Day: April 9, 2020

The Moneyist: I kicked my roommate out as she works with adolescents, a group more likely to pass on coronavirus. Can I stop her coming home?

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Dear Moneyist,

I am over 65 years old, and I am the care giver for my sister who is also over age 65 and lives alone. We both have medical conditions and my sister’s are numerous. I go to my sister’s apartment to take care of her and we are staying isolated from others as much as possible as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

My very real concern is that I own my home and I have a roommate, who is over the age 60, and works at a group home for troubled adolescents that operates 24 hours a day. According to my research on how COVID-19 spreads, this type of facility is considered a high-risk environment for coronavirus as young people may be asymptomatic. Most of the staff live off-site.

Dispatches from a pandemic:Letter from New York: ‘When I hear an ambulance, I wonder if there’s a coronavirus patient inside. Are there more 911 calls, or do I notice every distant siren? I love my adopted city, and I’m not going anywhere. I will ride this out’

She also has medical issues, but continues to work because she says she needs the money. I told her that I would help by not asking for her financial contribution to the household if she would stop working, and also isolate at home. She refused, and continued to work. I gave her an ultimatum to isolate at home or move out for the protection of me, my sister and herself.

She chose to leave and is staying in a room at the facility where she works, but her manager told her that she can only stay there until mid-April. After that, she will need somewhere to live. I don’t want her to come back to my home, if she continues to work. Can I force her not to move back if she continues to work at a place that is a high-risk environment?

Worried in Los Angeles County

Dear Worried,

Your concerns are valid. Your fears are understandable. Your actions are unreasonable.

Your roommate has never been a problem. It appears that she has always paid her rent on time, and worked hard. I assume she loves her job, and you can be sure she is also scared about contracting coronavirus. I hope that her employer is taking the necessary precautions to reduce the likelihood that there will be any transmission of COVID-19 to or from the staff. Young people may have mild symptoms or may be asymptomatic. So you’re correct about that.

However, I don’t believe kicking your roommate out is the answer. Nor do I believe it’s fair to give her an ultimatum, especially when she needs the money and has nowhere else to live. I get that you’re scared, but don’t let your fear change who you are, assuming that you are usually a person who endeavors to do the right thing. Under California law, if your roommate is paying rent, she is living there on a month-to-month basis. At the very least, you must give her 30 days to 60 days notice.

The Moneyist: ‘Coronavirus has ruined everything.’ My husband refuses to work. Is it too much to ask him to find a job when millions of people are now out of work? I’ve suggested jobs with car services and food-delivery services, but to no avail

California Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced emergency orders on April 6 to prevent landlords from evicting tenants, except in matters of public health and safety. The new rule is, at best, unclear. “We are at this point truly with no guidance in history, law or precedent,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the state’s Judicial Council, said in a statement. “To say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation.” Your roommate may not be aware of such measures.

In the meantime, you can attempt social-distancing, and change the way you live, make rules about washing hands when you come home, wear face masks, and ensure that plates and cutlery are kept separate and/or washed in hot water with soap. None of these measures are guarantees against COVID-19, but they’re good practice. At times like this, it’s important to take all recommendations to stay healthy, but it’s equally important not to lose our compassion for others and humanity.

The Moneyist: ‘All they care about is making money.’ Can my supermarket manager force me to remove my face mask at work?

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here

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Some auto insurers are giving refunds because of the coronavirus outbeak — here’s how you can get a break too

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As some auto insurance companies start giving refunds and credits to commuters stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak, there’s an easy way drivers with other carriers can catch the same break — just pick up the phone and ask.

Insurers including Allstate ALL, +5.10% and Liberty Mutual are issuing 15% refunds on premiums, according to announcements earlier this week. Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s BRK.A, +3.72% BRK.B, +3.10% Geico insurance said Tuesday it will give a 15% credit as policies come up for renewal between now and October, and American Family Insurance is issuing a onetime $50 refund per covered vehicle.

That makes it an opportune time for drivers with policies elsewhere to see what their car insurance company can do for them, according to one consumer advocate.

‘You’ve got that leverage. They want to hold onto their customers, they’ve got to treat them right.’

— Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America

“You’ve got that leverage,” said Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America. “They want to hold onto their customers, they’ve got to treat them right.”

The pitch doesn’t have to be complicated, said Hunter, noting that rates are based on “normal conditions.”

Consumers can remind their insurer about the refunds some competitors are giving, he said. They can also emphasize the fact they are driving much less, just like many others. That makes the driver less risky to insure and justifies a lower premium, Hunter said.

Policyholders can tell their company, “your risk is way lower, so my premium I paid is too high,” Hunter said. Another strategy could be to at least ask for an adjustment in the amount of mileage that’s factored into a premium, he added.

Last month, Hunter sent letters to states’ insurance commissioners urging premium discounts in light of the outbreak.

It’s likely other insurers will also make some sort of deal with car insurance policyholders, said Penny Gusner, senior consumer analyst at CarInsurance.com, a website that compares price quotes.

“Now that a few of the bigger companies are offering money-back, during a time when many really could really use it, it may be bad optics to resist,” she said in a statement.

It might be a good time for some to shop around, but drivers shouldn’t cancel their coverage altogether without a new policy in place, Gusner said. Many states penalize drivers who have a registered car without insurance and insurance companies can charge for a lapse in premiums, she noted.

Even if insurers aren’t currently giving refunds or credits, they may be offering perks like lengthening grace periods or waiving late fees, she said.

A driver will pay an average $1,427 on car insurance during 2020, according to the personal finance website Nerdwallet.

Car traffic has plummeted as states impose “shelter in place” orders and scores of companies have told employees to work from home. Personal travel has been declining for three straight weeks, according to Inrix, a traffic data analytics company. From late March to early April, personal travel traffic in the U.S. dropped 47% compared to traffic in late February, the data showed.

‘We are closely monitoring our automobile insurance loss trends and are considering how best to take this into account and return value to our auto insurance policyholders.’

— State Farm spokeswoman

State Farm, the largest car insurance company in the U.S., hasn’t announced any refunds, but will make a decision about what its policy will be, a spokeswoman said.

“With schools and businesses closed, and orders to shelter in our homes proliferating, we know our auto insurance policyholders are driving much less than anticipated,” the spokeswoman said. “We are closely monitoring our automobile insurance loss trends and are considering how best to take this into account and return value to our auto insurance policyholders.”

Other insurance companies including MetLife, Progressive Insurance and The General did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In One Chart: More than half of renters say they lost their jobs due to coronavirus: ‘They could face housing situations that spiral out of control’

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The longer some people stay at home, the more difficulty they have making ends meet.

“Low-income renters — many of whom work in service industries hit hard by the pandemic shutdown — are at high risk for eviction and homelessness during shelter-in-place measures,” according to a report by Mary Cunningham, a fellow at the Urban Institute, a left-of-center nonprofit policy group.

The recent $2 trillion CARES Act, a federal stimulus package, “didn’t do enough to address increases in housing insecurity for the nearly 11 million low-income renter households paying more than half their income toward rent before the pandemic,” Cunningham added.

“Eventually, the rent will be due and someone needs to pay it,” she wrote. “Low-income renters, especially those who lose employment during the crisis, will have a hard time paying back rent, and they could face housing situations that spiral out of control.”

More than half (53.5%) of renters reported that they lost their job due to the measures introduced in their town or city due to the COVID-19 pandemic, concluded a survey of 5,000 renters and 5,000 landlords by Avail, an online resource for landlords.

“Some cities are also requiring renters to provide documentation demonstrating that their inability to pay rent is a result of circumstances created by the coronavirus,” Avail’s report said. But 66% of renters said they did not know if their state had paused evictions or was considering such moves.

The National Multifamily Housing Council tracked data from 13.4 million apartment units and found that 31% of renters had not paid their rent in the first week of April, up from 19% for the same period in the previous month, according to a report released this week.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in significant health and financial challenges for apartment residents and multifamily owners, operators and employees in communities across the country,” said Doug Bibby, the president of the National Multifamily Housing Council.

Almost half (46%) of renters say they have less than $500 in emergency funds, while 22% of homeowners say they don’t have enough saved to cover their mortgage payment for a month, according to a separate poll of 1,000 renters and homeowners from Clever, an online service connecting house hunters with real-estate agents.

Ben Mizes, the CEO of Clever, said the cuts in lower-paid jobs in recent months were “hurting the people who need their paycheck the most,” echoing a study by Deutsche Bank that said high-wage jobs were the least affected by the coronavirus pandemic last month.

Rafael Nunez, 30, who works as a plumber in New York City, said his boss called him on Sunday to tell him that there was not enough work. “I could be home for three weeks. I could be home for four days. I have no idea,” he previously told MarketWatch.

“I even got a piece of paper in my paycheck saying that we cannot use any vacation hours or any sick hours,” he said. “That’s really upsetting because Passover is coming up. Usually, I get paid for that with my vacation hours, and now it’s like a whole month without pay again.”

