The right insurance provides protection from potholes

Jill Overmyer

Cold weather, snow and ice all signal the presence of winter. Those weather conditions also are the ingredients for forming a perfect pothole that will wreak havoc on tires and suspensions come spring.

Insurance coverage for pothole damage

Pothole damage can be expensive. Whether it's covered by your car insurance depends on what type of coverage you have.

Damage from a pothole is considered a collision. Therefore, it would be covered by the collision portion of your car insurance policy, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Collision coverage is an optional form of coverage -- you have to ask your insurance company to add it to your policy. You can drive legally without it; adding it will raise your premium. Yet if a pothole inflicts serious damage, that added premium might be worth it.

Keep in mind that collision coverage often comes with a deductible, meaning you'll have to pay for some of the repairs out of your own pocket before your coverage kicks in. And if the damage is minor and inexpensive, it might not be worth filing a claim.

Making the perfect pothole

Potholes begin to form when water seeps into cracks and seams in the roadway. When that water freezes, it expands and pushes upward, further damaging the pavement. As vehicles drive over this damage, holes appear. As these holes enlarge and deepen, they become potholes.

Recognizing pothole damage

Many drivers who encounter potholes breathe a sigh of relief when they avoid a tire blowout. But a blowout is only one of the possible problems that can develop from an encounter with a pothole. Be on the lookout for these signs of pothole damage:

• Your car begins to pull to the left or right. It may have been knocked out of alignment.

• Your car starts making strange sounds. Groans and creaks could indicate hidden damage best investigated by a professional.

Avoiding pothole damage

Avoiding potholes can be challenging. Often lurking under innocent-looking puddles or filled with snow, potholes can seemingly come out of nowhere. Try some of these tips to avoid -- or at least minimize -- the damage:

Check your tires. Properly inflated tires with enough tread are less likely to be damaged by potholes.

Keep your eyes on the road ahead. If you see the pothole coming, you'll have more time to avoid it.

Slow down. If you don't have time to avoid the pothole, slow down. According to AAA, hitting a pothole at a lower speed means less damage. Decrease your speed when driving through puddles as well, as they could be hiding potholes.

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