Traveling with Fido – Pup-Proof Your Car

Traveling with Fido – Pup-Proof Your Car

It’s time for a ride in the C-A-R. Cue the excited barking and tail wagging. Whether you’re planning a cross-country road trip or just a quick spin around the block, we have some paw-some tips to turn your car into the ultimate canine-friendly cruiser!

Floor Mats

Face it. Our fur babies can be messy. Dogs can track mud, sand, and debris onto your car’s floor. Protect it with rubber floor mats that are waterproof and easy to clean. They cover your car’s carpet and shield it from dirt. You can get floor mats that are custom fit to your car, ones you can trim to fit, or universal mats. Avoid mats made with harsh chemicals such as lead, cadmium, latex, and PVC, as they will have unpleasant odors.

Seat Covers

As any dog owner knows, fur floats everywhere. It can easily get into crevices and stick to seats. Plus, if car rides stress your dog, he will shed even more. Seat covers will help keep your seats fur-free and mess-free. Cover the seats where your dog will be. Choose tightly knit fabrics that also will be scratch proof. Some covers are padded for shock absorption; some have nonslip designs with a rubber base. Still others have pockets for storage. Look for ones that are washable so you can periodically clean them.

Pro-Tip: A felt blanket is a simple alternative to a seat cover. It attracts fur and it’s easy to remove and wash. Just make sure to tuck it in the crevices of your seat.

Cargo Liners & Hammocks

If you put your back seats down for your dog, consider a cargo liner or hammock that extends from the back of the front seats. These are larger than traditional seat covers, and they give your dog a chance to spread out and lay comfortably. Look for one that is non-porous, water resistant, tear resistant, and easy to clean. Make sure it is comfortable for your fur baby.

Window Protection

Nose prints on windows are just a fact of life, right? They don’t have to be. Try a magnetic window shade, which also protects against UV rays. Alternatively, you can buy shatter resistant window film to add another layer of protection to your glass. In a pinch, clear plastic wrap works too.

Scratch Protection

Paint and surfaces can be easily scratched. You can help to prevent scratches with some paint protection film on doors and trunk sills where your dog usually enters your vehicle. If your dog will wear them, nail caps can work too.


While our dogs may want to ride in the front seat, it’s not a good idea. In the event of an accident, your front seat airbag could deploy. Safety is important, and you want to keep them from jumping into your lap when you’re driving. That’s where barriers come in. They keep your fur baby safely in the back. Barriers come in various materials, from breathable mesh to heavy duty fabric to plastic or metal.

Safety Belts

Just as we wear seat belts, it’s a good idea to secure your dog. Some safety belts hook right into your car seat belts. Others attached to your seats. Choose a harness that goes around your fur baby’s body. Never secure them by their collar as the leash can pull unnecessarily on their necks.


You can also travel with your fur baby in a crate or pet carrier. They come in a range of styles. Some are soft mesh and others are hard. Some come with wheels for easy transport. Make sure the crate is large enough so that your dog can stand, turn around, and lie down in it.

Tips for Traveling with Your Pet

Follow these additional tips for traveling with your pet.

  • Start with short trips to get your dog used to the car before driving long distances.
  • Feed your dog 3 hours before you leave.
  • If you need to feed your dog on the road, stop the car to do it.
  • Stop regularly along the way so dogs can stretch their legs and go to the bathroom.
  • Give your dog access to clean water. Riding in the car can be stressful for dogs and if they pant, they can lose water.
  • Don’t let your dog hang their head out the window.
  • Never leave your dog alone in the car. Hot cars are dangerous, but even in cool weather, a well-meaning passerby may try to release your dog.
  • Pack an emergency kit for messes. Include gloves and cleaning supplies. (A moistened rubber glove is great for picking up pet fur.)
  • Don’t forget your dog’s favorite treats.

