As temperatures rise in spring following a cold and snowy winter, potholes can become a costly and unwanted roadway headache for motorists.
Potholes form after snow or rain seeps into the soil below the road surface. When moisture freezes as temperatures drop, the ground expands and pushes up the pavement.
Once temperatures increase, the ground can return to normal level, but the pavement stays raised, creating a gap between the pavement and ground below it. As cars drive over this gap, the road surface cracks and falls into the hollow space leading to a pothole.
A survey produced by AAA found that nearly 30 million U.S. drivers experienced pothole damage significant enough to require repairs in 2016. Repair costs ranged from under $250 to more than $1,000, according to AAA’s findings. The annual cost of potholes to U.S. drivers has reached $3 billion.
The high cost of pothole damage can be felt in many different ways, whether it's damage to the tires, body of the vehicle or suspension.
Here are five preventive methods that automotive experts recommend in order to minimize damage from potholes.
1. Keep tires properly inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure
“A properly-inflated tire has a better chance of withstanding the impact than an under-inflated one,” said Richard Reina, product training director at CARiD.com.
Experts suggest keeping the tires inflated to the levels recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. This information can usually be found on the inside of the driver’s doorjamb.
2. Make sure your suspension is in good shape
“Worn shocks and suspension bushings, like the tires, will not tolerate the impact as well as serviceable suspension parts,” Reina said.
Changes in vehicle handling, excessive vibration or uneven tire wear can indicate bad shocks or struts, according to AAA.
3. Maintain a safe following distance and watch out for puddles
Giving yourself enough time to react to the road ahead is key, according to Michelin. This allows motorists to have more time to adjust speed or minimize impact.
It's also crucial to keep a look out for puddles, which may conceal potholes and how deep they might be.
4. Slow down and keep a firm grip on the wheel
Sometimes hitting a pothole is simply unavoidable, and Reina said maneuvering your car to avoid a pothole can be more dangerous than the pothole itself.
If you can’t avoid a pothole, it’s best to slow down to minimize impact and grip the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control. Braking while over a pothole could cause more damage to a car, according to Michelin.
5. Know the signs of trouble
After hitting a pothole, it’s important to look for signs of damage immediately. Potholes can cause a wheel to fall out of alignment, which can cause it to pull left or right and also result in severe wear on the tires. Tires should be checked for severe cracks or bulges.
If any unusual vibrations or noises occur after hitting a pothole, the vehicle should be taken to a mechanic for further inspection.
"In the event that you hit a pothole and have damaged the tire, make sure that your spare is properly inflated and in good shape," Reina said. "Also, before this happens, take a few minutes one weekend and familiarize yourself with your car’s jack, lug wrench and tire-changing instructions."
Motorists are encouraged to report potholes to their local municipality or state department of transportation to ensure that the road can be repaired in a timely manner.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.