The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Safety & Accident

AAA Offers Advice on Protection from Potholes

March 02, 2011

When winter's snow and ice finally melt away, they invariably leave behind an unpleasant reminder of this winter's severe storm season -- potholes.

"Major winter storms have affected much of the country this season. While many motorists' cars have made it through the winter storm season unscathed, they could still fall victim to a pothole left in its aftermath," said John Nielsen, director of AAA auto repair and buying programs.

Potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall, the moisture expands and contracts because of freezing and thawing. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in a pothole.

You may want to pass along these AAA recommendations to your fleet drivers and maintenance personnel as a friendly, seasonal reminder:

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 your speed safely. 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 or 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 technician.

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. When checking tire pressures, ensure the tires 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.

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 qualified technician if you suspect problems.

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