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How to Manage Pothole Season

Published March 13, 2019

Every driverís worst nightmares are those tire-blowing potholes that just donít seem to ever get fixed, but have you ever wondered why spring is considered pothole season?

When Is Pothole Season?

During the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the ďfreeze and thawĒ cycle begins. Temperatures warm up enough during the day to melt snow and ice to form puddles. Then, with the temperature often dropping below freezing at night, it causes the water that seeped into the cracks to freeze. When water freezes it expands, and this causes cracks to form in asphalt, cement, and even on rocks/dirt.

How Do Potholes Form?

Serious potholes start with rain or snow seeping into the road through small cracks and crevices. The water then flows down into the sub-base and the dirt beneath the pavement. When it gets really cold, usually at night, the water expands in the space between the pavement and the dirt. This pushes the pavement upward like a bubble. Then, when it warms up the next day, the ground contracts and there is now a cavity beneath the pavement that eventually becomes so weak it crumbles, creating a pothole.

How Does It Affect Your Car?

Potholes do a lot of damage to vehicles each year, mostly in the form of flat tires. Sometimes, damage can be more severe than just a blown out tiring ó including misalignment and even damage to springs and shocks.

The AAA responds to over four million calls for flat tire assistance each year and many of those flat tires are the result of potholes. Whatís more, pothole damage costs U.S. drivers $3 billion dollars annually.

Potholes can cause damage to other parts of the vehicle, even if they are not near the wheels, because the impact can jar components loose or put too much stress on bolts. If you hit an especially bad pothole, be sure to get out and inspect the damage when it is safe to do so. You may also find your car handles differently after hitting the pothole, which is a sure sign that you should head to a mechanic to get it checked out.

Who Is Liable?

When you are hit by another car, itís pretty clear who is liable, but when your car is damaged by potholes who is responsible for footing the bill?
In most cases, the government entity in charge of maintaining the road is legally liable for damage caused by a pothole, but getting them to pay is another matter.

The government has a responsibility to use tax dollars to keep roads maintained, and when they fail to do so it makes the road more hazardous for everybody.

How to File a Claim

If you suspect a pothole has caused damage to your vehicle, it can be worth contacting your city and filing a claim. To do this, you will need to be able to tell the city the exact location of the pothole, the road it is on, the direction you were traveling when you hit it, and other notable characteristics of the pothole. Also, if there are any witnesses they can be very helpful in establishing a reliable case.

Some cities are more willing to compensate drivers than others, but if it is a pothole that has been complained about before and it still hasnít been fixed, there is a good chance you may get the repairs paid for by the city.

How to Avoid Potholes

The best way to avoid potholes it to keep your eyes on the road ahead and try to avoid them. Stay in the lane with the least amount of potholes but be careful about swerving around them. It can be dangerous to swerve around potholes, as there may be another vehicle in your blind spot. The last thing you want is to get in a car accident over a pothole.

Some other tips include keeping your tires properly inflated and your headlights working. This way, even at night, you can see the road ahead of you. If you have to drive over a pothole, donít speed up but donít slow down erratically either.

As long as you exercise some good practices such as keeping an eye on the road ahead and doing your best to avoid potholes, it is possible to avoid damage from them altogether. But there are certainly times when a pothole is hidden or just canít be avoided. When that is the case, maintain your current speed, donít swerve wildly into another lane to avoid it, and if you do sustain damage, be sure to document the location of the potholes and the damage it caused because there is always a chance the city will pay for it.
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