Finally, protect your fur baby with pet insurance. You can easily add coverage from Pet’s Best to your California Casualty auto or home policy.  Find out more about what pet insurance can cover by talking with a California Casualty customer service representative today.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or

Vehicle Tires – Air vs. Nitrogen

Vehicle Tires – Air vs. Nitrogen

When it comes to keeping your tires inflated, you have a choice. You can fill up with air, like people have done for decades, or you can use nitrogen. What are the pros and cons of each? Let’s take a closer look.


Remember when you studied molecules in science class? Molecules are the smallest amount of a substance that still carries its properties. Nitrogen molecules are larger and slower than the molecules in air.  As a gas, nitrogen also is drier. These properties give nitrogen some advantages.


    • Nitrogen won’t seep out of your tires as quickly as air because of its larger, slower molecules. That will help you to maintain your tire pressure longer.
    • The moisture naturally found in air can cause changes in temperature. With nitrogen, there is no moisture and therefore it is less susceptible to temperature changes that affect tire pressure.
    • Nitrogen is especially good for locations with very high or low temperatures. It is often used in race cars, heavy vehicles, and aircraft because it is nonflammable and able to more easily maintain its temperature.
    • Nitrogen will not react to rubber, steel, or any of the tire’s components. There is no oxidation which can damage tires. That should help preserve your tire over time.


    • You most likely will pay to inflate your tires with nitrogen. The initial charge to remove the air and fill them with nitrogen can cost about $30 per tire. Then, it will be about $7-10 per tire for topping it off as you need more nitrogen.
    • Nitrogen may not be significantly better than air at maintaining tire pressure. Consumer Reports found only a 1.3 psi difference between air and nitrogen over the timeframe of a year.
    • There is no scientific evidence that nitrogen helps with fuel economy.
    • It is harder to find places to fill up with nitrogen. You will have to search for locations that offer nitrogen, even for a fee.

 Note: If your tire is low and there is no place to get nitrogen, you can top your tire off with air. It won’t harm your tires, but it will reduce the effectiveness of the nitrogen alone.


You may be surprised to learn that air is composed of mostly nitrogen. In fact, the mix is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and about 1% of other gases. Air, which has been used to inflate tires for over a century, also has its advantages.


    • Air is often free. If it costs, it is minimal such as a dollar or two.
    • Air is readily available. You can find it at gas stations, convenience stores, wholesale clubs, tire shops, and more.
    • While air loses pressure over time, its rate is close to that of nitrogen. Plus, with air, drivers are more likely to check in often versus relying on nitrogen to stay pressurized.


    • You will experience more pressure changes with air. Air is affected by temperature changes due to water vapor in its mix. However, it is worth noting that most tire shops have moisture separators that limit the amount of water vapor.
    • The oxygen in air can cause oxidation, which can make rubber brittle over time.
    • You will have to fill your tires more often when you have air versus nitrogen.

Tire Pressure is Key

When you fill up with nitrogen, you get a green cap on your tire valve. When you fill up with air, your cap will be black. However, whether you use nitrogen or air, you still will fill your tires to the same recommended pressure. Check the inside of your door or your driver’s manual to find the right psi.

Maintaining the correct pressure helps your tires last longer, your car handle better, and could even help with fuel economy. Under or over inflated tires increase your risk of a blowout and increase wear and tear. No matter whether you use nitrogen or air, regularly checking the pressure of your tires is part of responsible vehicle maintenance.

Your car is one of your greatest investments. Protect it with the right insurance for added peace of mind.

Safe travels from all of us at California Casualty.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or

Winter Camping Destinations

Winter Camping Destinations

Get your gear ready. It may be winter, but it’s a great time to go camping. Not only will you find comfortable temperatures, but you’ll also enjoy spectacular scenery, lower costs, and fewer crowds. Here are some of our favorite destinations for winter camping.


Twin Peaks Campground

Sonoran Desert, Arizona (2 hours from Phoenix)

Cost: Starting at $20 per night plus a $25 entry fee into the park

Average winter temperatures: Daytime highs in the 60’s to low-40’s at night

What you need to know: This is the main campground for the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The area is surrounded by desert plants and cacti and has numerous hiking trails.


