Though tire-hungry potholes are typically a sign of spring, the temperature swings of the past few weeks have taken an early toll on Mahoning Valley roads — and drivers, if they are not careful, can be hit in the pocketbook.
The area American Automobile Association is advising motorists to be proactive “during pothole season,” which could last as long as the — daily fluctuation of subfreezing to balmy temperatures sticks around.
Estimates from local repair shops put damage totals anywhere from $200 to $1,000 or even higher. AAA has calculated the average damage to be $306.
“Not only do potholes pose a safety risk to motorists, they can really leave a dent in your wallet,” said Mike Hoshaw, vice president of automotive services, AAA East Central region. “It can cost more than $1,000 to fix problems like tire punctures and bent wheels, let alone uncompromising issues like suspension damage.”
Steve Rienzi, a 40-plus year mechanic who owns Rienzi Quality Car Care at 1894 Elm Road NE in Warren, said sometimes a pothole can be hazardous to the driver.
“I’ve seen a pothole mess up a tie rod, putting the wheel sideways and sending the vehicle into a ditch,” Rienzi said.
Rod Schultz of New Waterford, a mechanic with the Honda Store Service Center in Boardman, said damaged rims for sport utility vehicles could cost up to $500 to replace.
Potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. The moisture expands and contracts when temperatures go up and down. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in a pothole.
Kevin Flinn, Youngstown’s building and grounds commissioner, said the city street department employs a strategy for filling the holes.
“The freeze-thaw cycles and consistent salting and plowing have a significant impact on streets this winter,” Flinn said. “The city works to get potholes patched as quickly as possible, weather permitting. The best time for pothole repairs are on dry days when the temperature is at least 40 degrees or above.”
Tom Klejka, highway superintendent for the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office, said cold patch is a temporary fix that is pliable in cold weather and is made from aggregate and an asphalt material.
“It’s a little more forgiving,” Klejka said, noting on most days he has three or four crews out patching the potholes.
During the summer, he said crews use hot recycled asphalt, which offers a longer-lasting fix than the cold-patch method.
“That’s when we go on the higher traffic roadways — like Tibbetts-Wick Road in Liberty and Weathersfield — looking for that more permanent fix,” Klejka said.
During pothole patching season in Youngstown, main streets and secondary mains are the first priority, Flinn said, with local low-volume, low-speed streets systematically repaired after the main thoroughfares.
In Warren, Safety-Service Director Eddie Colbert said street crews respond to potholes as they are called in by residents or identified by the department.
“Crews have been and will continue to repair damaged areas when not engaged with snow removal or ice control,” Colbert said.
Some major potholes have been spotted on North Leavitt Road in Warren Township, Larchmont Avenue NE in Bazetta / Howland and on West Main Street in Cortland.
A Mahoning Valley motorist reported that several potholes pockmarked Western Reserve Road just east of Market Street in Boardman. Industrial Road on the West Side also was reported heavy with
For drivers to be safe, AAA recommends that those behind the wheel should eliminate distractions and look ahead for roadway hazards. Drivers should maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, and be wary of puddles that may conceal potholes. When dodging potholes, drivers are urged to check surroundings for collision threats.
If a driver cannot avoid a pothole, AAA recommends slowing down, but release the brakes and straighten the steering wheel just before impact to help minimize any damage.
Asked when can northeast Ohio residents can expect “pothole season” to end, a spokeswoman for AAA was noncommittal.
“While there is no way to say for certain when pothole season ends, the problem is worst when we see big temperature swings as the seasons change — especially from winter into spring,” said Linda Lambert, safety advisor for AAA in Louisville, Ky.
Longtime Valley residents know that can sometimes mean late April or early May.
Pothole survival skills
To minimize vehicle damage from potholes, AAA offers these tips:
• Inspect your tires: Properly inflated tires can act as a cushion when hitting a pothole.
• Look ahead: Make a point of scanning the road for potholes so you can react in time to avoid hitting one.
• Slow down: If a pothole cannot be avoided, reduce speed safely without abrupt braking.
• Beware of puddles: Puddles often disguise deep potholes.
• Recognize noises / vibrations: A hard pothole impact can dislodge wheel weights, damage the tire
or wheel and even break suspension components. Any unusual noises after a pothole hit should be inspected immediately.
• Check for a spare: Many newer cars do not have spare tires. Check to see if your vehicle is equipped with a spare, and make sure to check its tire pressure regularly.
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