Without fail, just when all of winter’s icy, snowy, slushy weather conditions seem to be over, a new driving hazard moves in: potholes. And just as one gets repaired, two jump up to take its place. Let’s dig in and see how they form.
Freeze + Thaw = Potholes
One of the biggest causes of potholes comes from the seasonal freeze-thaw pattern that a majority of the country experiences every year. Water from melting snow and ice seeps beneath the road surface through tiny cracks in the pavement. When temperatures drop overnight, the water freezes and expands, forcing the road to rise. Traffic then places stress on the weakened structure, widening existing cracks and allowing even more water to seep through. The whole cycle repeats until the pavement finally gives way and, BOOM!, a pothole is born.
Potholes in Warm Climates
Even states like Arizona, Louisiana and California aren’t immune to the headache of potholes. In fact, Los Angeles consistently ranks among cities with the worst road conditions. The reason? Water. Even without expansion of it freezing under the surface, water can still create gaps in the pavement’s soil base and soften the asphalt. Larger cracks in the surface from the hotter sun allow in even more water. The weight of passing cars and trucks then break up the weakened spot and, again, a pothole is formed. It’s even possible for a pothole to occur on a dirt road.
What to do?
Just because the road looks dry, doesn’t mean you should speed up. Reducing your speed gives you a better chance to spot potholes and drive around them. And even if you do hit one, you’re less likely to cause pothole damage to your car at a lower speed. Also, be on the lookout for warning signs, like a puddle which could very well be a pothole in disguise, or a cracked road surface, which might be a pothole waiting to blow. Finally, make sure to report any potholes you see to your city’s department of transportation. The sooner you do, the sooner they’ll be repaired.
Even with added caution, pothole damage can still happen. And if it does, a Firestone Complete Auto Care location near you can help with any needed repairs.