Continued freeze/thaw cycles have already wreaked havoc on local and state roads, with potholes popping up everywhere.

AAA Michigan Spokeswoman Nancy Cain says this winter has been a roller coaster ride with a brutal cycle of heavy snow, record cold and warming spells -with more to come – and that’s a perfect recipe for potholes to pop up on roadways. Although sometimes impossible to avoid, AAA Michigan is offering tips for motorists to help protect their vehicles from damage. Cain tells WHMI they are seeing bigger potholes than in previous years - partly due to the weather and partly because roads are not in as good of shape as they should be.

Potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall, the moisture expands and contracts due to freezing and thawing. That breaks up the pavement and combined with the weight of passing vehicles, eventually results in a pothole.

Cain says motorists should maintain recommended tire pressure, which is the best shield between vehicles and potholes. She says staying alert and paying attention to the roadway ahead of you can help avoid a pothole but cautions that what might look like a puddle, could very well be a deep pothole. She says there’s usually only a split-second to decide to swerve and avoid a pothole or just go through it. For the former, Cain says it’s important to check mirrors and windows first so you don’t swerve into someone else or oncoming traffic. If you do have to go through it, slow down as much as possible to lessen the damage.

Cain says what could be a small pothole could result in a very expensive bill so she suggests making friends with your insurance policy to know what you’ve got or consider changing coverage. She says if you do hit a pothole; check your insurance policy because deductibles could be waived for some with broad-form collision coverage. With standard or limited coverage, people typically pay a deductible but Cain advises to always make sure the damage is more than your deductible before filing a claim. She added that sometimes you can’t always see the damage caused by a pothole, so if your car isn’t driving right, it’s probably best to get it checked out. (JM)