moved your clock back one hour, here’s a quick maintenance checklist before the Michigan winter arrives. 

1. Clean your chimney 
Planning on having a fire during the cold weather? Make sure your chimney is cleaned first. A buildup of creosote, found in every chimney, can lead to a fire that you didn’t plan. 

2. Roofing Regulations 
Now is a perfect time get your roof cleared of damaged shingles and bothersome branches. 

3. Good Gutters 
Fall means leaves, which means a clogged gutter. Get your gutter cleaned and discourage unwanted pests from making their home inside. Plus, prevent roof damage that can occur due to overflowing gutters.

4. Protect against the upcoming freeze 
Wrap your faucets! 

5. Insulate on the cheap 
Insulation strips can be bought cheap at any hardware store, and are a great way to lower your heating bill. Scope out any cracks that lead outside, especially through windows or at the bottom of your front and back door, and insulate before the snow piles up. 

6. Water heater and furnace check
These are two things you absolutely do not want to fail you when you need them most, during the bitter winter. Get them checked out before it’s too late.

How do you prepare for winter weather in Michigan? Comment below with your favorite fall to-do’s. 

Don’t miss out on more helpful tips and articles like this – join our newsletter today!

6 Autumn Driving Tips

Autumn RoadFall is one of the most beautiful times of year in Michigan. Leaves are changing to magnificent colors, complex and savory vegetables are in season, and the crisp air revitalizes your senses. During such an invigorating time of the year, it can be easy to forget the road hazards that come with the season. As the summer shifts to autumn, be sure to remember these safety tips to help reduce your driving risks and enjoy a safe fall.

  1. Watch for deer. Fall is deer breeding season, the time of year when they become most active and tend to travel in larger groups. Keep a sharp eye out, especially on country roads or in wooded areas. Always slow down around curves, keep your headlights on, and be ready to stop should a deer suddenly cross your path. When driving at night, watch out for your headlights reflecting back in their eyes, and if you see one, assume there may be more close behind!
  2. Monitor visibility. Fall brings shorter days and different sunrise/sunset times. Autumn’s brilliant sunrises and sunsets can be breathtaking, but they can also cause dangerous glares. Consider keeping sunglasses on hand for your daily commute. Additionally, it may be safest to keep your headlights on throughout your commute home to make yourself more visible and to help you see pedestrians, other vehicles, and cyclists.
  3. Be mindful of where you park. There’s nothing more inviting than a pile of leaves during the fall, but be sure not to park your vehicle nearby. Large quantities of leaves near your exhaust system can create a dangerous fire hazard.
  4. Check your tires. A change in seasons means a change in weather patterns. The shifting temperatures can affect your tire pressure, so be sure that all of them (including your spare) are fully inflated and have enough tread.
  5. Be cautious around leaves. Leaf accumulation can cover up street markings, debris, and those potholes Michigan is famous for. Wet leaves in the roadway can also reduce your tire traction, cause skidding, and may also freeze if the temperatures drop too far. Make sure to give yourself enough distance from the car ahead of you and be cautious of your surroundings.
  6. Beware of construction. Beware of constructionHere in Michigan, we know fall by another name – “Construction Season.” Be sure to slow down and watch out for workers near the road. Consider checking out Mi Drive, an interactive map created by the Michigan Department of Transportation (and also available as an app) with live construction updates to help you avoid construction and navigate the roads safely.

Fall is a magical time of year. Enjoy the season to its fullest by keeping your risks low, practicing safe driving habits, and being aware of your surroundings.

Join our newsletter today to keep up to date with more tips and articles like this!

How to Prepare Your Car for Fall

Autumn DrivingNow that summer is winding down and the crisp months of Michigan autumn are fast approaching, it’s a good time to do a seasonal check-up on your vehicle. Fall brings inclement weather and is quickly followed by the hazardous months of winter, so we’ve put together these simple DIY tricks to help you get ready for driving in the last part of the year.

1. Take a look at your fluid levels.

Periodically checking your vehicle’s fluid levels helps keep your car operating in top condition. Check and change windshield-washer fluids, antifreeze, and brake-fluids. Also take this opportunity to discover any leaks; if fluid levels  are changing at a rapid pace, this could indicate leakage or larger automotive issues.

2. Check your spare.

It’s a good idea to check the tire pressure and quality of your spare tire each season to ensure that it will remain usable in case of emergency. It is especially important to look at spare tire quality if your spare is suspended underneath your vehicle.

