Tips for Protecting Yourself and Your Car Against Potholes

As springtime thaw nears, James Bell shares tips and tricks for navigating the potholes that winter has left behind.

The winter of 2013-2014 will go down as one of the most brutal, icy, frigid and snowy in U.S. history.  From Denver to Boston to Atlanta and many points in between, Mother Nature has left “souvenirs” of her wrath in thousands of new potholes erupting up and down our roadways, and the resulting long lines at tire replacement shops and car dealerships around the country.

On the personal side, while I live in mild Southern California, my job with GM takes me on many of the frozen and afflicted highways and byways in rental cars where I have had my share of BAM “what was that???” moments, followed by breathless dread waiting for an indication that the unexpected pothole has graced me with an unexpected flat tire…or bent wheel…or worse.

With these experiences seared into recent memory, I was excited to (cautiously) head out to GM’s Milford Proving Ground in Michigan to experience the “depths” Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac go through to make sure drivers are provided with confidence that their GM vehicles are prepared to take on even the most evil potholes.

While the extreme laws of physics prove difficult to ultimately defeat, I was impressed by the repeated “beating” we administer to our cars and trucks while in development and certification.  And I have to admit it was also a lot of fun to do some pothole testing of my own – in a vehicle that I do not own, of course!

I also picked up a few tips for avoiding and managing potholes – and beware as the springtime thaw is when they can be at their worst:

  • Always inflate tires to the number on the tire inflation placard on the inside of the driver’s door opening
  • Tire inflation should be checked cold, before driving
  • Each 10-degree Fahrenheit change in ambient temperature changes the effective inflation pressure by 1 pound. This means that during the course of a winter day going from 40 degrees F at noon to 0 degrees F at night, tire pressure can drop 4 pounds, enough to affect its ability to resist pothole damage
  • Use winter-rated tires
  • Watch for street hazards and standing water that could be hiding a nasty, new pothole
  • Remember that dirty headlamps and worn wipers hamper visibility
  • If you hit a pothole, and feel there may be damage, pull off the road into a safe place where you can get out and visibly check your wheel and tire for obvious damage. Then, have your dealer check to see if the vehicle needs a re-alignment or if there is suspension damage. In an emergency, if you have a GM vehicle with an active OnStar subscription, you can always press the “OnStar” button to ask an Advisor for assistance.

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