Pothole damage? There is a way to get your repair reimbursed

Pothole damage? There is a way to get your repair reimbursed

Drivers skirt around a pothole in Toronto, in January, 2014.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Potholes are created when water penetrates through cracks in the asphalt. Once it freezes, sections of the pavement are forced upward. The weight of vehicles on the roadway breaks the asphalt apart and expels the chunks of broken asphalt. While dealing with potholes is a year-round adventure, they are at their worst during spring, after the repeated freezing and thawing.

Just as motor vehicles must pass minimum safety standards, so do our roadways. Local governments have minimum standards for pothole size and response time to repair them. The classification of the roadway is also taken into consideration when timing repairs. For example, potholes on high-speed roadways and main city high-volume streets are typically fixed within four days from the time of being reported. Side streets typically have a 30-day window for repair.

Having to fix a car damaged from a pothole is an unwanted expense. A friend hit a large pothole and suspected he had destroyed both his tire and wheel. Fearing the worst, as the size of the hole was almost a metre wide and very deep, he had his Subaru towed to a local tire shop. While waiting for his car, it dawned on him that he should have taken pictures of the pothole for a subsequent claim to the city. He went back the next day and got there just before a crew was about to repair the road. He submitted a claim to the city and was reimbursed within 60 days. Others aren’t so lucky, a Mazda 3 in my shop this week had wheel and tire damage along with minor suspension damage. The owner had loaned the car to his son for the evening when he hit a large pothole. It was dark and his son couldn’t find the location when they went looking for the hole the next day. Dad ended up paying the bill and wasn’t happy.

The wheel of a Mazda 3 that was damaged after hitting a pothole.Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail

Darkness adds an element of difficulty, but try to document your pothole location immediately after an incident when you suspect damage has occurred. Head back the next day during daylight hours if necessary to take more pictures. When preparing your claim for the city or township, keep in mind provincial regulations differ, and the size of the pothole may be an issue for claim payment.

Most municipalities will not pay if the city’s legal department feels they have met the provincial minimum maintenance standards for highways. If the size of the pothole can’t be judged by your picture, the chances of denial are higher. Find a way to add something of known size to your picture to give it scale.

If the city fails to pay, there is always your insurance company. Call your broker first to confirm your coverage and whether or not your deductible is higher than the repair cost itself. If your tire completely loses air pressure, chances are it is going to require replacing. However, lighter hits can still be a problem if a noticeable bulge now exists in the tire’s sidewall. These bulges mean that internal steel belt separation and other damage has occurred, and even though the tire may still be holding air, it needs to be replaced.


Your automotive questions answered

Hi Lou,

I have a Kia Soul 2U that I bought in 2010. It has about 170,000 kilometres on it. I have always maintained it very well with a local shop that knows their stuff. It has years of Rust Check undercoating. It runs well and I really enjoy driving it. I have two sailboats (one is a project boat) and a cottage, so it has great storage with the two back seats down, just like a small truck.

I have heard that the average person keeps their car for about 10 years. I am thinking I am right to hang on to it.

What do you think? Thank you. – Mike C., Halifax

I have many conversations with customers who are thinking of trading in their vehicle, citing that the vehicle still has significant value and that they should get rid of it now while its appraisal value is high. My immediate thought is that the dollar value number they have in their head is never what they actually get for it, but you can’t tell them that. They need to find out for themselves. With that in mind, I imagine the trade-in value of your vehicle is somewhere around $3,000. This of course differs according to local markets.

When you factor in that you are past the point of it having any significant dollar value, this begs the question of what you could buy for $3,000 to $4,000 that is notably better than what you already own. The answer is nothing, but your car does have an alternate value. The value is in the fact that keeping it is preventing you from having to make a major expenditure in a market that is still somewhat unstable.

Assuming your maintenance and repair costs are reasonably consistent year over year, I don’t see the point in getting rid of something that has proven reliable.


Hi Lou,

Your explanation of why new tires on the rear was only half the story. Let’s assume your rear tires are near bald. You are travelling on smooth asphalt at high speed.

1. If rear and front tires are both pointing straight ahead and your car is aligned with the direction of travel and you hard brake, the front tires will stop the car.

2. If your car is at a slight angle to the direction of travel and you hard brake, your front tires grip the road, while your car’s slight angle to the road means that you can resolve the car’s momentum in two directions: one in the forward direction and one at a right angle to the road. With near zero braking in the rear, your rear end will swing around. – Bob M.

Thanks, Bob. I do get a fair number of comments and suggestions on the answers that I provide, stating that I should have included more information. Keep in mind that once upon a time this column was in print, and I was strictly locked to a word count. As such, I had to cut mercilessly. Now that it is digital only, I am not constrained by the same word count, however, I have found that keeping approximately the same word count is best. I don’t want to bore you; I try to use my words as precisely as possible. Sometimes, I read my stuff and think, ‘That was pretty good.’ Other times, I hang my head in shame in a what-was-I-thinking moment.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail [email protected], placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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