Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My First Webinar!

Thanks to the EAA for inviting me to give a webinar!  Thanks to the IAC Email news "In the Loop" to promoting it. 


December 18, 7 p.m. CST: Ultimate Aircraft Buying Guide
Imagine owning the aircraft of your dreams. You can experience what 
thousands of others do every day by owning an aircraft. Scott Sky Smith, 
a nationally recognized aviation writer and speaker, will prepare you to 
buy your first (or next) aircraft. Whether you are buying a light sport, 
standard, or experimental, learn how to calculate the cost of operation, 
where the best deals are, best time of year to buy, and how to evaluate 
the price of your new purchase. He'll also discuss pilot requirements, 
insurance, and what to inspect before you buy.

To find out more about upcoming EAA Webinars and to register, 
visit the webinars page.

Miss a webinar? All webinars are recorded and loaded onto 
the EAA Webinars Channel within 24 hours.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Homeowners winter check list

Homeowners winter check list

This list is not inclusive. Each house has individual items that need to be checked.  If you are in doubt or have questions about a repair or procedure, contact a qualified person for assistance.  

If you have any lawn and garden equipment (mowers, edgers, etc.)  it is important that you take precautions to winterize those items.  Equipment should be cleaned, degreased and dry before storage.  Greasing all applicable areas helps to remove moisture from that part.  Blades from mowers should be sharpened and gasoline should be treated for storage with the appropriate additives.

Always store your equipment in a dry location to prevent corrosion. If possible keep it raised above the ground.   If you don’t grill over the winter, store the grill in a dry area also.

            1. The foundation is the first place to start.  Walk around the house and look for any cracks in the foundation.  The cracks need to be patched to prevent further damage.  Moisture entering the cracks freezes and breaks them foundation.  Patching concrete in a tube is the quickest and easiest.
            2.  Make sure that there is a nice buildup of dirt around the foundation.  The current recommended slope is about 5 percent.  That is a drop of about 6 inches in a distance of about 10 feet.  Home Inspectors and builders estimate that over 75 percent of the moisture problems in basement can be corrected with proper grading and drainage.
            3.  Any blockage in the gutters and down spouts will allow ice dams to form and force moisture under the roofing material and siding.  Make sure the gutters are clean.  Drainage from the gutters and down spouts needs to be directed away from the foundation.  If your down spouts do not have extensions add them to achieve a drainage distance of about 5 feet from the foundation.     Make sure that the drainage doesn't put puddles of water in areas that will be used for walking.  Warm weather thawing and then refreeze will create dangerous ice spots. 
            4.  Check around all the windows and doors for caulking.  If there are gaps or cracks, the existing caulking needs to be removed and replaced.  Make sure the storm windows fit tight and there are no airgaps.  You might also check the glazing on the windows.  Glazing is the material that holds the glass panes in the window frame.  This material can dry up and fall out and needs to be replaced. 
            5. Replace your screens with storm windows and storm doors.  Inspect the screens and make plans to replace or patch any damaged.
            6.  Check your porch and/or deck for damaged or loose boards.  While your under the deck look for cracks in the foundation and the anchors for the deck supports.  Might be a good time to apply additional sealer to the support post at the bases.  They may be covered in snow and moisture for a significant period of time.
            7.  This would also be a good time to treat you deck with a water sealant.  There are a number of new products out that can be applied while the deck is still wet.  This will help prevent the wood from being damaged under prolong exposure to the moisture of snow sleet and rain.     
            8.  Check the roof for damaged or loose shingles.  Loose shingles can be glued down with asphalt cement and missing or damage shingles can be replaced.  If over 50 percent of the roofing material is damaged, consider a new roof.  Most roofers aren't happy working on a roof during cold winter months.  If you have to hire a roofer, start the job early.  Any loose or damage areas will be made worse by snow and freezing moisture.  The wind will blow the snow and moisture under the shingles, freezing and possibly cracking the shingle.
            9.  Check the flashing for rust or damage.  Any moisture that gets between the flashing can freeze and expand, damaging the flashing and the structure that the flashing is attached to. Flashing is usually tar paper or metal and put where the roof meets the chimney, windows and edges. 
            10.  Make sure that the chimney caps are attached and the screens are in place.  No caps or screens allow moisture and animals to enter the chimney.  This would be the time for a call to a qualified chimney sweep for an inspection and cleaning.
            11. Check the siding reattaching and repairing any bad area.  Soft siding is absorbing moisture and needs to be replaced.  Bare spots should be sealed, primed and painted.
            12. Check all of the exterior hydrants (hose faucets) and make sure that they are the freeze proof  type.  Do not leave hoses attached to the hydrant. One evening of freezing temperatures can ruin the hydrant and cause moisture damage to the house from broken pipes.
            13.  If you have an lawn sprinkler system, you need to have a service company flush the system and winterize it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bob's heater core explosion.

