HAMILTON – Snow, rain, cold, and crazy temperature swings add up to one thing this winter – plenty of potholes. AAA Mid-Atlantic offers some expert advice on how to stay in control on the road and protect your car from pothole damage.
“Potholes don’t just leave you shaken – they’re really a safety hazard,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “You can easily lose control of your vehicle if you hit a pothole, possibly leading to a crash, and it’s just a dangerous to swerve to avoid it. Slow down, and be extra alert, especially as road crews may be out trying to patch them.”
Potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. The moisture expands and contracts when temperatures go up and down. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in a pothole. 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. Tire-related problems and flats account for 16 percent of the 2 million emergency roadside assistance calls received last year by AAA Mid-Atlantic. Tire service ranks as the third-most common reason for AAA roadside assistance calls; the number one reason is towing, with battery service ranking second.
- Inspect Suspension – Make certain struts and shock absorbers are in good condition. Changes in vehicle handling, excessive vibration or uneven tire wear can indicate bad shocks or struts. Have the suspension inspected by a certified technician if you suspect problems.
- 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.
Motorists in New Jersey can report potholes online at www.state.nj.us/transportation/commuter/potholeform.shtm or to their local county office.