According to 2016 study by AAA, pothole damage costs U.S. drivers approximately $3 billion annually.
Seemingly everywhere – especially after the winter, and often unavoidable – the pesky holes in the road force millions of people to shell out for repairs for everything from tire punctures and bent wheels to suspension problems.
Has it ever happened to you before? It wouldn’t be surprising. Every year, AAA responds to more than 4 million calls for flat tire assistance and many are the result of pothole damage.
AAA’s study discovered that middle- and lower-income drivers were most concerned about potholes, and those most concerned earned less than $75,000 per year. Pothole damage can lead to expensive and extensive vehicle repairs, said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair,
“On average, American drivers report paying $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage,” he said. “Adding to the financial frustration, those whose vehicles incurred this type of damage had it happen frequently.”
The Club is asking state and local governments to fully fund and prioritize road maintenance, such as fixing potholes, to reduce vehicle damage and repair costs. While Congress increased transportation funding in 2015 to help pay for road repair, an additional $170 billion in additional funding is needed to significantly improve the nation’s roads and bridges, according to AAA’s study.
What makes this problem even worse is that many car manufacturers have stopped including spare tires in their latest models. Tire inflator kits have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles sold during the past decade; however, these kits cannot provide even a temporary fix for pothole damage. AAA has called on automakers to include full-size spare tires in new models.
Potholes form when water gets into the road’s asphalt and underlying soil structure, weakening the road’s support system. Repeated traffic action over weakened spots can stress the pavement to its breaking point.
Winter can be an especially fruitful time for potholes because runoff, snow and freezing rain can infiltrate already existing cracks, which then freeze and expand, causing them to deepen and widen. This allows even more water into the structural underpinnings of the roadway, leading to even more damage
Your tires and wheels are going to take the brunt of the force if you drive over a pothole. Unless you’re traveling at a high rate of speed, it’s unlikely that hitting a pothole will damage your suspension. So the real danger is from flat tires, punctures and bent wheel rims. Driving carefully is the best way to avoid pothole tire damage.
How to avoid pothole damage
When you’re driving on bumpy or pothole-filled roads, the first rule is to slow down. If you see a pothole in the road ahead of you, do what you can to safely avoid it. If that is not an option, slow down as much as possible and drive directly over it. Turning the wheel and hitting a pothole can expose more of the tire’s sidewall to potential damage.
If you hit a pothole and it feels like a doozy, check out your wheel and tire for any visible damage. If you feel a vibration or significant shaking after a pothole encounter, it is probably best to have your car checked ASAP by a mechanic. Be sure to keep your tires inflated to the air pressure specifications outlined in your owner’s manual.
Click here for more tips on how to avoid pothole damage and what to do if you can’t.
And if your car is damaged and needs to be fixed, bring it to a Approved Auto Repair Shop and save.