He said his savings are running out. “We’re going to pay for this month. That’s what we’re leaning towards right now. But next month is still in the air.” Nunez said his landlord had the same problems with other tenants. “They seemed like they were chickens running around with their head cut off.”

Nunez spoke to his landlord to waive late fees and avoid eviction. In the midst of COVID-19, many cities and states have issued moratoriums on evictions. The CARES Act also temporarily prohibits evictions for certain properties funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

(Jacob Passy contributed to this story.)

Rafael Nunez, a New York City-based plumber: ‘We’re going to pay for this month. That’s what we’re leaning towards right now. But next month is still in the air.’

Courtesy of Rafael Nunez

In One Chart: More Democrats than Republicans fear COVID-19’s impact on their finances and health

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The debate over the ramifications of a months-long shutdown of the American economy in an effort to force people to “socially distance” — and, thus, prevent coronavirus from spreading unchecked — also highlights the chasm between left and right on the American political spectrum.

“Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say that the coronavirus outbreak is a major threat to both their personal health and financial situation,” Bradley Jones, a research associate at Pew Research Center, wrote in a recent report.

Some 29% of Democrats say that COVID-19 is a major threat to their own health and their finances, compared with 19% of Republicans, according to Pew data. Almost half of Republicans (47%) say it’s not a major threat to either, while only just over one-third (35%) of Democrats feel the same way. President Trump, a Republican, has warned that efforts to stem the rapid spread of the COVID-19 disease are spiraling the U.S. economy into another Great Recession.

Those leaning to the left of the political spectrum generally believe that strong social structures beget a stronger economy for all. The right traditionally follows the idea that a strong economic system begets strong social structures for all.

Dispatches from a pandemic:Letter from New York: ‘When I hear an ambulance, I wonder if there’s a coronavirus patient inside. Are there more 911 calls, or do I notice every distant siren? I love my adopted city, and I’m not going anywhere. I will ride this out’

The spread of the disease does not appear to have yet peaked. Coronavirus had infected at least 424,945 people in the U.S. as of Wednesday evening and killed at least 14,529 people, 4,571 of whom were in New York City, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The savings of millions of people, meanwhile, are at risk of running out. A quarter of U.S. adults say the coronavirus pandemic is a major threat to both their health and their finances, found the survey released this week by Pew, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The poll of 11,537 U.S. adults, conducted between March 19 and 24, found that significantly more people in their 30s through 50s say COVID-19 is a major threat to their finances but not to their health than those reporting the opposite.

The jobs and savings situations look like they’ll get worse before they get better: Another 6 million workers likely filed jobless claims in early April as record layoffs mount, economists say. That’s on top of the additional 6.6 million people who filed jobless claims in the last week of March.

As the COVID-19 pandemic shows little sign of releasing its grip, an estimated 3.5 million U.S. workers were “at high risk” of losing health insurance through their jobs in the last two weeks, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington, D.C., think tank.

Credit.com: Smart tips on splitting bills with roommates

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Roommates come with many benefits. You might get the ability to rent a larger space, share cleaning duties or more easily find friends to watch a movie with. On the other hand, sharing a space with a roommate—or roommates—isn’t always easy. It can bring on some challenges, especially when it comes to money.

Planning ahead and using smart money management resources can make a difference. Here are some tips to help you split the bills and keep the peace.

1. Decide which bills you’ll share and how you’ll pay them

How do you split bills with friends? Do so with a friendly but careful eye on the details. Just as your lease spells out every detail, consider working together with roommates to create ground rules or guidelines when splitting bills.

What should roommates share when it comes to bills? Start by discussing exactly which expenses you plan to share and which you will pay for individually. It makes sense to split the rent or utility bills, such as water or electricity. It might also make sense to split shared entertainment expenses, such as the cable bill.

But if your roommate simply must have the Starz or HBO package and you don’t care about those channels, ask them to cover the extra amount. Other bills you might keep to yourself can include cellphone service, separate data plans or different streaming subscriptions.

A major key to keeping the peace is ensuring bills are organized. Figure out when and how bills will be collected and split each month, how they will be paid and who is responsible for paying what amount. While this may sound obvious, too many times roommates wait until the last minute, causing stress, tension and possibly late bill payments.

