Potholes: How They Develop and How to Prevent Them

According to a recent study by the AAA auto club, drivers in the U.S. spend over $3 billion each year repairing the damage done to their vehicles by potholes. The types of problems you can expect to confront include tire damage, bent rims, body dents, and scrapes. And in some cases, damage to the alignment may occur. At times you might face safety hazards because small cracks and holes will develop into larger potholes.

Potholes result from a combination of traffic and water. One visit to the Grand Canyon would convince you of the enormous power of erosion and the role water plays in the process. Over time water versus rock ends with the destruction of the rock.
Roads are built out of rocks and other rock-like materials not nearly as strong as natural rocks so the destruction is much quicker. Builders use specialized techniques, like using several layers as a defense against the destruction.

The top layer resists water and is structured like a small hill. You’ve seen speed bumps, roads are built the same way only flatter. The design allows water to drain and run off the shoulder. Water has several partners in the destruction of roads. Heat and cold expand and contract the roadway and in collaboration with traffic cause cracks in the surface of the road but also deeper into the building material. These cracks allow water to seep under the surface instead of rolling down the little hill onto the shoulders.

In colder temperatures, the water under the surface will freeze and expand. As temperatures warm, the ice melts and the roadway will contract leaving gaps and as the process is repeated the damage becomes more and more extensive as the cracks become wider. The stress of traffic pushes material downward adding to the damage the results of these factors are potholes.

You now understand the reasons for and causes of how potholes are created. You’ve seen some techniques used for repair and prevention. The critical key to prevention is getting to the damage early. Repairing a small problem is far easier and less expensive than waiting until the damage is more extensive. The goal during an early intervention is stopping water from seeping under the surface. Sealing cracks, even small ones can prevent the need for larger repairs and save taxpayers money. Drivers also will save money by eliminating the necessity of vehicle repair.

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