3. Replace your wipers.

Since you typically use your wiper blades more in the fall and winter, it’s important to replace them each fall to make sure that your blades are functioning properly when you need them most. And don’t forget about your rear window wipers, if you have them! With leaves blustering (and eventually snow flying), you  don’t want to get stuck with a huge rear 
blind spot

4. Look at your lights and battery.

Regular car maintenance calls for a routine inspection of the electrical components of your vehicle. However, now is a great time to double-check your battery for corrosion or loose wires and to make sure that all of the car’s lights are working. By tackling any minor issues you find now, such as bulb replacement or corrosion cleanup, you can not only keep your car ready for the fall and winter, but can prevent major automotive issues in the future.

5. Replace filters.

Engine air filters should be replaced at least twice a year, so right now is a great time to get a new filter. Fresh filters improve fuel economy, emissions, and overall performance.

6. Review your auto insurance coverage.

With school back in session, the approaching fall season yields more traffic, time on the road, and pedestrians – not to mention it’s construction season here in Michigan. You may find yourself driving your car more frequently than you did during the summer. Now is a good time to review your current coverage before you get back out on the road. You may want to consider additional coverage to protect you from the additional hazards you may face in the coming months.

How do you prepare for the impending Michigan weather? Share your own tips below.
And don’t miss out on more articles like this! Join our newsletter today.

Staying Safe During Michigan Tornado Season

Michigan Tornado SeasonTornadoes are a way of life for families living in tornado alley, but here in Michigan, it’s easy to feel unprepared for these natural disasters since we only experience a few tornadoes per year. But remember, although they are more common in the Great Plains, a tornado can occur almost anywhere. To protect your home and family from tornadoes, educate yourself on the warning signs and when to take cover.

Learn the Warning Signs
Tornadoes strike with very little warning. Over the years, with more advanced science and technology, meteorologists are better able to predict signs that a twister is on its way. Even having just a few minutes warning can provide an opportunity to seek shelter if you’re in harm’s way. If you live in an area with a history of tornadic activity, there may be warning sirens or a digital messaging system in your community to alert residents to find proper shelter immediately.

 Other signs of tornadoes are:

  • Dark greenish skies
  • Dark, rotating, low-altitude cloud
  • Loud roar, like a train 
  • Large hail or heavy rain followed by dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift.
  • Large clouds rushing by quickly overhead or rushing together to form a funnel

Tornado Watch vs. Tornado Warning
When the National Weather Service issues a tornado watch it means conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. When under a watch, be alert to changes in the weather, check to be sure all family nearby is safe, and keep the TV and Radio on so you’re able to listen to reports and stay on top of changing storm information.

A tornado watch can give you valuable time to prep your home and surrounding property for a disaster. Take this time to move cars into the garage if possible; you’ll also need to keep car and house keys with you at all times. You could also move lawn furniture and equipment into a garage or shed to minimize flying debris. If you’re not able to utilize a shed or garage you could temporarily move items into the larger rooms of your home. If a tornado siren sounds, stay inside your home and take cover in an interior room away from windows. If you have a storm shelter, move your family into the storm shelter when sirens sound.

A tornado warning means a tornado has already been spotted in your area. This means danger could be imminent and you may only have seconds to take cover. Immediately move to an interior room or storm shelter with your radio. Do not leave the space you’ve taken cover in until an all clear has been issued

Although tornadoes may be less common in Michigan, stay alert during these stormy summer months and make sure you’re prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you!

Don’t miss out on helpful tips and articles like this – join our newsletter today!

Prepare for Summer Storms

Preparing for Summer Storms
Summer has barely begun, and we’re already experiencing the hot, humid days that go along Michigan summers. These days often bring intense rain and thunderstorms with them. And even if they don’t happen often in your area, it only takes one big one to sweep through do some damage to your home and property. Before storm season gets into full swing, take some steps to get your home ready.

1. Check out the health of your trees. One of the biggest causes of storm damage is falling limbs. Take a look at the tops of your trees. Are they well-covered in leaves, or do some branches look bare? Then look at the roots. Is the land uneven, causing some roots to come out of the ground? These could be signs of unhealthy trees that may be more likely to fall in a storm. If you’re unsure, it may be worth calling an arborist to evaluate the health of your trees.

2. Clean the gutters. Gutters filled up with leaves, twigs and pine cones will not drain well, causing water to end up where you don’t want it, along your foundation and in your basement. Water can also back up onto your roof causing damage to sub-roofing material.

3. Check your sump pump. If your house tends to get water in the basement, make sure your sump pump is working well, and that you have some sort of back-up power source in case of an outage.

4. Have an emergency storm kit prepared. Flashlights, batteries, water, food, first aid supplies and extra medicine are essentials to have on hand.

Storms are unpredictable, and while you can do your best to be prepared, there may be times when your home sustains damage from lightning, rain, or high winds. If you ever experience a claim or have questions about your policy, call one of our licensed agents at 616-897-1515 to make sure you’re protected!

Don’t miss out on more articles like this! Join our newsletter today.

