potholes

Areas Of Pavement Most Susceptible to Potholes

Potholes are especially prevalent during and after winter due to the impacts freezing conditions and the additional presence of moisture has on asphalt. Naturally, cracks in pavement get deeper over time, but such fluctuations in temperatures during the colder months cause freezing and thawing of moisture within cracks, leading to breakage and eventually large potholes. For a deep dive into how and why potholes form, visit our blog Asphalt Pothole Repair: Pothole Explained. While all roadways are at a higher risk of breakage during the winter months, there are some areas of asphalt that are more susceptible to pavement failure year-round.

  • “Bottom out” sections – When a vehicle is traveling downhill, at the bottom of the hill there is a section of pavement where the hill meets that flat section. Cars often “bottom out” when they hit this cross section, resulting in an impact that overtime creates breakage. Additionally, as the back end of the car follows through and also hits the flat part of the asphalt, there is a downward force created. The combination of these impacts (vehicle after vehicle) results in abuse of the flattened surface making it a “breeding ground” for pothole formation.
potholes on roadways
Graphic taken from “The Complete Guide To Fixing Roads And Driveways Road Repair Handbook” By Roderick D. Johnston.
  • Incline impact – Now let’s reverse the “bottom out” model and explore the impacts of vehicle incline. When a vehicle suddenly is forced upward onto an incline, similar impacts occur; the initial impact, and the cars force created once it officially begins to climb. This means that in the case of inclined pavement, the main area of abuse that is highly susceptible to potholes is the cross section where a car begins the climb, and the section following it when the entire car has entered the hill.
potholes on roadways
Graphic taken from “The Complete Guide To Fixing Roads And Driveways Road Repair Handbook” By Roderick D. Johnston.
  • Washboarding – Washboarding is periodic and transverse ripples in the surface of a gravel or dirt road. Vehicles that break abruptly and/or accelerate too quickly on these surfaces cause potholes. This is because jerking to a stop causes a rattling of the vehicle while in the process of stopping quickly, resulting in impact. Additionally, if the vehicle accelerates too quickly on this surface, or simply drives faster than recommended, force will hit this surface repeatedly in a “rapid fire” manner as the vehicle hits each bump hard and fast. This often leads to potholes and other defects associated with excessive impact.
potholes on roadways
Graphic taken from “The Complete Guide To Fixing Roads And Driveways Road Repair Handbook” By Roderick D. Johnston.
  • Sharp turns – During a hard turn, vehicles will experience weight shifting to the outside turning wheels. This can result in pushing the gravel up because of the excessive weight. Repetitive pressure caused by this additional weight along the tire’s path can lead to potholes and pavement failure. This “sharp turn” wear-and-tear is more prominent where driveways and/or side roads cross at right angles.
potholes on roadways with sharp turns
Graphic taken from “The Complete Guide To Fixing Roads And Driveways Road Repair Handbook” By Roderick D. Johnston.

To help avoid such damage, vehicles should proceed these areas with caution and at lower speeds. However, this is not often an easy and reliable solution since this relies on drivers exercising such caution. There are some solutions that involve additions during your pavement project to help soften these impacts like; over excavating chronic fatigued areas, treating the subgrade, backfilling with material like crushed rock, or grading these areas flatter and in better alignment with the main road. Your paving professional can help you to decide which solution will be the most beneficial for your particular road, parking lot, or driveway.  Contact EastCoat Pavement Services for your free asphalt consultation today!

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