Joshua Tree National Park

Jumbo Rocks Campground

Twentynine Palms, California

Cost: $20 per night plus entrance fee

Average winter temperatures: Daytime temperatures average 60 degrees with freezing nights

What you need to know: There are several campsites at Joshua Tree National Park. The Jumbo Rocks is centrally located and offers beautiful views of the rock formations. The park is known for hiking, climbing, and stargazing. Pets are not allowed on trails. Make your reservation early; the park is busiest during February and March.


Everglades National Park

Homestead, Florida

Cost: Starting at $33 a night

Average winter temperatures: Range from high 50’s to high 70’s

What you need to know: This park features towering Cyprus trees and an abundance of animals who call the Everglades home. Choose from front country and wilderness back country campsites, the latter reached mostly by canoe, kayak, or motorboat. Reserve early as this park is busiest from November through April.


Reed Bingham State Park

Adel, Georgia

Cost: From $35 per night plus $5 parking fee

Average winter temperatures: Low 40’s to mid-60’s

What you need to know: This park features a 375-acre lake, and there are rentals for canoes and kayaks. Visitors also enjoy fishing, birding, and hiking. There is abundant wildlife, including tortoises, snakes, alligators, and nesting bald eagles. During the winter, thousands of black vultures and turkey vultures make their home here.


Grand Isle State Park

Jefferson Parish, Louisiana

Cost: Starting at $18 per night plus $3 per person admission fee

Average winter temperatures: mid-40’s to mid-60’s

What you need to know: This park offers fishing, birding, crabbing, hiking, and boating throughout the lagoons and the Gulf shore. There is a toll bridge to get to this state park. While the park is open, the boardwalks are currently closed due to damage from Hurricane Ida and campsites are limited.


Valley of Fire State Park

Overton, Nevada

Cost: $20 per night for Nevada residents and $25 per night for non-Nevada vehicles, an additional $10 for utility hookups (WiFi for an additional fee)

Average winter temperatures: Can range from freezing to 75 degrees so pack accordingly

What you need to know: This 40,000-acre park is known for its bright red Aztec sandstone and its ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years.


Harris Beach State Park

Brookings, Oregon

Cost: Starting at $20 per night for residents (non-residents pay 25% more)

Average winter temperatures: Mid-50’s in the day to low-40’s at night

What you need to know: While winter is not beach weather, this park includes a beautiful beach for strolls, as well as walking paths and hiking trails. There are tent sites, RV sites, and yurts. Some of the campsites are closed during the winter so please check before you book.


James Island County Park

Charleston, South Carolina

Cost: Starting at $35 per night campgrounds and cottages are available

Average winter temperatures: Mid-40’s to low-60’s

What you need to know: The 643-acre park features open meadows and miles of paved trails for walking, biking, and skating. While the Splash Zone is not in operation during winter months, there is a climbing wall and disc golf course. Not only is the park pet-friendly, it also features a dog park.


Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Fredericksburg, Texas

Cost: Starting at $14 per night plus a day pass fee of $8 per person; no RV or vehicle camping

Average winter temperatures: Daytime highs of mid-60’s to nighttime lows of low-40’s

What you need to know:  The park features a huge pink granite dome that gives it its name. There is 1,600 acres of desert landscape, including opportunities for hiking and rock climbing. Pets are limited to one trail, and there is no bike riding on any trails.


Dinosaur National Monument

Jensen, Utah

Cost: Camping starts at $0 in the backcountry and ranges from $6-$40 at other sites plus an entrance pass ranging from $15-$25

Average winter temperatures: Elevations in the park may influence temperatures which can fluctuate from 0 degrees to 30 degrees in January. Pack accordingly.

What you need to know: This is your chance to camp where dinosaurs once roamed. The park covers 210,000 acres at the intersection of Utah and Colorado, and offers hiking, river rafting, and petroglyph viewing. Six campgrounds provide a variety of options. Not all are open in the winter. There are places where pets are permitted and where they are not.

Do you have a favorite winter camping spot? Share it in the comments.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or

What is Tailgating and How Risky is It?