How to Protect Your Car in the Summer Heat

Parking in the SunIt’s the first day of summer, and the weather is already heating up fast! And while most Michiganders know tips for protecting their cars from the snow, many forget that extreme heat can take a toll on your car as well. Delicate interior components are particularly susceptible to cracking or warping if overexposed. While some people have the luxury of covered parking, the majority of us are forced to park under the sun’s sweltering rays. Follow these tips for keeping your car in the best shape possible during the summer heat.

  • Find shade: If possible, park in a shady spot. Whether it’s a garage, under a tree, or even just a shadow cast down from a building, any little bit helps. If you must park in direct sunlight for a long period of time, consider using a windshield shade to block UV rays from damaging your dashboard or a car cover for more complete protection, including blocking the oxidation of your paint job.
  • Leather and vinyl care: Your seats and other internal components can crack or dry out under the hot sun. Luckily, there’s an array of commercial products available to block these nasty effects. Leather conditioners, protectant wipes and even wax/polish for your car’s exterior can all prevent heat damage.
Car Dashboard
  • Tint the windows: Tinting your car’s windows helps reduce the interior temperature of the vehicle and prevents damage caused by UV rays. Michigan does have laws restricting tinted windows; if you’re unsure whether you’re in compliance, be sure to check out the Michigan State Police guidelines to be certain your windows follow state law. If tinting isn’t an option, it can be helpful to at least leave your windows cracked open a bit to vent out some of the heat while you’re away.
  • Check the coolant: Regularly check the radiator for proper pressure and coolant levels and adjust as necessary. It’s also a good idea to inspect the hoses for cracks or bulges, which may need to be repaired.
  • Battery life: Extreme heat can cause fluid evaporation and reduce the life of your battery. Test its charge regularly, keep the top of the battery clean and, if you have the type of battery that needs liquid, top it off with distilled water when necessary.
  • Keep it cool: The air conditioning system is forced to work on overdrive during summer. It’s a good idea to have it inspected to make sure everything is working as it should. Additionally, check the air filter and replace it if it’s dirty.
  • Plan your errands: To keep your car out of the hot sun as much as possible, plan your errands during the morning or evening, when it’s cooler outside.
  • A warning: Remember, the sun’s rays pass through car windows and rapidly heat the interior. Never leave a child or pet unattended in a parked car! Doing so can result in heat stroke, dehydration or even death.

Have you found an effective method to keep your car cooler in the harsh summer sun? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below! And for more helpful articles, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter!

How to Prepare Your Yard for Spring

Preparing your Yard for Spring
For people living in a mild climate, their, springtime lawn care may only mean a few simple touch ups when spring arrives. But here in Michigan, our colder climate can make the job a bit more daunting. After spending months covered by blankets of snow, your yard may need some extra help coming back to life. Here are some tips to get back your healthy, hearty springtime lawn.

Create a Clean Slate
As the snow melts and spring starts blooming, it’s time to revive your yard from its slumber. Start by raking away debris, such as leaves, sticks and other dead vegetation, to give you a fresh palette for a new greenery creation. As a bonus, raking also loosens the soil surface, which encourages airflow and allows nutrients and new seeds to penetrate the soil.

Next, mow your lawn short so you can spot problem areas that need a bit of tender care. If you find bare spots, rake or till them to break up the soil. You can also add peat moss to enrich the soil and promote fresh growth. If you find any areas heavy with weeds, spray them with a nonselective herbicide designed to kill all plants, using caution to spray the problem areas only. When using lawn chemicals, wear appropriate safety gear—gloves, boots, long pants and long sleeves—and wash after use. After the weeds have died (this will usually take several days), rake the soil and remove the debris as you did before.

Spring Flower

Start fresh! 
Now you’re ready to reseed. Focus on bare spots and areas with weak grass growth, mixing the seed with fresh soil before spreading. When it comes to watering, it’s better to saturate your lawn fewer times per week than it is to use a small amount of water every day. This technique helps train the grass roots to grow deeper into the soil for more lush growth.

Once the growth picks up, you’ll have to regularly mow the lawn. Its’ recommended to keep grass between two and four inches, but remember that longer grass often grows thicker and healthier.

Apart from your lawn, you may consider mulching your flowerbeds. A good layer of mulch around shrubbery helps lock in moisture and protect roots from the elements. Your flowering shrubs will heal faster if you prune them in early spring, allowing their energy to be focused on fresh, new growth.

And what’s a yard without personal touches? Fill up those bird feeders, scrub out the bird baths, plant new seasonal flowers and stake in your favorite yard decorations. Spring is a time to celebrate rebirth and there’s no better way to celebrate than by bringing your yard back to vibrant life!

To keep up with more articles like this, join our newsletter!