2. Make a cost spreadsheet

Once ground rules and guidelines are created for paying the bills, make a spreadsheet outlining each expense you and your roommates must pay. Each expense should show details such as due dates, the amounts owed and the person responsible for paying. It may be wise to have a monthly meeting to discuss the bills and this spreadsheet. This ensures everyone is on the same page and no one is surprised by a bill when it’s time to pay.

It’s also a good idea to create a personal budget. That way you know exactly how much you can commit to when it comes to paying bills. Encourage your roommates to do the same. When everyone is attending to their own financial health, roommate bill sharing is easier.

3. Use apps to plan and manage payments

There’s always an app for that. When you have large expenses, such as rent or utilities, consider using an app that can help with the math and the payments. For example, free apps such as Venmo let you send money from a debit account to friends. The app also lets you request money, letting your roommates know that money is due. When you use these types of apps, you don’t have to worry about handling the bills once everyone has cash in hand.

You might like: This is how easy it is to annoy a roommate in just 5 words

Another great app is Splitwise. This app lets roommates—or anyone splitting bills—track bills, tally who paid and send reminders so you’re never late. If a cost spreadsheet is too old-school for you, consider using an app to make paying bills easier among you and your roommates.

While you’re looking for money management apps, consider downloading one to keep tabs on your personal budget. That way, you’re never the roommate that causes the bill sharing relationship to go sour.

4. Keep some purchases separate

Just because you plan to share something doesn’t mean you need to split the bill for it. For example, unless you and your roommates plan on selling everything when the time comes to move out, consider buying furniture separately.

While it may sound logical to split furniture costs, what happens when your lease is up? Deciding who gets to keep what can be stressful and problematic. Consider making a list of furniture and electronics necessary for your place and figure out who will be responsible for each item while keeping your overall costs even.

Also see:An award-winning California distiller goes from booze to hand sanitizer

Groceries may also be something you want to keep separate, especially if you and your roommate have very different tastes or diets. If you do decide to split groceries, consider using meal planning and grocery budgeting to ensure things stay as equal as possible and no one person is footing the bill for the other’s healthy appetite.

5. Choose your roommates wisely

Obviously, you won’t want to live with someone who you’re going to constantly clean up after. You also won’t want to live with someone who will never pay their share of the bills. Doing so could end up hurting your credit, especially if they skip out and you can’t afford the rent on your own.

Before signing a lease with someone, you may want to request that they check their credit scores. You can do the same. That way, everyone knows where they stand and you know if your roommate is someone with a history of paying bills on time. You can get your credit scores free on annualcreditreport.com or Credit.com.

It may be hard to know your future roommate’s habits, but meeting with them beforehand and devising a money management plan can go a long way toward reducing issues in the future. But since you can’t predict what will happen and emergencies do arise, consider starting your own high-interest savings account. Put money away each month so that if your roommates ever let you down, you’re not left holding a financial crisis you didn’t create.

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

NerdWallet: In an emergency, it’s OK to break these 7 credit card ‘rules’

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This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

Much of the advice you see about using credit cards wasn’t written for people coping with a financial emergency. When you’re faced with a sudden disruption in your income — something millions of people are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic — some of the basic “rules” about credit cards become unrealistic, if not impossible, to follow.

It’s not that the rules aren’t sound advice. When times are good and you’re living within your means, using credit carefully, you shouldn’t be carrying debt month to month, for example, and you should be angling to get maximum value from your credit card rewards.

But times aren’t always good.

The whole point of having access to credit is that you can tap it when you need it, and practicing good credit habits in good times means you’ll have flexibility when disaster strikes. Credit cards aren’t a substitute for income, but in an emergency, you can use them to survive a disruption in your income. That means giving yourself permission to break a few of the “rules” until the crisis passes. Here are seven of them.

1. ‘Never carry a balance month to month’

Why you can break it in an emergency: Credit card debt is expensive, but if the alternative is to go without necessities, or if you need to preserve cash for the things you can’t get with credit, the cost may be worth bearing. 

This “rule” stems from the high interest rates most credit cards charge on balances you carry from one month to the next. When you pay in full, you aren’t charged interest. But carrying balances means paying interest at annual rates that can exceed 20%. Carrying debt at that rate over a long period can be extremely expensive. But in a crisis, we might be not talking about a prolonged period. In a short-term cash crunch, paying less than the full monthly credit card total can help you stretch your resources.

Watch: How bad is it if I don’t pay off my credit card every month?

Say you have a credit card bill of $1,500 with an APR of 20%. Pay off just $500, rather than the full balance, and the remaining $1,000 will cost you about $17 in interest for a month. Whether that’s an acceptable price to pay depends on your individual situation, but it’s not “wrong” to accept it. One idea to consider, though: Call your credit card issuer and ask for a break on your interest rate, at least in the short term, or for the option to delay your payment.