What is Tailgating and How Risky is It?

We’ve all had that uncomfortable feeling of being tailgated. It’s not just an annoyance. It’s a dangerous behavior that can lead to an accident. But just how risky is tailgating and what can we do about it? Read on.


What is tailgating?

When you’re too close to the car in front of you, you’re riding “on its tail,” or tailgating. Tailgating is an aggressive behavior that can be mistaken for road rage, and even lead to it. Interestingly, even though drivers who tailgate seem to rush ahead, tailgating has little effect on getting there faster.


Why do people tailgate?

There are many reasons why people tailgate. Here are a few of the most common ones.

  • Aggressive drivers tend to tailgate. These are the same folks who speed and cut it close when making lane changes. They also can quickly escalate into road rage episodes.
  • Drivers who are impatient or frustrated may tailgate. They’re in a hurry and they want to get past the traffic to their destination.
  • Intoxicated or drowsy drivers may tailgate without realizing it. Their state of mind causes them to misjudge the distance to the car in front of them.
  • Young drivers sometimes tailgate. They do not fully understand the safe distance between cars and/or the consequences of this risky behavior.
  • Distracted drivers may tailgate because they’re not paying attention to the road. They’re on their phones or fiddling with something in the car.

Almost always, drivers who tailgate have a false sense of security. They think they can stop in time. Yet it may take longer than you think. Stopping distance is directly related to the size and weight of your vehicle. A large truck will take much longer to stop than a small car. Sharing the road with vehicles of all sizes is important. You need to give yourself an adequate cushion of safety so you have enough time to react and stop your vehicle.


What are the effects of tailgating?

At the very least, you can make the driver in front of you nervous by tailgating. You may even cause them to drive too fast or shift lanes quickly which can cause an accident. They also may tap on their brakes to tell you to back off. That can trigger an accident or road rage incident. In a worst-case scenario, they can stop short, causing you to rear-end them. You may even cause a chain reaction of rear-end collisions.

Rear-end collisions make up about 23% of all crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These types of collisions cause approximately 950,000 injuries and 2,000 deaths each year.


Who is liable for a tailgating accident?

In nearly all cases, the driver who is tailgating is the person at fault in a rear-end collision. Note that a single at-fault accident could raise your insurance premium.


Learn the 3-second Rule.

If you’re alert and focused on the road, it takes you about 2 seconds to react to a roadway hazard. That means a safe following distance is at least 3 seconds or more.

Use the 3-second rule as a starting point. You can measure the distance in seconds this way:

  • Find a landmark such as a mile marker or telephone pole.
  • Start counting once the car in front of you passes that landmark.
  • Count slowly until your car reaches the same landmark.
  • That is the number of seconds that you are traveling behind the vehicle in front of you.

You will want to increase your following distance when the weather is bad. It’s recommended to use 4 seconds for wet weather and 10 seconds for snow and ice.


How should you react if you are being tailgated?

The last thing you want to do is to be rear-ended by a tailgater. If you are being followed too closely, you will want to take evasive action.

  • Don’t engage or look at the tailgater.
  • Don’t tap your brakes to tell them to back off. This can be construed as hostile and can cause the driver to react.
  • Change lanes and allow the driver to pass.
  • Maintain your distance from the driver. Keep as far away as possible.
  • Practice defensive driving as you continue on your way.
  • Be aware that your car’s crash avoidance system could cause you to brake automatically and suddenly. That may play a role in future tailgating incidents.


Your car is one of your greatest investments. Keep your car well maintained and protect it with the right insurance.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or




Must-Haves for Your Car if You Have Kids

Must-Haves for Your Car if You Have Kids

Some days it seems we’re practically living in our cars. Having the right things on hand can make our lives that much easier.

As you’re going from soccer practice to dance and back again, make sure you have the kid-friendly “must-haves” in your vehicle. In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week, we’ve also included some important items to keep everyone safe.



Stock the basic travel items to keep everyone clean and comfortable.