5 Ways to Protect Your Home From the Cold

Protecting Your Home from the ColdThis time of year, our homes are our havens from the cold world outside; but sometimes, if we aren’t properly prepared, the chill of winter can intrude. Following these 5 simple tips can help protect your home during the cold months, give you peace of mind when wintry weather strikes, and even save you money and reduce potential home insurance claims.

1. Inspect your furnace
Do you know that musty smell that emanates from your furnace the first time you turn it on each winter? That might not be from dust that’s settled in the vents but could instead indicate a filtration problem. Change your furnace’s filter before turning it on for the first time, and continue to change it monthly throughout the winter.

2. Invest in a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat gives you better control over your heat while you are at home and away from home. The control offered by this inexpensive device can save you money while preventing the fire hazard sometimes presented by area heaters. Set your thermostat to lower temperatures at night when everyone is sleeping or during the day when the family is at work and school.

3. Keep your house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees
You might be tempted to forego a programmable thermostat and save on the heating bill by turning your heat all the way off when you leave the home, but resist that urge! A too-cold home could result in frozen, burst pipes and plenty of water damage. Also be sure you know where your water main is in case you have to turn off the water in an emergency. And speaking of water, if you’re planning a winter getaway, be sure to leave faucets on a very low drip when you’re away from home to keep the water flowing and the pipes unfrozen.

4. Remove snow quickly
If you live in a snowy area, be sure to shovel the snow away from your entryways. Not doing so could cause a tripping hazard and even expose you to a lawsuit if a neighbor falls when dropping by. Accumulated snow on the roof can cause a collapse while snow on your car can eventually ruin the paint or cause a malfunction.

5. Seal cracks and crevices
Caulk windows and install weather stripping in doorways, around pipe entryways, and anywhere else that opens your home up to the elements outside. Investigate the source of any cold air drafts you feel during the winter months. Attics and basements are likely culprits. These measures will also keep you safe from bug and rodent infestations during warmer months.

To keep up with more articles like this, join our newsletter!

Winter Maintenance Tips for Vehicles

Winter Maintenance Tips for VehiclesHere in Michigan, winter can be the hardest season on your car.  And with exposure to snow, sleet, ice, and frigid temperatures, the potential for major damage is high.  Performing proper maintenance on your vehicle during inclement weather is the key to avoiding damage and costly repairs.  Keep your vehicle in proper working condition this winter season by considering the following preventative steps.

Tires and Brakes
The tires you use during summer months are not appropriate—or safe—for winter use.  Adding chains or updating your tires to specially made winter tires is your best bet to ensuring that your vehicle handles well on slippery snow or ice. Also, since the air in your tires contracts during the colder months, it is important to keep an eye on your tires’ air pressure.  Properly inflated tires are not only better for gas mileage; they also help your brake system work more efficiently.

While it is certainly vital to maintain your breaks year-round, you should pay special attention to them during the colder months, since you may use them even more on the slick winter roads.  Make sure your brake fluid stays adequately filled, and pay attention to any engine lights indicating your brakes or anti-lock braking system might need to be checked by a mechanic.

Vehicle Body
During the winter, automobiles are often covered with snow which can lead to rust on your vehicle’s body.   In addition, salt or ice on the roads can contribute to undercarriage problems or even chipped and scratched paint.  A good way to prevent this is to start the winter season with a detailed cleaning of the vehicle followed by a heavy wax job with the appropriate protection against winter weather perils. It is also a good idea to add a paint sealer to the vehicle to give it an added layer of protection. And when you’re at the car wash, consider adding an undercarriage wash. The few extra bucks now could save you hundreds in future replacements of rusty parts. 

Battery and MotorDriving in Winter
Colder temperatures can bring strain to your vehicle. The battery often feels the brunt of this strain. During the winter, watch for any abnormal hesitation and look for corrosion in the wires.

To help protect your engine, make sure all your filters, hoses and belts are supple, clean and not cracked.  The harder your vehicle has to work to compensate for these types of problems, the more damage it may incur and the worse it will perform.  It is also important to make sure you are using the appropriate oil for colder temperatures.

Finally, it is imperative that a sufficient amount of antifreeze is kept in your radiator to ensure that the coolant in your vehicle continues to move through the motor regardless of freezing temperatures.

With snow and slush flying and ice chunks on the road, winter debris can seriously impair your vision and your ability to drive safely. Ensure that you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid on hand during the winter to help keep your windshield clear of this debris.  This fluid works better to clean your windshield than plain water because it contains a special soap that helps remove the small pieces of debris that might otherwise result in a scratched windshield.  It is also important to check your wipers.  Cracked or stiff wipers might not clean effectively which could result in a cracked windshield.

As Michiganders, we’re used to harsh winters. Make sure your car is as prepared as you are, and ensure that your family travels safe and warm during these snowy months.

To keep up with more articles like this, join our newsletter!