Winter Tire Tips

Do You Need Winter Tires?

You know it’s coming. Snow and slush. Freezing rain. Maybe even black ice.

But do you know if your tires are ready for all of that?

When driving in Minnesota in the wintertime, your tires just might be the most important safety feature on your car. The right ones can get you to your destination safely. The wrong ones? Well, just look over in the ditch during the next storm.

So how do you figure out what’s best for your vehicle? Here are five things to know about winter tires:

1. Winter tires really are different than regular tires.

Winter tires have deeper tread, along with siping (slits in the tread blocks). This increases the number of edges that touch the road, resulting in better traction and handling. They also stay softer than other tires do in cold weather, thanks to special rubber compounds designed specifically for winter use. That helps increase traction as well.

2. If your area regularly drops below 45 degrees, you probably need winter tires.

Winter tires don’t just perform better in snow and ice. They are better for cold weather in general. So if you get some chilly days where you live, consider a set – a full set. Installing just two winter tires can cause handling problems.

3. There are two main categories.

Studless snow and ice tires are designed for extreme conditions. They are better in deep snow than performance winter tires, which are for light snow and ice. What about studded tires? Well, they give you great traction on ice but also damage roads. And some experts say chains do just as well.

4. You still need to check the pressure — once a week.

If your tires are under-inflated, they are at risk of failing. In winter, if they’re overinflated, your traction will be significantly reduced.

5. You still need to check the tread, too.

An inexpensive tool found at auto-parts stores can be used for this, or you can use a penny. Stick the coin into the groove of the tire, with Lincoln’s head down. Is some of his hair hidden? Good. Can you see all of Abe’s hair? It’s time for new tires. Right now.

We here at Sentinel Assurance Group know that nobody wants to spend too much time thinking about tires. The good news is you don’t have to. Just a little bit of preparation, along with some routine maintenance, will keep you driving in the Twin Cities all winter long.

Preparing for Winter Weather ❄️

Getting ready for winter weather

Fall has officially arrived and we are nearing it’s end, but there’s still time to get ready for winter weather, including storms. Extreme cold is always a possibility here in the Twin Cities, so we at Sentinel Assurance Group have compiled some tips to help you stay safe and limit damage.

Preparing your home

  • Perform basic winter maintenance — insulate your walls and attic, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and insulate water lines that run along outer walls. When temperatures drop, keep water taps slightly open so they drip continuously, and keep the cabinets under sinks open to allow warmer air in.
  • If you use a fireplace or wood stove, have the chimney or flue inspected each year. Make sure your house has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and test them monthly.
  • Check your emergency supplies and ensure that you have adequate food and water, along with a battery-powered radio, in the event of an extended power outage. You’ll want a week’s worth of supplies, or more if you live in a remote area.
  • Never use gas-powered generators or barbecue grills indoors. These can allow deadly carbon monoxide to build up.

Preparing your car

  • Have your vehicle serviced according to manufacturer recommendations. Check the antifreeze level.
  • Keep the gas tank near full, which helps avoid ice in the fuel lines and the gas tank itself.
  • Replace wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Make sure your tires are in good shape and have the proper air pressure.
  • Check to confirm your battery has a good charge, your heater and defroster are working well, and that your emergency lights are functional.

Preparing yourself

  • Always wear temperature-appropriate clothing, such as hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Remove any wet clothing immediately. And keep spare clothing in your car trunk throughout winter in case you are stranded or stuck.
  • Stay hydrated. You might think this is more important when it’s warm outside, but it’s just as vital in winter.
  • Be mindful of physical exertion and the amount of time you’re spending outdoors. Shoveling snow is hard work, so don’t overdo it!

Winter is a lot of fun, and we’re looking forward to ice fishing, sledding and trips to our favorite ski hills. So get your house, car and body ready, and have a great season!

Contact Us!

At Sentinels Assurance Group, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 651.237.5180 or send us a note at info@mysentinels.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Content provided by Safeco Insurance

So You Need (or Want) to Take a Defensive Driving Course

Whether you were caught speeding (or worse), you’re looking for a discount on your car insurance, or you simply want to be a better driver, there are a wide range of defensive driving and driver improvement courses available here in Rosemount and the Twin Cities metro these days and many can be done virtually!

But, which is right for you? Here are five tips to help you decide:

1. Check with your state or municipality. If you’re taking training to avoid a traffic infraction, not just any course will do. You’ll need to take an approved course – ask for a list before signing up.

2. Check with your insurer. The same goes if you’d like to potentially save on your car insurance. Your carrier may only offer a car insurance discount for completing certain courses. Also ask how much your discount will be — this will help when it comes time to choose a course.