2. ‘Pay more than the minimum amount due’

Why you can break it in an emergency: Paying only the minimum keeps your account in good standing when access to credit is critical. It won’t do much to reduce your debt, but it can help you stay afloat.

The minimum payment specified on your credit card statement is typically just a small percentage of what you owe, enough to cover the previous month’s interest and a bit of the principal. Paying just the minimum won’t make much of a dent in your debt, and if you make a habit of it, you’ll be in debt longer.

In a crisis, however, budgets and priorities shift. If your choice is between paying more than the minimum due or using that extra money to buy groceries, pay your mortgage or cover utility bills, then deferring your credit card payoff until next month or beyond might be the right choice.

It’s only temporary relief, but making the minimum payment on time each month will keep your account open, and you’ll avoid incurring late fees or penalty APRs. You can attack the debt more vigorously once the crisis passes.

3. ‘Keep your credit utilization under 30%’

Why you can break it in an emergency: Using “too much” of your available credit can pull down your credit scores, but the damage isn’t permanent.

Credit utilization refers to how much of your available credit is in use. It’s a major factor in your credit scores, and the lower your utilization, the better for your scores. In normal times, it’s best to keep it below 30%, and staying under 10% is even better.

Also see: Equifax says it will work with lenders, creditors to help reduce the impact of the coronavirus crisis on U.S. credit reports

But going over the utilization threshold doesn’t do lasting damage to your credit score the way a missed payment does. (Current scoring models look at your current utilization, not utilization history.) And using a higher percentage of your available credit for a period could be exactly what you need to do to buy groceries and other essentials during an emergency. When the worst passes and you’re able to get your utilization back down, your scores can recover.

4. ‘Redeem rewards for maximum value’

Why you can break it in an emergency: If you need money just to make ends meet, it doesn’t make sense to sit on hundreds of dollars’ worth of rewards, even if converting them to cash means getting less value per point than using them for something else.

When you’re financially secure, it’s smart to redeem credit card rewards only for the most valuable option. Travel credit cards, for example, usually offer more value per point when you use your rewards to pay for travel than when you redeem them for cash or for a credit on your statement. In an emergency, though, travel may not be a priority. And in this pandemic, it might not even be an option. Stockpiling travel rewards for the future makes little sense if you’re struggling in the present.

Give yourself permission to redeem rewards for cash, even at a lower value, to pay for essentials or start an emergency fund. It might sting to cash in points for 1 cent apiece when you could get, say, 1.25 cents by redeeming them for travel, but $500 in cash can be much more useful in a crisis than $625 worth of hypothetical travel.

5. ‘Credit cards aren’t an emergency fund’

Why you can break it in an emergency: Not everyone has been able to stash money in a contingency fund, and when disaster strikes, it’s often too late to start. You may have to lean on your credit to get through. 

The rule of thumb when it comes to emergency savings is to stash away enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses. If your income is interrupted and your bills are piling up, an emergency fund can keep you afloat. But according to Federal Reserve data from May 2019 — well before COVID-19 threw people’s finances into chaos — 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. lacked the ability to cover the cost of a $400 emergency expense, either with cash or a credit card they could pay off in full when the bill came. 

The reality is that expenses continue to pile up whether you have savings or not. If you need money to bridge a gap, your credit cards can provide some spending power. Yes, credit cards charge interest on any balance you carry. But the interest rate on purchases is much lower than what you’d pay on a payday loan or, usually, a credit card cash advance. Once your situation becomes more stable, you can begin to pay down your debt as aggressively as your budget allows.

6. ‘Don’t just park debt at 0% — pay it off’

Why you can break it in an emergency: Transferring a high-interest balance to a credit card with a 0% introductory APR period can buy time when you need to preserve your cash for necessities. The debt must eventually be paid, but that can wait.

Making the most of a balance transfer generally means paying off the transferred debt during the 0% APR period, before the regular interest rate kicks in. If a card gives you 15 months at 0% APR on balance transfers, for example, you could avoid interest completely by paying off the debt within that time frame.

But in a crisis, when preserving cash is a priority, making the most of a 0% APR period looks different. In situations like these, when you need to buy time and hold on to cash, it can make sense to pay just the minimum amount due each month. That might mean reaching the end of a 0% period with a balance still outstanding and paying the ongoing interest rate, or moving the debt again and paying another 3% to 5% balance transfer fee. But for the duration of the crisis, you can focus on staying financially afloat and covering basic expenses.

