It’s pothole season!
This post is part of a paid partnership with Cooper Tires, which provided information for this story. Learn more about protecting your tires and your car by following the hashtag #TakeOnPotholes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
When we first announced to our families that we were moving to Michigan, my aunt laughingly said, “No worries, you’ll know by your butt when you get there.” And to be honest, I did not understand until we crossed the state line from Ohio into Michigan what she meant. Michigan roads are notoriously terrible, which is odd when you consider that it’s the home to famous Motor City.
It was a good 9 months later that we learned exactly why this is. Our first winter was the worst they’d had in decades, and when the spring thaw came, the roads were even worse.
According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, “Potholes occur when snow and ice melt as part of Michigan’s seasonal freeze-thaw cycles. The resulting water then seeps beneath the pavement through cracks caused by the wear and tear of traffic. As the temperatures cool to freezing at night, the water becomes ice and expands below the pavement, forcing the pavement to rise. As the weight of traffic continues to pound on this raised section – and the temperatures once again rise above freezing – a shallow divot occurs under the surface and the pavement breaks, forming a pothole. A pothole is typically fixed by cleaning out the loose debris and filling it with hot and cold asphalt patch.”
Basically, potholes are just a part of life when you live in places where snow and ice are part of your climate. The worse the snow and ice, the worse the potholes.
So if potholes are just a part of life, what can we do to protect our vehicles from damage caused by them? On average, drivers spend $300 to repair damage related to potholes. And I’d rather keep that money in my pocket.
Avoid Potholes, If You Can.
This seems obvious, I know. But the truth is, when you live in an area where potholes are the norm, you get used to ignoring the little ones and saving your driving energy for avoiding the big scary-looking ones. But the wear and tear on your tires add up, even from the little ones that you’ve stopped really noticing.
If your normal driving routes are pock-marked with potholes, consider choosing a new route with fewer obstacles. Even if you just do this temporarily until the pothole repair season is in full swing and some of them have been filled in, it can make a big impact on the lifespan of your tires.
If a new route isn’t in the cards, do anything you safely can to avoid hitting them. Do your best to scan the road ahead of you for potholes so that you have time to avoid them (if you can safely do so). It’s also wise to avoid large puddles because they could be disguising potholes.
And give yourself room between your car and the driver ahead of you. If he bounces through a pothole you may be right behind him, like it or not.
Take on Potholes the Right Way.
Sometimes potholes are simply unavoidable. You know the one, it’s in the middle of an intersection, or smack dab in front of your favorite parking spot at the grocery store. Or maybe it’s on the interstate and you can’t safely switch lanes to avoid it.
When approaching a pothole, slow down as much as safely possible, but release the brake before making contact with the pothole. The faster you hit a pothole, the more likely you are to cause damage to not just your tires, but your wheels and suspension as well.
It’s also wise to evaluate your tires after taking direct contact with a large pothole, especially if you weren’t able to slow down much before hitting it.
Make Tire Maintenance a Priority
According to Jessica Egerton, Director of Brand Development at Cooper Tire, “While it can be easy to overlook tires, it’s important to remember that your tires are the only 4 things connecting your car to the road. At Cooper, we encourage everyone to take 10 minutes to check your tires before heading out on the road. It’s as easy as 1,2,3—check the pressure, tread depth and the overall condition of the tire.”
This is one area that I’ve developed a pretty good habit around since I started driving, thanks to my step-dad who was a little fanatical about these kinds of things. It’s actually pretty simple: check your tires while you’re fueling your car! Before you leave the gas pump, check your tires with a digital pressure gauge, evaluate the tread, and give your tires just a good visual once-over for any spots that look worn.
This habit recently saved me from experiencing a blowout when I noticed a tire that was low at consecutive fuel-ups and had early signs are wear.
Not Sure How to Tell if Your Tire Tread is Still in Good Shape?
Our friends at Cooper Tire have a quick, helpful tutorial:
“Checking tread depth is easy, and can be done with a U.S. Penny. The tread on your tires should be more than 2/32 of an inch deep and can be checked by inserting a U.S. penny into the tread, with Lincoln’s head facing down. If the top of Lincoln’s head is covered by tread, there is at least a minimum acceptable amount of tread. If the top of his head is visible at any point around the tire, it is time to replace the tire.”
Knowing that you have good tire tread to withstand the inevitable potholes is not just comforting for the drive ahead, it’s comforting to your butt, too!