Erratic temperatures including deep freezes this winter have been a recipe for bumpy roads in much of the country, with tooth-rattling potholes opening up left and right. Even if you do your best to steer clear, these road hazards can be hard to avoid. Read on to learn a bit more about potholes (and what you can do about them).
What causes potholes, anyway?
Potholes aren’t just a cold-weather problem, but the freeze and thaw cycles of a tough winter can definitely ramp up their production. For the most part, it’s the accumulation of water under the road which can either freeze or simply wash out the earth underneath. Either way, the result is the same—ca-chunk!
What damage can potholes do to your car?
Potholes can cause damage to your vehicle ranging from flat tires or bent wheels to much pricier damage to your suspension, steering system or exhaust system. If you suspect damage after hitting a pothole, take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic or tire shop.
How can I avoid potholes?
Be aware. Slow down, keep a close eye on the road and take note if the cars in front of you are going out of their way to avoid potholes. Beyond that:
- Be extra careful when it rains. Water-filled potholes are harder to spot, especially in poor visibility.
- Check your tire pressure. Properly inflated tires can handle potholes better than underinflated or overinflated ones.
- Avoid sharp braking. If you can’t avoid a pothole, don’t slam on the brakes. Your vehicle’s suspension can better handle the bump by rolling right through the pothole.
How to File a Pothole Claim
Fortunately many—but not all—cities let you file a pothole claim if your car sustains substantial damage from a pothole on a state or city roadway. The process varies by state and city, but here are a few helpful tips that’ll help you make your case no matter where you live. (Check in with the state or city where your car sustained damage for specific instructions on how to file a pothole claim.)
- Keep a detailed record. Take note of the date and time of day the damage occurred as well as the exact location. Also make sure to include a detailed explanation of the damages your car endured.
- Take a photo of the pothole. A visual can help support your claim.
- Get the contact information of any witnesses. Eyewitnesses can help bolster your case.
- File a police report. Call the appropriate state or city police department and file a report. Make sure to get a copy of the report to submit with your claim.
- Get two or three repair estimates. Most places require you to submit estimates along with your claim.
- File your claim ASAP. Some places limit the number of days in which you can file a claim after an incident, so it’s best to submit one sooner rather than later.
Keep in mind there’s no guarantee your claim will be accepted and that payments for damages can have a cap. It’s still worth a try. (Who wants to pay extra when potholes damage your car? It’s certainly no way to welcome spring.) So check in with your state and/or city to find out if and what they cover when it comes to pothole claims.