Auto Club: Cold Temps and El Nino Rains Creating Potholes

(LOS ANGELES, Feb. 10, 2010) – Cold nighttime temperatures and the recent El Nino rain storms, which in some areas of Southern California produced hail, sleet and snowfall, are creating new potholes which some motorists encountered today during the morning commute. Potholes are caused when water works its way into asphalt and cracks it. They can damage vehicle suspension components and increase the possibility of costly repairs, said Steve Mazor of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center.  
Mazor recommends the following tips to help protect vehicles – and drivers – against the jarring experience of hitting a pothole in their path.
  • Maintain proper air pressure in all tires to provide as much cushion as possible between the pothole and the rim of the tire.  Consult the vehicle owner’s manual or the sticker on the driver’s side door jamb, inner glove box or inside of the fuel filler flap for the correct pressure.
  • Watch for potholes by leaving plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Alert drivers have plenty of time to avoid potholes.  Before swerving around a pothole, be sure to check surrounding traffic to determine if it’s safe to change lanes.
  • Maintain a safe speed for the weather conditions. If a pothole cannot be avoided, slow down, if possible. Hitting a pothole at high-speed increases the chance of damage to tires, wheels, shocks, struts, springs or suspension components.  High speed also increases the chance of losing control of the vehicle, especially if a series of potholes occurs on a curved or uneven roadway.
  • When driving over more than one pothole, reduce vehicle speed and hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control.
  • If possible, don’t brake directly over a pothole.  Applying brakes causes the car’s weight to shift to the front of the vehicle and wheels and can increase damage from the impact.
  • Beware of water that may be concealing a deep pothole.  “Hitting even one severe pothole could alter the alignment of a wheel from suspension damage resulting in uneven tire wear.  Uneven and premature tire wear means the tire will need to be replaced sooner than necessary and increase fuel consumption at needless expense,” said Mazor. 
“A broken shock or strut from hitting a pothole could alter the steering and handling of a vehicle, and create dangers when driving at higher speeds or in tight corners.  Broken or damaged suspension components should be remedied immediately,” Mazor added.
Motorists who suspect their vehicle may have been damaged by a pothole should take their vehicle to a quality repair facility such as an Auto Club Approved Auto Repair facility where it can be carefully inspected, and serviced, if necessary, the Auto Club recommends.
Maintaining your vehicle’s tires is also crucial to safe driving, said Mazor. Every other fill-up, walk around the vehicle and check tires for uneven or excessive tread wear as well as proper inflation.  Refer to the vehicle’s doorjamb or glove box for original equipment specifications or the manufacturer of the replacement tire for proper tire pressure inflation, he added. The Auto Club also recommends a tire rotation approximately every 7,500 miles, said Mazor. Check your owner’s manual for your specific vehicle’s service recommendations.
There are more than 7,500 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities in North America.  The names and addresses of the more than 650 AAA-Approved shops throughout Southern California can be located at or by calling your local AAA office.  

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Elaine Beno
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