Beware The Dreaded Pothole: AAA Finds Average Repair Cost Is Almost $600

Beware The Dreaded Pothole: AAA Finds Average Repair Cost Is Almost $600

We hope you haven't hit a pothole resulting in damage warranting repairs - because according to new data from the American Automobile Association, that repair is likely to be expensive.  AAA recently shared results of its new study that found 1 in 10 drivers who hit a pothole in 2021 sustained damage significant enough to need vehicle repairs. The average price tag for each repair? Almost $600.  What's more, AAA says often times these same drivers ended up with an average of two pothole-related repairs.  Add it all up and AAA says vehicle-related damage from potholes cost U.S. drivers $26.5 billion in 2021 alone.

While late winter and early spring are considered prime "pothole season", they can be a problem any time of the year.  Potholes occur when moisture permeates the pavement – usually through a crack – and softens the soil beneath it, creating a depression in the surface of the street. The freeze-thaw cycle accelerates the process.  Potholes can also be prevalent in areas with excessive rainfall and flooding. When the pavement is compromised, the weight of passing cars can result in a hole in the road. 

“In many parts of the country, winter roads will likely give way to pothole-laden obstacle courses,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering. “When a vehicle hits a pothole with any kind of force, the tires, wheels and suspension get the brunt of the impact and fixing any of those items is pricey.”

Pothole Damage Warning Signs

If you hit a pothole and notice something is wrong with your vehicle, take it to a trusted repair facility for a full vehicle inspection as soon as you can.  The Car Care Council shares these pothole-damage warning signs:

  1. Loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads are indicators that the steering and suspension may have been damaged. The steering and suspension are key safety-related systems. Together, they largely determine a vehicle's ride and handling.

  2. Pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear, are symptoms of an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment is important for the lifespan of tires and helps ensure safe handling.

  3. Low tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the wheel rim will be visible and should be checked out as soon as possible, as tires are the critical connection between the vehicle and the road.

Tips To Avoid Pothole Damage

There are some things you can do to reduce the possibility of hitting a pothole and damage to your vehicle. AAA recommends the following:

  • Check Your Tires
    • Tread depth—insert a quarter into the tread groove with Washington’s head upside down. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, start shopping for new tires.
    • Tire pressure—check this at least once a month using a quality gauge. Do so before driving when tires have been at rest and are not hot. Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure found on a sticker inside the driver’s side door.
    • Suspension and Alignment—look for changes in vehicle handling, excessive vibration or uneven wearing of tires, all indications of a problem with the suspension like alignment or shocks. If your vehicle pulls to the left or right, have the wheel alignment checked by a trusted mechanic.  Read more about Tire Safety in our CarPro advice post .
  • Keep Your Eyes on the Road
    • Scan the road ahead for potholes and if it’s safe to do so, drive around any in your path.
    • Standing water or puddles may disguise a deep pothole. If you can, avoid driving through standing water when possible but if you can’t, drive through slowly and treat them as though there may be potholes hiding beneath the water.
    • AAA says if you can't avoid hitting a pothole, safely reduce your speed as much as possible and avoid braking abruptly, particularly as you go over the pothole as this compresses your suspension and adds extra force to the tire. If you hit a pothole at higher speeds it increases the chance of severe damage including knocking the wheels out of alignment, affecting the steering, and bending or even breaking suspension components.

Report Potholes

 

AAA says pothole problems signal that America’s roadways need immediate attention.  AAA is urging government officials to use money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to  focus on improving road conditions, with a priority on areas most in need of repair.

If you come across a pothole, it's a great idea to report it to your city or municipality, so repairs can be made. Some cities like Houston have a pothole tracker.  Portland, Oregon has one too, You can report potholes in Fort Worth, Texas here.  In Dallas, to report a pothole, call 3-1-1 when dialing from inside the city limits, or (214) 670-5111 when dialing from outside the city limits. Hazardous potholes are repaired with 24 hours. Here's where you can find pothole into for Austin and San Antonio. If you live in Los Angeles, you can report pothole damage here. In Cleveland, Ohio, you'll find pothole information here.


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Editor's note: This post was updated with new information on April 4, 2022.
Image credit: vectorlab2D/Shutterstock.com.