BOISE – As the roads freeze and thaw, drivers may start noticing more potholes on their daily commute.  According to a new survey by AAA, 1 in 10 drivers sustained vehicle damage that was severe enough to require repair after hitting a pothole last year.  With an average price tag of almost $600 per repair, potholes cost drivers $26.5 billion dollars in 2021 alone.

Potholes form when moisture collects in cracked and crumbling pavement, then expands and contracts due to freezing and thawing.  Eventually, the weight of passing cars can displace the broken pavement to create a pothole.

Last spring, AAA responded to 940,000 roadside assistance requests for tire issues nationwide, including 1,500 here in Idaho.  While AAA does not identify the specific cause of tire and wheel damage for each roadside request, potholes have the potential to cause significant damage to a vehicle’s tires, alignment, suspension and shocks.

“When pavement is in good condition, drivers get a smoother ride and can stop more quickly,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “Continued strategic investment in our transportation infrastructure can prevent more expensive repairs in the future, helping to avoid hefty bills and more extensive construction-related traffic delays.”

How to mitigate pothole damage

Check your tires, including tread depth, tire pressure, suspension, and alignment.  To make sure your tires are ready for the road, use the quarter test – turn a quarter upside down in the tread, and if you can see the top of George Washington’s head, it’s time to think about replacing the tire.  Tire pressure recommendations can be found in the vehicle owner’s manual or on a sticker inside the driver’s side door.

Need a new set of tires? Check out Discount Tire and save $10 on each ‘better’ or ‘best’ model with your AAA membership.

Be an engaged driver:

  • Actively scan the road ahead and watch for sudden braking or swerving that may indicate the presence of a pothole.
  • Be careful while driving through standing water, which could disguise a deep pothole.
  • If you can’t avoid the pothole, safely reduce your speed as much as possible. Avoid sharp braking, which compresses the suspension and applies extra force to the tire.  Striking a pothole at higher speeds increases the likelihood of vehicle damage, including bent or broken components and other alignment issues.
  • If you hit a pothole, pay attention to any changes in handling, vibration, or pulling that may be signs of an issue. When in doubt, have your vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic, such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.