Potholes a Constant Safety
and Financial Threat, AAA Warns
Courtesy of the American Automobile Association
-- Unrepaired potholes are a year-round problem that can cause significant safety hazards and high vehicle repair bills, according to the American Automobile Association.
"Inadequate highway funding means many deteriorated roads and bridges are not repaired promptly," said David Van Sickle, AAA director of Automotive and Consumer Information. "As a result, motorists often must risk a collision by swerving to avoid potholes or take the impact and face repair bills that can reach hundreds of dollars."
AAA has launched a nationwide campaign -- "Crisis Ahead: America's Aging Highways and Airways" -- to heighten awareness of the deteriorating condition of the nation's transportation system. Federal government studies show more than one-third of U.S. roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
A single encounter with a pothole can affect vehicle handling, long-term reliability and make a vehicle unsafe for continued operation, according to AAA.
Signs that a vehicle may have been damaged by rough-road conditions include premature or uneven tire wear, pulling or drifting to one side on level roads, vibrations from tires or steering wheels, squeaking noises and fluid leaks.
Basic repairs for damage by a pothole impact can cost from $50 for a simple wheel alignment to $500 to replace top-of-the-line alloy wheels. A solid impact with a pothole, however, often damages multiple components -- including tires, control arms, tie rods and ball joints -- which can add significantly to the repair bill.
Potholes are formed primarily by freezing and thawing moisture under pavement. They most often appear in winter and spring after periods of cold weather. Potholes also are found in warm-weather regions, where heat and rain contribute to pavement failure.
"Some roads are so poorly maintained that there is no realistic way to miss every pothole," said Van Sickle, "but there are ways to reduce the cost of repair."
If a pothole cannot be safely avoided, try to roll slowly through it rather than braking rapidly, AAA advises. A locked wheel suffers more damage than a rolling one.
Motorists should also be sure their tires are inflated properly. Too much air pressure increases the risk of tire damage from pothole impact, while low pressure increases the risk of wheel damage.
Because of the complicated nature of suspension repairs, motorists should always get a written estimate before committing to repairs. If the estimate seems too high, AAA suggests getting a second opinion. Also, motorists should ask to see replaced parts and should avoid repairs with used parts.
To provide detailed information about the risks of potholes, AAA has prepared a report, "The Perils of Potholes -- the Danger and the Dollars." To obtain a free copy send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to: Potholes, 1000 AAA Drive, Mail Stop 75, Heathrow, FL 32746.