3. Choose the type of course. There are online and classroom options, typically ranging from 4-12 hours depending on the course material. And, there are advantages to each. Online courses offer convenience (and sometimes a lower cost), while in-person settings can provide more interaction.

4. Determine how much you want to spend. If you’re trying to avoid a ticket (and a potential increase in your insurance premiums), the cost might not be much of an issue. If you’re taking a course to receive an insurance discount, however, make sure the total discount you’ll receive is greater than the cost of the course.

5. Check out the reviews. Online review sites, such as Yelp, can show you what others thought of a course. Keep in mind, people who felt “forced” to take a course might have a biased opinion, especially compared to someone who took the course willingly. No matter why you’re considering a defensive driving course, we’re happy to help you weigh the pros and cons. The biggest pro being, once you complete your training, you’re likely to be a little more careful the next time you get behind the wheel. And, that always pays off!

Here in Minnesota, St. Cloud State University offers some great in person and virtual class options. You can check them out here: https://www.stcloudstate.edu/continuingstudies/mhsrc/55-plus/classroom.aspx

Once you’ve completed your course, don’t forget to let us know so we can be sure to add it to your policy for your discount!

Car Wash – Preserving Your Car’s Value

Clean Your Way to a Longer-Lasting Car

Motor vehicle corrosion is a billion-dollar problem in the United States, according to the Federal Highway Administration. And, no wonder. Road salt, tree sap, mud, pollution and even dead bugs and bird poop all contribute to a year-round assault on your vehicle here in the Twin Cities, potentially leading to serious damage and pre-mature aging.

Safety is also an issue. Grime across your windshield and windows restricts visibility in all directions, and even a light coating of dust or pollen can impair your vision, especially at night or when driving into the sun’s glare.

Rosemount Car Wash

That’s why we here at Sentinel Assurance Group encourage you to visit your local car wash regularly. Washing your car removes dirt, residues and pollutants that degrade your paint finish and corrode the underlying metal. It’s like anti-aging cosmetics for your automobile!

But, is hand washing at home or visiting a commercial car wash your best bet? While both lead to a clean vehicle, you’ll cut your water usage in half by going to a commercial facility and help keep toxins and soap away from street drains, which can lead to local waterways. As a bonus, some commercial facilities recycle their water. 

No matter which method you choose, these five tips will help you get the most out of your car-cleaning routine:

  1. Wash often. The longer tree sap, dead bugs and other gunk sit atop your paint, the more damage they can cause.
  2. Avoid abrasive soaps, cloths and sponges that can grind dirt deeper into your paint finish.
  3. Wash the undercarriage thoroughly to help prevent rust, especially after driving on road salt in the winter.
  4. Don’t forget the headlights. When you’re driving at night, in the rain or through an unfamiliar neighborhood, you want every lumen of illumination you can muster.
  5. Consider eco-friendly car soaps, such as biodegradable or waterless products, to help lighten the environmental impact of washing your car more often.

And, when you’re all done? Finish up with a good waxing to give your car extra protection and shine.

If you’re in the Rosemount or South Metro area, visit our favorite locally owned, automatic and self-service car wash at Rosemount Car Spa!

Avoiding Frozen Pipes 🥶

Avoiding Frozen Pipes 🥶

Don't Let the Cold Get to Your Pipes This Winter It’s hard to think of a worse start to a winter day in Minnesota than turning on the faucet and … nothing. Maybe there’s a trickle of water, but it’s clear you have a frozen pipe. So, what now? Here are some smart tips...

Winter Tire Tips

Winter Tire Tips

Do You Need Winter Tires? You know it’s coming. Snow and slush. Freezing rain. Maybe even black ice. But do you know if your tires are ready for all of that? When driving in Minnesota in the wintertime, your tires just might be the most important safety feature on...

Preparing for Winter Weather ❄️

Preparing for Winter Weather ❄️

Getting ready for winter weather Fall has officially arrived and we are nearing it's end, but there’s still time to get ready for winter weather, including storms. Extreme cold is always a possibility here in the Twin Cities, so we at Sentinel Assurance Group have...

After School Safety Tips for Parents & Kids

After School Safety Tips for Parents & Kids

This week marks the week that all the kids and teachers head back to school here in Rosemount, MN! You’ve likely already reviewed the basic safety tips for kids who walk or bus to and from school. Those tips, of course, are: Walk with a buddyStay in well-lit...

When water goes where it shouldn’t!

When water goes where it shouldn’t!

Even a small leak can become a major problem, so knowing what you’re covered for and how to prevent water damage are equally important. The below tips should help uncover any potential water problems down the road and keep your property dry. Check appliance hoses....

7 Tips to Help Keep Student Athletes Safe

7 Tips to Help Keep Student Athletes Safe

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Do you need Rental Car Coverage?

