Cold nighttime temperatures and heavy rain last month, which in some areas of Southern California produced hail, sleet and snowfall, are creating new potholes which some drivers are starting to encounter. Potholes are caused when cold water works its way into asphalt and cracks it. They can damage tires or vehicle suspension components and increase the possibility of costly repairs, said Megan McKernan, the manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center.
“Hitting even one severe pothole could pop a tire or alter the alignment of a wheel from suspension damage resulting in uneven tire wear. Uneven and premature tire wear means the tire will need replacement sooner than necessary and can increase fuel consumption at needless expense,” said McKernan.
According to the City of Los Angeles Street Maintenance Division, they typically receive 2 to 5 times more requests to fill potholes after rainstorms than on normal days and reported nearly 700 requests to fill potholes within the last week alone.
Every year, the Auto Club responds to more than 660,000 calls for flat tire assistance, many incidents are the result of damage caused by potholes. Last month, the Auto Club’s calls for tire service increased by six percent, much of it pothole-related.
“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,” McKernan added.
The Auto Club recommends the following tips to help drivers avoid potholes and protect vehicles from damage:
- Maintain proper air pressure in all tires to provide as much cushion as possible between the pothole and tire rim. 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 tire manufacturer’s 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 so scan the road and increase following distance behind the vehicle ahead. Before swerving around a pothole, be sure to check surrounding traffic and lanes to determine if it’s safe to move over.
- Maintain a safe speed for weather conditions. If a pothole can’t be avoided, slow down, if possible. Hitting a pothole at high-speed increases the chance of tire damage as well as harm to wheels, shocks, struts, steering or suspension. High speed also increases chances 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 can increase damage from the impact. If a pothole strike is inevitable, slow down, release the brakes and straighten steering before making contact with the pothole.
Pothole Repair Costs
Pothole damage varies from year to year. In a prior survey, AAA estimated that potholes cost American drivers at least $3 billion annually, but that figure may soar much higher based on the severity of the rain, and road conditions. The survey also found, on average,
American drivers pay about $250 to more than $1,000 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage.
The Auto Club recommends drivers, who suspect their vehicle’s suspension components were damaged or broken by a pothole, have their vehicle towed to a high-quality repair facility such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility where it can be inspected and serviced, if necessary.
Information about Southern California AAA Approved repair shops can be located at www.AAA.com/repair or by calling your local AAA branch. AAA members receive unique benefits, including priority service, a 24-month/24,000-mile warranty, special discounts, free inspections, dispute resolution assistance and more.