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10 tips to avoid a pothole disaster

Published March 11, 2013
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It may be getting close to the end of winter driving season but don’t get too excited about spring yet. We have to remember we must still survive our second least favourite time of the motoring year – pothole season.

This time of year is when we can get the wide fluctuations in temperatures and freeze-thaw cycles. During the warmth of the day as the snow and ice melts, the water seeps into cracks and crevices in the road and sidewalk surfaces. At night when it dips below the freezing point, that melt water freezes and expands pushing up on the pavement and breaking it up. As traffic drives over these weak points they get worse and expand in size until they can swallow a car tire.

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To prevent damage to your vehicle or even loss of control, here are a few driving tips to keep you safe and your wheels round.

1. Do not tailgate. Stay well back of the vehicle in front of you. This will allow you to see potholes in plenty of time to avoid them. It will also reduce the chances of stones and debris flying up and hitting your vehicle. Following farther back also allows you to brake easier for potholes since the driver behind you will probably be following too close to you.

2. It is always important to keep your vision high and not always looking downward at the road looking for potholes and debris. Use quick glances to look for dangers on the road surface.

3. Stay focused on driving. Being distracted can make you miss seeing or reacting to wheel bending potholes.

4. Keep two hands on the steering wheel at the 9 and 3 o’clock position. This gives you the best control to help steer around potholes. You don’t even have to take your hands off the steering wheel to steer enough avoid the holes with your hands in this position.

5. Do not swerve violently to miss a pothole. Any avoidance maneuvers should be done with smooth steering inputs. Jerking the steering wheel to miss a pothole can cause loss of control and greater damage, injury or even death.

6. Be cognizant of oncoming traffic if you must swerve into oncoming lanes to miss a pothole. If opposing traffic is busy, you are better off hitting a pothole rather than hitting oncoming traffic head on!

7. Most potholes tend to occur along pavement seams and where truck or bus tires wear down the asphalt and allow water to access the road base. You can avoid most of these by keeping your tires out of the well-travelled ruts and away from pavement seams.

8. Slow down on rough roads to give you a better chance to avoid any potholes. Higher speeds reduce reaction time and control.

9. Slow down when you must drive through a pothole but get off the brakes just before encountering the pothole. This will reduce the load on the suspension and the impact force.

10. Be careful with water filled potholes as this can mask how deep the hole is or what may be lurking under the water. It is best not to drive through a water filled pothole.

If you have experienced the misfortune of hitting a pothole, have your vehicle’s wheel alignment checked and repaired if necessary. A vehicle with poor wheel alignment will experience high tire wear and poor fuel economy. In extreme cases it could lead to loss of control. Potholes can also damage your tires and these should be inspected after a pothole encounter.

If your vehicle has been severely damaged by a pothole, document the location, photograph it if it is safe to do so and report it to your municipality. Do not try to photograph a pothole if there is traffic nearby or if it puts you in danger. Your life is not worth it.

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