I have never given my vehicles a name.  Take that back, the only one named was the boat.  "Risky Business" is a name that associates our business with our fun. But car and motorcycle wise, no names.

Then one day a friend of ours mentioned that when she saw the 2007 Dodge Nitro she thought of  "Sponge Bob Square.... Truck" and from that moment on, the Dodge Nitro has been called "Bob" (a Palindrome too)!

Well, Bob has been a good vehicle. Got him new and he has just passed 130,000 miles.  That is actually longer than I have ever kept a vehicle too.  He drives great, does what's needed and has been all over the country. And even though he's not very big he is able to take Risky Business, the sailboat, the couple miles from  our house to the marina in the spring and back home in the fall.

But this year, Bob was due for new tires (74,000 miles out of the last set) and a once over before the snow and ice hits Iowa.  But before that happened he started to lose his "cool"...or should I say heat.  We had a cold spell and the heater in Bob was not producing much warmth.  Not too big of a problem getting from home to the office or running errands, but still cold.

Then we started getting forecasts for arctic cold combined with ice and snow, so I decided it was time to take Bob to the local Dewey Dodge "Spa and Hospital" for a good fix up.  Good news and bad news resulted.
DOCTOR, Dodge Nitro, BBDO New York, Dodge, Print, Outdoor, Ads
New BF Goodrich AT tires look great (wanted raised white letter but too hard to find them. Guess that's not popular anymore) and the rest of the service went well but the heater core was plugged some how.

Rescheduled Bob for a follow up visit yesterday to get the heater core changed out.  Took them longer than planned because of a few additional items needed, but the biggest surprise was a call from the service writer (Thanks Brian) and the accompanying picture.

Remember the ads about the Dodge Nitro and how when it was jump starting another car it blew the other car up?  (This should be a link to a copy of the ad

By the way there is another ad where the Dodge Nitro shocks (fried actually)  dogs that are peeing on his wheels... looks like Chrysler pulled that ad, but, I could see Bob doing that.

Well, apparently Bob the Dodge Nitro really did blow his cool. The heater core actually has a hole blown out of it. I wondered why it was dripping fluid on the garage floor. No one one has ever seen anything like this.   It has a huge hole blown from the inside out, ragged edges and all. Take a look at the picture.

Weird huh? Apparently that makes Bob a special vehicle, no one has ever seen anything like it.  Cool...Bob the Nitro has just gotten some "street cred"! Of course if he blew something up with Nitrous, it might be a little better but have to take what you can.

Okay, down side to all this, the repairs and all the new parts has not been cheap. Although it is cheaper than a new vehicle. And ultimately, Bob will keep the windows clear and the inside warm after this experience. Thanks Miguel!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Most common boat claims

Owning a boat has its risks. 
In general, the biggest risk comes to the bank account.  At least that’s in my personal experience, owning a boat always seems to costs me money.  Of course, so does a Harley, Cessna or anything else I own. There is always a never-ending list of improvements and gadgets that I want to add.  And if I don’t add things to the existing boat, there is always another boat around the corner I want to buy. New or used the “risk” is there. 

So think you can save money by not adding anything new to your boat?  Sorry doesn't work that way.  Even if you don’t add or change things on your boat, there will always be regular maintenance items that are the result of age or wear and tear. There are also a few fixed costs that boat owners cannot get away from.  Slip or mooring fees and insurance are just a couple. No one but the owner pays these types of expenses.  They are part of the risk of owning a boat. 

Maintenance is necessary and vitally important to maintaining the value and safety of the boat. It is also something that can’t be covered by warranties or insurance. There are a few things that are covered under the warranty that may be construed as maintenance, but typically, warranties are good for defective manufacturing or assembly of your boat, motor and accessories.  If it is a problem that results from regular use (wear and tear) or recommended service intervals…it is not going to be covered by a warranty.  Sure there is always that chance that the local dealer might include free oil changes or tune-ups for some limited amount of time. But that’s not a typical warranty.

Time to make a shameless plug and tell you to buy my book, "Ultimate Boat Maintenance Projects". Published by Motorbooks International and available at book stores or directly from SkySmith. Okay, good maintenance wont protect you from everything, but it sure will help.  I also think that doing some of your own maintenance will make you feel more comfortable as an owner. Learn how and do basic maintenance as an owner,m its good for you!  Want to know more, go to one of my seminars at a boat show in your area.  Not speaking at your boat show?  Maybe you should get them to invite me! Okay, off the soap box. 

Anyway...Insurance, (often defined as the transfer of the risk of a potential loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for a reasonable fee) is sometimes expected to pay for these regular expenses.  Well, let me remind you that wear and tear and maintenance are not covered by insurance. 

Many people try to have regular maintenance items covered by insurance only to be disappointed when the claim is denied.   Items like frozen and cracked engine blocks, overheating damage, even the failure of the bellows will not be covered. The cause (poor service, lack of antifreeze, etc) won’t be covered but the resulting sinking or fire may be. That’s the key. Let me try and clarify this again, the accident and the resulting damage should be covered, but the cause might not.  An example could be the deteriorating bellows on a lower unit.  If the bellows dries out and cracks it could leak and the boat could sink.  The bellows would not be covered, but the damage that results from the sinking probably would.   Okay, seems pretty gray, which but that is just the way it is.

So what are some of the most common claims?
There are a few claims that keep popping up.  One marine insurance claim department I contacted felt that about 80 percent of their claims are the result of hitting a submerged object.

Think about it.  The more storms there are, the more rivers that flood, the more stuff is floating in the water and under the surface. Submerged objects will result in damage to lower units, propellers, keels, and hulls.  Sometimes sinking does occur. If you think or know you hit something, make sure you check bilge area and monitor the bilge regularly to make sure there is not any damage that could result in submersion or, in other words…sinking.

Using information from marine insurance claim departments and organizations like Boat US, a few of the other common claims I discovered are:

Theft of assorted boat equipment and parts (portable or permanent).  Items like out drives, electronics, outboard motors, and trailers are some of the most popular parts.  Leaving the trailer unattended in the parking lot or the cockpit uncovered is an invitation for a thief.  Check your policy, many do not cover items stolen from your boat unless it was permanently attached or in a locked compartment. 

Grand theft boat.  Snatching the whole boat is another big claim.  While there are cases of theft from a slip or mooring, trailer-based boats are the ones that are usually turned in on a claim. Boats, like cars, are often stripped and the parts sold a piece at a time.  Remember the phrase “the sum of the parts is worth more than whole” well that’s true with boat parts.  Plus if you take all the parts off the boat, the parts are harder to track down. 

Collision claims.  Collisions with anything are bad.  Collisions with pilings, docks, and other boats can be deadly.  Collisions are not the same as hitting submerged items. Collisions are just that, colliding with something else either moving (another boat) or stationary (like a dock).  You can help stop collisions by watching where you are going, learn the rules of the area and use your charts.

Grounding or running aground.  Most claims departments indicate that often more damage is caused by trying to accelerate through the sand, mud or rocks than by just stopping and waiting for help.  Using a tow service or an alternative method to get unstuck like air bags, reduces the risk for further damage. . 

Now is a good time to repeat - carry up-to-date marine charts and plan your cruising routes to avoid accidental grounding.

A few of the less common but still important claims mentioned are:
Lightning strikes. Being the one of the tallest things on the water during storms is bound to result in a lightning strike.  Lightning usually “fries” the electronics, puts holes in fiberglass and starts fires.  It is a hard thing to prevent.  Best way to reduce the damage is to ground the boat so the current has a way to pass through to the ground.

Damage from docks.  Wind, weather, and hurricanes, can cause chafing, damage to rub rails and hull joints and even rip cleats out of the decks.  Get in a habit of moving the boat to a safe harbor or new neighborhood when bad weather is imminent.  Learn to tie up securely, use high quality dock lines and fenders.  Last year was bad for the hurricane states.  The underwriters are already increasing rates and reducing or eliminating territories and coverage’s. 

There are a few claims relating to fire and explosion. Often the cause is from bad wiring, fuels leaks, overheated manifolds, and even bilge vents not being used or being blocked. These claims can be reduced or eliminated just by taking part in a good preventative maintenance plan.

Occasionally there will be a boat that sinks from bad through-hull fittings, damaged sea cocks and the bilge pump being blocked and/or the back up bilge pump and warning system being inoperative.  Occasionally a storm with lots of heavy rain or combined with a lightning strike can short the boats battery preventing the bilge pumps from working.

Of course, the list above is not inclusive.  There are all sorts of variations along with different levels of each type of claim.  Even if you take all the precautions, accidents do happen. Boat owners buy insurance to transfer the risk to the insurance company for those unexpected catastrophes, so make sure you have the right coverage for your vessel and you implement a preventative maintenance plan to help reduce potential claims.