  • Wipes: These include wet wipes to clean hands and faces as well as disinfecting wipes for surfaces such as car seats. Up your game with stain remover wipes for those “oops” moments.
  • Tissues: Travel packs are easy to store. Not only are they good for the sniffles, but they can also double as napkins after eating, or toilet paper if you’re in a bathroom that has run out.
  • A towel: Dry off, clean off, or use to cover a hot seat. Towels can even double as a blanket or a napkin in a pinch.
  • Scissors: These are helpful in case you need to cut a seatbelt in an emergency. In non-emergency situations, use them to cut open items that won’t easily tear.

Pro Tip: Use a laundry basket for the things going from the car into the house and back again. It’s especially useful for sports equipment.



Keep some extra things for everyone in your family.

  • Ponchos and/or umbrellas: You’ll want these for when you’re caught in the rain. You can find inexpensive disposable ponchos that do the trick.
  • Extra pair of clothes: Include a change of clothes with underwear, and a plastic bag for dirty or wet things.
  • Flip flops: It’s easier storing these than shoes for those times when your child splashes in muddy puddles. They’re more forgiving in size and you buy them on clearance.
  • Coats, sweatshirts, and blankets: These are great when the air conditioning is blasting, or the weather turns colder unexpectedly.


Snacks and Water

Sometimes plans change, or things take longer than you expected. This way, you’ll avoid the question, “can we stop somewhere for dinner?”

  • Snacks: Stock child-friendly snacks and update even nonperishable ones regularly.
  • Self-serve containers: Invest in spill-proof cups and containers that enable toddlers and young children to serve themselves.
  • Water: Choose reusable bottles, filled with fresh water to keep everyone hydrated. Water is also helpful when someone has sticky hands or sandy/dirty feet.
  • Trash bag: You want a place where the kids can throw their trash. Disposable plastic or paper bags are good options. Make sure to empty them often.



Keep them occupied with their favorite activities so that you can stay focused on the road.

  • Shoe box of toys: Let them decorate a shoe box and choose their favorite toys for the car. Include crayons and add some coloring books to your bag of books, below.
  • Reading: Pack a bag of books for every age level. Consider audio books for longer trips.
  • Power converter: Charge everything from phones to kids’ tablets to portable DVD players.
  • Restaurant backpack: Stopping to eat? Fill a backpack with toys and activities for kids to use at the restaurant.



We recognize Child Passenger Safety Week each September. It’s a reminder to keep safety in mind when we’re on the road.

  • LifeVac anti-choking device: Enjoying snacks in the car? This rescue suction device can save a life in a choking emergency.
  • Safewise seat alarm: This device detects when you open a back door before starting the engine. It sounds a chime, then issues escalating reminders so that you won’t accidentally leave a child behind in a hot car.
  • First aid kit: From band aids to antibiotic ointments, chances are you’re going to have to take care of minor injuries on the road. Make sure your first aid kit is fully stocked with the items you need. Include a first aid manual for those situations where you’re not exactly sure what to do.
  • Emergency roadside kit: Make sure you’re fully prepared in case you get stuck or stranded. Flares, flashlights, and jumper cables are good things to have in your emergency car kit.


Teach your children safety in and around vehicles for added protection. Finally, protect your car with the right insurance. It will give you peace of mind as you take care of your most precious cargo—your children. Safe travels.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614.

How to Use a Car Jack Safely

How to Use a Car Jack Safely

Thump, thump, thump. The sound of a flat tire doesn’t have to ruin your day. Be prepared for a future blow-out or puncture by reviewing how to use a car jack safely. In honor of National Preparedness Month, we’ve prepared a step-by-step guide. Bookmark this or print it out for when you need it.


First, what kind of jack do you have?

There are different kinds of jacks, and they operate slightly differently. Know which one you have.

  • Chances are you have a scissor jack. These are the jacks that typically come with new cars. Their compact size allows them to easily fit in a vehicle’s trunk. They look like two pairs of scissors joined at the tips, creating a diamond shape. Scissor jacks are designed to get the job done but they’re not meant for repeated use over time.
  • Hydraulic floor jacks are used by car enthusiasts. They’re also known as bottle jacks. They have a metal base with a lever extending to the side. They can be used repeatedly over time. However, their bulkier size makes them harder to store.


Step-by-step Instructions

Step 1: Park the car.

  • You saw the tire warning light or heard the thudding sound of a tire going flat. Safely pull over away from traffic. Don’t try to drive on a flat tire; it can cause harm to the wheel.
  • Make sure you are parked on solid ground. Don’t put a jack on dirt or grass. It will not be stable enough. (If you have to park on dirt or grass, use a thick, flat piece of wood to create a stable platform for the jack.)
  • Don’t use a jack on an incline. If you must, make sure you’re close to the curb. If you’re parked downhill, turn your front wheels toward the curb. If you’re parked uphill, turn your wheels away from the curb.
  • Put the car in park and engage the parking brake. If your car has a manual transmission, put it in first gear and engage the parking brake. Turn the engine off and put on your hazard lights.


Step 2: Secure the wheels.

  • For an added precaution, you will want to “chock” at least one wheel. A chock is a block or wedge placed against a wheel to prevent it from moving.
  • You can buy an inexpensive chock block or wheel wedge from an auto or big box store. If you don’t have one, you may use wood blocks or bricks.
  • If you’re lifting the front of the car, put the chock behind the back tire.
  • Do the opposite of the corner that you’re going to lift. If you’re lifting the front right wheel, then chock the rear left and vice versa.


Step 3: Set up the jack.

  • You will find your jack in the trunk or under the luggage floor cover.
  • Jacks are not labeled with “this side up.” Make sure that it’s not upside down when you place it on the ground. For a scissor jack, look for a larger flat base at the bottom and a smaller “saddle” pad at the top.
  • If you have a handle assembly, put the handle together. For scissor jacks, slip the included rod tool through the hole and turn to pull the sides of the scissor inward and the top and bottom of the jack apart. For hydraulic jacks, you will need to place the handle in the opening. To operate hydraulic jacks, simply pump the handle.
  • Practice without a load. You can use silicone spray if the jack is tight or jerky.


Step 4: Place the jack.

  • On most vehicles, there are 4 jacking points with reinforced metal to safely lift your car.
  • Look just behind the front wheels and just in front of rear wheels or consult your owner’s manual.
  • If you are lifting just one wheel, choose a jack point near that corner. Most likely, the right place is on the pinch weld (where the metal pieces are welded together) between the front and rear tires. There may be a solid square of metal underneath the car for your jack point.
  • Stay away from fuel lines and fragile parts.


Step 4: Raise the car.

  • Turn the handle of your scissor jack to the right (or pump your hydraulic jack). There will be some initial resistance, but the tire will eventually come off the ground.
  • Make sure the jack stays straight up. If it’s leaning, it will not be able to support the car correctly.
  • Pay attention to sounds. You may hear a pop or a thud if the jack shifts slightly. Check that it hasn’t slipped out of position.
  • Stop when the wheel is just a few inches off the ground. You don’t need much room to change a tire.
  • Check your jack. Give your car a gentle shake to make sure it’s secure. If the jack moves, then raise or lower it to the point where there’s no movement.


Step 5: Add jack stands (optional).

  • Jack stands will help provide additional support. They are essential if you are working under the car but optional if you are changing a tire and not going underneath.
  • Place your jack stand directly under the lifting point. Use the pin or screw to lock it in place, per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Do not use cinder blocks or bricks as a substitute for jack stands.


Step 6: Lower the car.

  • When you are done changing the tire, it is time to lower the car. Raise the car an inch or two so you can remove the jack stands.
  • To lower the car, turn a scissor jack counterclockwise or to the left.
  • For a hydraulic jack, open the relief valve to let the fluid drain. This will lower the arm. Make sure to open the valve slowly so you don’t drop the car down too fast.
  • Put the jack away for use at another time. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.


Your car is one of your greatest investments. Keep your car well maintained and protect it with the right insurance. Safe travels.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or



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