Feb 17, 2022

AAA: Potholes can be big hit on your wallet

Posted Feb 17, 2022 6:29 PM


WICHITA – The constant back-and-forth this winter – with weather fluctuating between snow and ice and 60-degree temperatures, and back again a few days later, has been hard of roads. These conditions will likely pave the way for potholes, another expense for drivers during a winter that has already been costly for many of them.

“First, AAA Roadside Assistance crews responded to thousands of calls from members with dead batteries during the cold, and now we’re seeing plenty of tire-related calls,” said Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas. "Damage from potholes is not just an inconvenience. It can be a significant expense.”

Photo courtesy AAA
Photo courtesy AAA

In some cases, the impact of poor road conditions on vehicles can leave a car owner with repair bills ranging from under $250 to more than $1,000 depending on the extent of the damage, the make of the vehicle and the type of tires.

“Hitting a pothole can damage much more than just your tires,” Steward said. “In addition to the cost of extensive repairs, many vehicles these days don't have a spare tire, so those without AAA have the added expense of a tow as well.”

Typically, potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall, the moisture expands and contracts due to freezing and thawing. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in the formation of potholes.

Blown tires, dented rims, damaged wheels, dislodged wheel weights, displaced struts, dislocated shock absorbers, and damaged exhaust systems are all are costly common automotive issues caused by pothole run‐ins. Other telltale signs include misaligned steering systems, and ruptured ball joints.

According to a AAA study on pothole damage:

●Americans spend $3 billion per year to repair pothole-related damages to their vehicles.

●American drivers paid an average of $300 each to repair pothole-related damages to their vehicles in 2017, AAA estimated.

“It is critical for motorists to be proactive and have their vehicle inspected whenever they suspect damage,” Steward said. “Ignoring the problem could be a costly mistake.”

AAA urges motorists to avoid driving through puddles, which could be “potholes in disguise.”

To aid motorists in protecting their vehicles from pothole damage, AAA recommends the following:

Inspect Tires – The tire is the most important cushion between a car and a pothole. Make sure tires have enough tread and are properly inflated. To check the tread depth, insert a quarter into the tread groove with Washington’s head upside down. The tread should cover part of Washington’s head. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to start shopping for new tires. When checking tire pressures, ensure they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended levels, which can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker on the driver’s door jamb. Do not use the pressure levels stamped on the sidewall of the tire.

Look Ahead – Make a point of checking the road ahead for potholes. An alert driver may have time to avoid potholes, so it’s important to stay focused on the road and not any distractions inside or outside the vehicle. Before swerving to avoid a pothole, check surrounding traffic to ensure this will not cause a collision or endanger nearby pedestrians or cyclists.

Slow Down – If a pothole cannot be avoided, reduce speed safely being sure to check the rearview mirror before any abrupt braking. Hitting a pothole at higher speeds greatly increases the chance of damage to tires, wheels and suspension components.

Beware of Puddles – A puddle of water can disguise a deep pothole. Use care when driving through puddles and treat them as though they may be hiding potholes.

Check Alignment – Hitting a pothole can knock a car’s wheels out of alignment and affect the steering. If a vehicle pulls to the left of right, have the wheel alignment checked by a qualified technician.

Recognize Noises/Vibrations – A hard pothole impact can dislodge wheel weights, damage a tire or wheel, and bend or even break suspension components. Any new or unusual noises or vibrations that appear after hitting a pothole should be inspected immediately by a certified technician.

For more on how to prevent serious vehicle damage from potholes, motorists can visit AAA.com.