What you need to know about potholes and how they affect your car

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As you know we’ve been experiencing a roller coaster of a winter. The extreme highs and lows unfortunately mean one thing for pavements: potholes. Bringing an unusually early pothole season, these wild weather swings have spawned some of the worst potholes on Canadian roads in some time. Drivers across Ontario are gingerly driving over or swerving their way around damaged suspensions, misalignments, and tire damage, all in the name of keeping auto repair costs down.
According to CAA, pothole damage costs Canadians over one billion dollars per year in car repair. The cost to repair a vehicle can vary because of tire size and the extent of the damage.
Avoiding these seasonal hazards will see drivers on their way to scenic spring drives and fun road destinations sooner than their local auto shop!

Sean Cooney-Mann, Automotive Expert from OK Tire answered a few questions for us about potholes

1. Describe in detail how a pothole is created

A variety of factors combine to form the unfortunate road condition we know as potholes.

Roadways are built in layers with the top one being resistant to moisture and curved to encourage draining of water to the shoulder or edge of the pavement’s surface. Over time, when this protective barrier starts to wear, ground water seeps into the pavement causing it to expand and contract depending on the temperature (expanding when freezing and contracting when thawing). When the pavement contracts, gaps are created under its surface making the top layer weak and susceptible to damage. Once this top layer is vulnerable any amount of stress from traffic and the continued expansion and contraction will cause a pothole to be formed.
With typically warmer days and chilly nights spring is generally considered “pothole season” but since we’ve had a winter with extreme weather changes we saw potholes forming as early as January around the city. Repairing potholes is notoriously challenging as they must not only be filled but also sealed to keep water from getting into any cracks.

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2. Between the tire, rim, suspension system and undercarriage, which sees the most amount of damage on average?

This is dependent on how big the pothole is and how you hit it.  If it’s a large or deep pothole all four components can be damaged but the most common issues we see are with the rim and tire.

3. Should you swerve to avoid a pothole or approach it slowly?

People often swerve and then hit the pothole with one of their wheels - that’s when the damage happens which could have otherwise been avoided.|
It’s okay to just drive over them. The only time you don’t want to drive over a pothole is if it’s big enough to damage the underside of your car of if there is something sticking out of it.
Also remember not to brake. It can cause a wheel to lock and transmit a harsher impact to the vehicle
It’s good practice to stay off the seams and edges of the road; a key spot where potholes usually develop.

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4. What's the average size of a pothole?

Potholes vary in size and shape. Generally, the larger potholes cause the most damage, but even small ones can be a problem for your vehicle.

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5. Who will cover the cost of repairs if my car is damaged due to a pothole?

It’s best to call and verify with the city as rules and procedures are different in each municipality. Please see link below for more information. http://www.mississauga.ca/portal/residents/fileaclaim?paf_gear_id=3700008&itemId=80900081&action=faqAnswer

6. Vehicle Damage - I have driven over a City road pothole, debris or manhole cover and have damaged my car. What do I do?

We’ve consulted with the City of Mississauga’s website as each municipality has different rules.

City’s answers: Be sure to see a licensed vehicle mechanic to determine the extent of damage. Contact your automobile insurance company as you may have coverage for this type of loss. Alternatively, submit your claim in writing to the City's Risk Management unit using the "How to file a claim" procedure.

The City of Mississauga has an inspection program which complies with the Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways (Ontario Regulations 239/02) under the Municipal Act. The City’s inspections must be shown to have been deficient in order for the City to be held responsible for damages caused to your vehicle.