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Atlantic Racing Scene

It’s Pot Hole Time
in Atlantic Canada!

xBy Jay Lerue

For most of us, the signs that spring is here is a welcomed treat. After all, who among us really likes all that shoveling, poor driving conditions, the cold the associated ailments and shortened days? Not many of us, I contend! Yes, when spring arrives, we all seem to rejoice. This month I want to talk about what happens in spring to our roads and how it has a very direct effect on a vehicle’s “front end.”

As the ground begins to warm gradually, the frost that sits below the surface of the ground begins to rise and “come out.” Frost heave has the ability to move houses off their foundations, cause water lines to suddenly burst or move just about anything that gets in its way. It’s no small wonder, then, that our roads are not exempt from this “frost havoc.” For pavements, frost action becomes critical when either:

(1) the freezing phase is accompanied by noticeable heaving of the road surface, or:

(2) the thawing phase is accompanied by a noticeable softening of the roadbed.

Heaving of the road from frost action is termed “frost heave.” Frost heave, particularly when in isolated areas, induces uneven support of a pavement. When a heavy load passes over the area of uneven support, a crack may form in the pavement surface layer.

There are at least three conditions, all of which must exist before frost heaving can occur. They are:

1 - A sufficiently cold climate to allow freezing temperatures to penetrate below the road surface into the sub base and sub grade.

2 - A supply of water from below, above and/or laterally into the freezing zone.

3 - A soil material that is frost susceptible and is lying within the freezing zone.

The heaving itself is caused by the formation of ice lenses in the soil below the pavement. Water expands 9% by volume when frozen. The size of the ice lens depends upon the quantity of free water available within the soil and from the water table, and time.

When the soil freezes, the free water freezes and expands. Once started, ice lenses continue to grow as long as a source of free water is available. Free water migrates through the soil to a forming ice lens by capillary action (akin to wicking). This migration of water can be as far as 20 feet for certain frost susceptible soils.

When you pass over these rough or broken areas with your vehicle, your suspension takes a bit of a workout.
Though designed to flex and move, over time, the parts of your suspension and front end become fatigued and worn. Ball joints particularly become strained and through the course of this repetitive wear, eventually must be replaced.

Too well, I remember a time one spring, when my Mom’s car had a ball joint suddenly let go. The tire and rim came completely off and went underneath the car. The only thing that saved us was that we were coming to a stop at a red light, when it let go. WHEW!!

The roads we all know. Welcome to Atlantic Canada!

Anyone in the Maritimes knows of the term, “pot holes.” These arbitrary dips and voids in the road have the ability to single handedly throw your car’s alignment completely off. The steel belts in your car’s tires can also break, causing a “lump” or bulge to appear in the inner or outer wall of the tire. Checking your tires regularly for these bulges can help to offset or avoid any chance for a blowout.

In short, replacing any bulging tires can essentially save your life! While some may argue that a broken belt is not as dangerous as one might think, common sense should ultimately prevail. If your tires are bulging, or a large lump appears on the inner or outer wall, simply put, for the sake of your safety and the safety of your passengers, replace the tire. Again, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

While frost heave and badly broken road surfaces will always be a force to reckon with in the Maritimes, we as motorists have a responsibility to maintain our vehicles to comply with safety parameters for the benefit of ourselves, our passengers and our fellow motorists.

Till next time, take care and happy motoring!

You can Email Jay here