Local mechanics warn motorists of pothole dangers

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Nick Crow
Friday, February 28, 2014

JANESVILLE — Thump thump, thump.

This winter, that could be the sound of your car hitting pothole after pothole after pothole or your heart beating increasingly louder as the potholes send your blood pressure through the roof.

Local mechanics say the problem will only get worse.

"As soon as the weather breaks, it's going to be an ugly spring," said John Freeman, owner of Freeman Alignment in Janesville. "The roads are pounding cars."

Freeman has seen an uptick in cars needing work, and he expects the number to grow.

"This is a hard winter to figure out because we've had such a long period of cold," Freeman said. "The roads have bubbled up so bad it's like speed bumps, and some roads have so many potholes you can't go around them."

Blown struts, shocks, tie rods, suspensions and ball joints are among the problems caused by bad roads, he said.

"Some of these parts, it normally takes two or three years before they go bad," Freeman said.

Typically, people wait until better weather to fix road-induced problems because they are more concerned about keeping enough gas in their cars and getting them to start in the extreme cold, he said.

Nate Woodman, a mechanic at Beeline Alignment in Janesville, said ice-induced mishaps have caused their share of problems, as well.

"Ice can cause people to slide into curbs, which can knock their alignment off, bend a wheel or bend a control arm," Woodman said.

Potholes are common this time of year, and not much can be done to avoid them, he said.

"When there's a warm up three different times this winter, then rain,  then subzero temperatures and refreeze, it makes for rough roads and potholes."

According to a press release from the Janesville Public Works Department, potholes are formed when snow and ice melt as part of Wisconsin's seasonal freeze-thaw cycles. Water seeps beneath the pavement through cracks that have formed from wear and tear of traffic.

As temperatures drop below freezing, water becomes ice and expands below the road's surface, forcing the pavement to rise. Continued traffic over the raised portion of road and above-freezing temperatures thaw the formed ice, creating a void. The asphalt over the void then breaks away, creating a pothole.

Applying salt to roads worsens the freeze-thaw action in joints and cracks in the pavement.

The high number of storms and several unusual twists, including two episodes of freezing rain,  have increased the number of times salt has been applied. Also, the extreme cold has caused the frost to go much deeper than usual, and many roads are already in rough shape due to significant heaving and deteriorating pavement, according to the city.

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