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Published 04/05/2017

Drivers Beware – Pothole Season Is Among Us!

As we enter spring, many of us in the north and northeast of the country are faced with what we like to call pothole season.


What Is A Pothole and How Is It Formed?

Cracks In Pavement

Potholes are holes in the roadways that vary in size and shape. Some are just cracks and others can swallow your car. These holes in our streets and highways are caused by erosion of rock, especially by the action of water.

Most roads today are constructed with a crown in the middle for water to flow to the sides. But water is very insistent. As pavement weakens due to the weight of cars and trucks, cracks are formed and water slides in where it can. In areas that experience freezing temperatures, water that gets under the pavement will also freeze.

Pothole Formed

The frozen water expands and takes up more space than is allotted, pushing the pavement up and weakening the material. Once the ice melts, pavement contracts and leaves gaps or voids in the surfaces where more water can be trapped. This along with vehicle traffic cause cracks and holes. In the winter we put salt down before and after snow fall which lowers the temperature that water will freeze. This creates an artificial freeze-thaw cycle that permits more occurrences of the damaging cycle to occur. During spring we experience frequent fluctuating temperatures and therefore damage in our roads.


So What Affects Do Potholes Have On Our Vehicles?

Van on Hole

Well for one thing, people see a pothole and typically try to swerve around it. While you should absolutely try to avoid hitting a pothole, it’s more dangerous to swerve in and out of lanes at a moment’s notice. And sometimes, you can’t see them because it’s dark or you haven’t left enough space between you and the car in front of you.

If you do see a pothole ahead and can’t safely steer to avoid it, it’s best to slow down, then release the brakes before you hit the hole. This helps to reduce the speed at impact as well as give your suspension the full range of travel to absorb the impact. If you can’t avoid the pothole, straighten your wheel to hit it squarely and roll through. Hitting a pothole at an angle can transfer the energy of the impact in ways more likely to damage your vehicle.


You Hit A Pothole, Now What?

Bent Wheel

Tire and wheel damage are common in pothole hits. Especially if you have alloy wheels, you can do a quick self-inspection to assess the damage. Obvious damage would be a leaking tire or a bent wheel. Do you feel a vibration in the steering wheel? In that case, the tire and/or the wheel will need to be replaced. If there’s no obvious damage, try to notice if your car is pulling to one side or the other. If so, you’ll need to get your steering realigned. All in all, with pothole season among us – drive safe and stay vigilant!


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