7. ‘Don’t hurt your credit score’

Why you can break it in an emergency: You build good credit so that you can fall back on it when you need it. This is when you need it.  

Your credit score isn’t a trophy. It’s a tool.

Building and maintaining good credit is important, but it’s a means to an end — having access to credit when you need it. If you can’t tap your credit in bad times, if you can’t benefit from all the work you put in to establish good credit, then that good credit score doesn’t carry much value.

In an emergency, you shouldn’t prioritize your credit score over feeding your family, over keeping a roof above your head, over being safe. If you need to take action that hurts your credit — running up a high balance to cover necessities, applying for a new card or even missing a payment — so be it. There are steps you can take to minimize the damage, such as calling your card issuer to discuss reducing payments or requesting a credit card limit increase. Make use of your options, but in the end, your score can recover. For now, just do what it takes to get through.

NerdWallet writers Melissa Lambarena, Sara Rathner, Erin El Issa, Kenley Young and Paul Soucy contributed to this article. 

More from NerdWallet:

Gregory Karp is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: gkarp@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @spendingsmart. Kimberly Palmer is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: kpalmer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kimberlypalmer.

Autotrader: 6 car-care tasks for spring

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With more sun and rising temperatures comes an entirely different strategy for car care. Fortunately, we’re here to help. Here are six simple tips to help you care for your vehicle as winter makes way for spring.

Wash and wax

A good, thorough wash and wax is the most important thing to do with your car once the winter is over. Winter driving can cause a huge amount of road grime, debris and — worst of all — salt to build up on your car. You want to make sure those items are long gone before spring starts. Allowing debris and grime to build up on your car can affect its paint and finish, while allowing salt to build up can lead to rust and other serious problems.

Clean the inside, too

Nobody wants to spend time cleaning out their car during a cold winter day. That’s why spring is the perfect time to clean your car’s interior, so spend a day doing some spring cleaning. Remove and throw away all the interior papers, trash and other items that have accrued over the winter. Not only will you have a clean car, but your spring cleaning can be done when it’s more temperate and comfortable outside – especially important if you have to vacuum your carpets and seats.

Also see: 8 new luxury SUVs for under $50,000

If you feel you need to disinfect the car’s interior, we suggest using an antibacterial cleaner or wipes instead of bleach-based cleaners. The bleach-based cleaners could fade or crack some soft-touch or painted surfaces over time. Remember to use that antibacterial cleaner on the most frequently-touched spots in the car like the steering wheel, door handles, seat belt, gear-selector, garage opener, radio controls, etc.

Check your tire pressures

Tire pressure is especially important in the spring. As air temperatures get cooler during the winter, tire pressures decrease, which probably caused you to fill up your tires during the winter months. But as air gets warmer again in the spring, tire pressures can increase. If the pressure increases past your manufacturer specification (because you added air during the winter), it can seriously affect your car’s drivability and fuel economy. This is an important part of car care, so if you don’t feel comfortable checking your car’s tire pressures by yourself, take it to an auto-parts store or a national shop — such as Big O Tires, Sears SHLDQ, +3.52% Auto Center or Firestone — which will usually perform the check for a low price or maybe even free.

Inspect your wiper blades

As spring starts and temperatures warm up, check your wiper blades for any signs of cracking or wear. The wiper itself could wear dramatically over the winter due to ice buildup or other issues on your windshield. In most parts of the country, you’ll need those wipers for spring rains, so be sure they’re in good working order after winter comes and goes.

Also see: The 10 best new car models of 2020

Check under the hood

Do a thorough check under your hood to make sure your car’s engine made it through the winter without problems. Specifically, check belts and hoses to ensure the cold temperatures haven’t rendered them brittle or heavily worn. Check your coolant to make sure it’s not too old — an important factor for avoiding overheating as temperatures gradually climb. If you aren’t comfortable performing these checks on your own, contact a local mechanic. While you may get billed for an hour of labor, it’s better than going into the spring with potential issues lurking under your hood.

Check alignment and suspension

Winter is known for being harsh on roads, and that in turn can be harsh on your vehicle. If you find yourself frequently traversing roads with huge potholes or rocks that have emerged from the asphalt, it could ruin your car’s alignment or damage suspension components. Our advice: If you’ve taken your car to a mechanic to check under the hood, ask for a quick suspension and alignment check to make sure nothing is too far outside the manufacturer’s specifications.

This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.

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