Safety Alert: Potholes

Pothole damage costs U.S. drivers $3 billion annually

Traffic Safety

A car about to hit a pothole.DENVER (March 21, 2019) – While spring has officially sprung in Colorado, don't be fooled: Winter's end doesn't necessarily signal safer roads, quite yet. That's because Colorado's day-to-day temperature fluctuations invariably lead to a major motorist danger: potholes. 

Potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall, the moisture expands and contracts as it freezes and thaws. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in a pothole.

They're more than just a nuisance. Every year, AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat-tire assistance, many the result of damage caused by potholes. On average, American drivers report paying $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage. Depending on the extent of the damage, the make of the vehicle, and the make of the tires, repairs could easily exceed $1000.  All told, AAA estimates that pothole damage costs U.S. drivers $3 billion annually. 

"Potholes don't just leave you shaken – they're a serious safety hazard that often lead to costly repair bills," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "Slow down and stay alert, especially as road crews continue to work to patch potholes across Colorado."

Drivers of newer-model-year vehicles, take note: Potholes may be especially costly. That's because, according to research from AAA, nearly one-third of 2017-and-later model-year vehicles are not equipped with a spare tire as standard equipment. That can turn the relatively routine process of changing a tire at the roadside into an inconvenient and expensive situation that requires a tow to a repair facility.

"With low-profile tires and the elimination of the spare, many newer vehicles are especially vulnerable to severe damage from potholes," McKinley continued. "Tire-inflator kits have limited functionality and, in the cases of catastrophic damage typical of potholes, can't provide even a temporary fix for many tire-related problems, including sidewall damage or blowouts."

To minimize pothole damage, AAA Colorado offers the following tips:

  1. Inspect Tires – Make sure tires are properly inflated and have enough tread . An underinflated or badly worn tire is more likely to suffer damage, or allow the wheel or suspension to be damaged, when hitting a pothole. When checking tire pressures, ensure they are inflated to the manufacturer's recommended levels, which can be found in the owner's manual or on a sticker on the driver's door jamb. Do not use the pressure levels stamped on the sidewall of the tire.
  2. Inspect Suspension – Make certain struts, shock absorbers and other suspension parts are in good condition. Changes in vehicle handling, excessive vibration or uneven tire wear can indicate damaged or worn components. Have the suspension inspected by a certified technician if you suspect problems. Locate a nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facility online at
  3. Look Ahead – Make a point of checking the road ahead for potholes. An alert driver may have time to avoid potholes, so it's important to stay focused on the road and not any distractions inside or outside the vehicle. Before swerving to avoid a pothole, check surrounding traffic to ensure this won't cause a collision or endanger nearby pedestrians or cyclists.
  4. Slow Down – If a pothole cannot be avoided, reduce speed safely being sure to check the rearview mirror before any abrupt braking. Hitting a pothole at higher speeds greatly increases the chance of damage to tires, wheels and suspension components. 
  5. Beware of Puddles – A puddle of water can disguise a deep pothole. Use care when driving through puddles and treat them as though they may be hiding potholes.
  6. Check Alignment – Hitting a pothole can knock the wheels out of alignment and affect the steering. If a vehicle pulls to the left or right, have the wheel alignment checked by a certified technician. Locate a nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facility online at
  7. Recognize Noises/Vibrations – A hard pothole impact can dislodge wheel weights, damage a tire or wheel, and bend or even break suspension components. Any new or unusual noises or vibrations that appear after hitting a pothole should be inspected immediately by a certified technician.
  8. Where's the Spare? – New car owners beware: You may not have a quick fix for a blown-out tire on hand, as many newer cars do not have spare tires.
  9. Big Hole, Big Hit – Hitting a large pothole usually results in the need for wheel alignment and possible steering linkage damage, causing a big hit to motorists' wallets. If you've hit a large pothole, call your automotive technician as soon as possible to prevent further damage. 

About AAA Colorado

More than 685,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's most prominent advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 59 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit