When the weather breaks and the sun begins to shine, folks tend to hit the road. But not so fast there (figuratively and literally), you springtime drivers. While the skies might be blue overhead, the newly non-snow-covered roads could very well be full of dangerous potholes.

Sometimes referred to as the bane of all drivers, potholes often emerge after a snowmelt, or when freezing temperatures subside. With a little extra driving care, you can figure out how to deal with these hazards, saving a ton of wear and tear on your car as well as your fragile nerves.

First off, a bit about how potholes happen. Water works its way into cracks in the road's surface. When the weather gets cold enough, the water freezes and expands. The pavement will then bubble up due to the swelling water and ice. Normal road traffic over these vulnerable spots subsequently leads to the formation of potholes, which translates into fun for everyone.

Pothole Driving 101

You’re best bet is simply to keep an eye out for potholes. If you avoid a pothole, you avoid damage to your vehicle, and a potential accident. By driving slower, and refraining from tailgating (always a good idea), you’ll reduce the risk of slamming into a dangerous pothole. Yet even the most cautious of drivers hits one now and again. Here are a few tips to minimize the damage:

  • Don’t speed up. It’s not possible to “fly over” a pothole.
  • Slow down if you see an unavoidable pothole. By reducing your speed, you’ll reduce the amount of carnage you and your car will suffer.
  • Again, don’t tailgate. If the driver in front of you slams into a pothole (or just misses one), you’ll need time to react in order to take evasive action.
  • Watch out for puddles or frozen patches of ice on the road. They just might be hiding a pothole.
  • Grip the steering wheel firmly when driving over a pothole. The wheel might jerk about when your tires dip into the hole. It’s important to maintain control of your vehicle and keep it as steady as you can.
  • Never brake into a pothole. Let the car take the impact of the pothole, not your brakes.
  • Don't veer off to the side. If you can't avoid a pothole, reduce your speed, and drive as straight as possible.
  • Make sure your car is aligned. Correct wheel alignment is a gift when it comes to handling your vehicle in normal conditions—and especially so when driving over potholes. Proper wheel alignment will also help your tires last a lot longer. (See video below.)
  • After hitting a pothole, pull over and check for damage (and flat tires). If the alignment is out of whack or the steering is wonky, get your vehicle serviced as soon as you can. This way you’ll avoid further trouble down the road.

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