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Warning: Parking Can Be Hazardous To Your Car's Health

Editor's Note: A specialty auto insurance company published this article to help drivers reduce their insurance claims. It does need a little work, since it contradicts itself. Park on the street, but always choose covered parking and use secured parking when available. I guess the parker is just on his or her own. There are some good ideas here. Perhaps you might pick the best advice and publish it to your customers.

Drivers balancing a hot coffee or munching a messy taco while driving are making headlines and capturing legislators' attention. But what about the hazards to that prized vehicle when it's parked? Many owners may not realize that one of the more hazardous times for a car is when it is not moving.
"Most people think that when a car is parked, the risk of damage is diminished significantly," says McKeel Hagerty, president of Hagerty Insurance. "But that just isn't the case. Many of the claims we receive for body dents, dings, scratches and paint damage are the direct result of an owner's parking choices. We have a few simple suggestions to help car owners avoid these frustrating experiences that can put their classic in the repair shop instead of on the road."

1. Always park parallel on the street (not in a parking lot) if possible. The congested nature of most parking lots, with their constant shuffling of cars and trucks, doors opening and closing on either side, unsupervised children and uncaring adults can result in a multitude of door dings, minor scratches or worse.

2. If you must park in a lot, park on the end of a row. This tactic will reduce your "ding factor" by 50 percent per ride.

3. Always allow enough room for persons parking near you to enter and exit their vehicles. If you value your classic's finish, be sure that there is ample space for the doors on those super-sized pickups and SUVs to clear your car's exterior. Tight space means high odds for door dings.

4. Be courteous. Don't park across two or more spaces thinking it will afford your classic better protection. Irate drivers may be angry enough to take out their parking frustrations on the side of your collectible with a strategically placed "key" signature.

5. Avoid parking spaces designated for "compact cars." Your '50s-era Cadillac wasn't designed to squeeze into or out of that cramped space, even if it is the only space left. Small space ... big ding!

6. Don't park near large trucks. Rear vision on commercial trucks is often compromised and the turning radius of a large pickup or transport van might not be enough to clear the rear fender of your sports car. Plus many trucks sport trailer hitches that can inflict untold damage on classic bodywork.

7. Shopping carts, cargo dollies and skateboarders. Lurking in every parking lot are these three mortal enemies of the classic car. Stay far away from parking near those "cart return" areas, watch out for weekend warriors moving paneling and PVC pipe and avoid any parking lots where skateboarders congregate to practice their latest X Games maneuvers.

8. Park within view of your destination. If you can see your vehicle from the restaurant window, you might be able to spot potential trouble before it occurs.

9. Pass on parking spaces under trees. Birds can wreak havoc on a parked vehicle, especially on a sunny, summer day, and tree sap can be almost as corrosive if left to drip and dry on that custom paint.

10. In hot climates, crack open windows. A small opening will keep the heat from building up to a temperature high enough to dry out the leather and wood.

11. Always choose covered parking when available. A parking garage can provide protection from excessive sun, heat, pounding rain, errant hailstorms, and bird deposits. Just watch out for those support beams. If you park your classic in your own garage, be sure to add padding to any support structures.

12. Use secured parking when available. Any secured, pay-by-the-hour lot will provide better protection, possibly an attendant with a watchful eye or security guards and less access for car thieves.

13. ValetPark -- pay more and hurt less. Tell the valet parking attendants what you expect. Tell them if you want your car parked in front and inform them of any quirks the car might have. Walk around the car with the valet before you leave and inspect it again upon your return. Let the valet parking attendant know you will "take care of them" after you pick up the car.

14. Install an anti-theft device. Whether it is an in-car system or a portable device, always take the time to set your car alarm, install the anti-theft bar or use an electronic tracking device such as Lojack. The one time you don't is the one time you'll regret it.

15. Car shows can be hazardous to your car's health. When parking at car shows, be sure that surrounding display materials, placards, stanchions, tent poles, etc. cannot fall onto or strike your vehicle, especially in the event of a high wind. Stay near your vehicle and watch out for careless people who, in their excitement, might inadvertently mar your car's finish with a metal belt buckle, purse clasp or camera.

16. Even your home garage may not be as safe as you think. Damage to a vehicle can occur even when it is parked in the garage. Paint and spray cans, garden tools, storage boxes, sports equipment, even bicycles can inadvertently fall onto a vehicle. Be sure paints, cleaners and combustibles are stored in locked cabinets, keep tools, sports equipment and stored items secured and positioned as far as possible from the car, and park bicycles, scooters, and skateboards in another location, if possible.

"The majority of our claims result from damage inflicted when cars are parked at discount stores -- places like K-Mart, Walmart, and Sam's Club," says Hagerty. "Usually it's a hit-and-run incident, but parking lots with unmarked intersections where everyone thinks they have the right-of-way, and lots where drivers "zip" diagonally across unoccupied spaces, also contribute to the total. Defensive parking techniques and common sense will go a long way to protect your investment."

Hagerty Insurance (www.hagerty.com) provides insurance for antique and vintage autos, modified and custom cars, street rods, sports cars and exotics, as well as vintage boats. The company has been in the insurance business for five decades and in the specialty insurance field for 20 years. McKell Hagerty can be reached at (800) 922-4050.

Article Abstract from August, 2003




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