Do I need to buy rental car insurance?rental car insurance

The trip you’ve been planning is finally here. After a long flight, you collect your luggage and head to the rental car counter. As you review the paperwork, the agent asks, “Do you want insurance on the car?”

You frantically try to remember if your auto insurance policy covers rental cars. And wasn’t there something about rental car coverage in that last email from your credit card company? It seems like you may not need it, but you really can’t remember the details. You end up buying the coverage just to be safe. 

Did you waste your money? It depends: There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to buying rental car insurance. However, there are a few things to consider that will help you determine if it’s right for you.

What does the rental car company offer?

Typically, car rental agencies offer four types of coverage:

  • Collision damage waiver means that the rental car company won’t charge you if the vehicle is damaged or stolen during your rental period. 
  • Supplemental liability protection covers costs to others if you cause an accident in the rental.
  • Personal accident insurance will pay in the event of injury to or death of the rental car’s driver and/or passengers.
  • Personal effects coverage will reimburse you if personal items are stolen from the rental car.

What kind of coverage do I already have?

Your personal auto insurance policy will likely provide the same level of coverage for your rental as it does for your own car. This usually includes liability insurance; it can also include collision, comprehensive, and medical payments, depending on your policy. There are exceptions: Some insurers won’t cover rentals in a foreign country or rentals that are being used for business.

Your credit card may also offer some protection, but the degree of coverage can vary greatly. Coverage is usually secondary, designed to step in and pick up where your auto insurance leaves off. Most cards require that you decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver and use the card to pay for the car rental in full. 

In addition, your health and life insurance policies may cover your medical costs if you are involved in an accident. If you have homeowners, renters, or condo insurance, you may also have personal property coverage to help repair or replace valuable belongings that are lost, damaged, or stolen from your rental car. Your deductible and policy limits will apply.

What am I missing?

Your regular policy may not cover loss of use and diminished value fees if something happens to the rental car. Loss of use is the income that the rental agency loses while the vehicle is being repaired. Diminished value is the calculated reduction in a vehicle’s resale value as the result of an accident. Your credit card may cover these fees, but be aware that they may require documentation that rental agencies can be reluctant to provide.

Before you take your next trip, call us or your independent insurance agent and verify the coverage available for your destination. Contact your credit card company to find out exactly what is covered when you use your card. Being prepared will help you make an informed decision about buying rental car insurance.

Umbrella Insurance – What is it and do I need it?

What is umbrella insurance?

Life is unpredictable. Common situations like having a teenage driver, owning a pet, posting on social media, or having people visit your home carry a certain amount of risk. An unexpected incident can quickly turn into a lawsuit that costs you thousands of dollars, if not more.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be sued like one. If something happens on your property or you are at fault, do you have enough coverage? 

What does umbrella insurance cover?

An umbrella policy adds an extra $1 million (or more) of coverage above and beyond your existing policies. Many people only carry $100,000 of liability coverage. Although that sounds like a lot of money, it doesn’t go very far when a serious injury occurs.  Medical bills, lost wages, and other bills can add up quickly.

That’s why umbrella insurance is so important. It gives you greater peace of mind and protects you against life’s unexpected surprises. 

Do I need umbrella insurance?

 Umbrella coverage isn’t just for high earners. It’s for everyone, especially if you:

  • Own a home
  • Have regular income
  • Have retirement savings and other assets to protect
  • Entertain guests in your home
  • Have a teenage driver
  • Host sleepovers, children’s parties, carpool children, or allow your teen to babysit
  • Serve on a volunteer board or participate in your HOA
  • Use social media
  • Own rental properties
  • Travel outside the U.S.
  • Own a watercraft, RV, snowmobile, ATV, golf cart, or other “toy”
  • Have pets
  • Own firearms or other recreational weapons

But doesn’t my home or auto insurance policy cover a loss?

Unfortunately, home and auto insurance policies don’t protect you against every type of liability.

Consider these two scenarios:

1) You hear a juicy piece of gossip about one of your neighbors. You spill the tea to your closest friends at a BBQ and swear them to silence. Unfortunately, your neighbor finds out what you said. You get sued for slander, and it isn’t covered by your homeowners policy.

2) You go on a vacation to Europe. Instead of taking a tour, you decide to rent a car. You forget to drive on the other side of the road and cause a collision. Someone is injured, but your auto policy doesn’t cover you because you were outside of the U.S. and Canada.

In both of these instances, an umbrella policy may have provided coverage to protect you. Without an umbrella policy, your assets, savings, and even your future income could be at risk if you are held legally responsible for a claim.

Peace of mind costs less than you think.

For about the cost of a dollar a day, an umbrella policy offers an affordable way to prepare for the unpredictable. Schedule a risk assessment with your independent insurance agent to understand your coverage needs and find out if an umbrella policy is right for you.