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How America’s Infrastructure Is Wrecking Your Car

Thankfully, help is on the way

Audrey Davis
August 31 2021
American Roadway: Flickr

If you live in one of America’s cities, you’ve probably noticed that your car has seen better days. Maybe it’s dirty from the smog, maybe you’ve scuffed it up a few times trying to get into a tight parking spot. But in reality, the biggest culprit to your car’s misery might have been underneath your nose, or rather, your tires all along.

We’re talking, of course, about poorly maintained roads.  Bad roads are bad for cars, but if you’re an auto enthusiast then you probably already knew that. However, you might not have known the scope of America’s bad road problem. This year’s American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card found that 43% of roadways are in “poor or mediocre condition,” meaning there’s a pretty good that chance your local roads fit one of those descriptions. The long-term implications here are clear, as we struggle to modernize our roadways and keep them safe, but the short-term implications should concern car owners everywhere.

The first casualty of a bumpy road is your car’s tires. Your factory pair of tires is designed for ideal road conditions and will likely perform just fine in most non-extreme weather conditions. However, without a robust tread pattern designed to grip rough terrain, a cracked road will tear at your tires like an oversized cheese grater. If you’re finding that you encounter hazardous road conditions more often than you expect to, the penny test is a good way to check if your tread is wearing down.

But the real source of concern for many passenger vehicles is the suspension system, which is not always equipped to withstand the heavy impact of potholes or road debris. In 2016, AAA estimated that Americans were spending around $3 billion per year on pothole-related repairs alone, sometimes simply because they had the audacity to assume they had no need for a solid axle pickup truck. The independent suspension used on most other vehicles is not necessarily weaker, but it’s far more complex, meaning it’s full of potential pressure points.

So, it’s a good thing then that some significant reforms are on the way. Last week, the US. Senate passed a wide-reaching infrastructure bill that invests $110 billion in projects to aid America’s ailing transportation systems, which includes some much-needed maintenance for major roads, highways, and bridges that have fallen into disrepair. The bill also includes provisions for railways and other forms of public transportation in its $1 trillion package. Heavier investment in public transportation would improve traffic and reduce the rate at which most roads deteriorate, which could also ease the burden on individual passenger vehicles.

Otherwise, drivers in major cities may need to start investing in aftermarket tires or 
suspension modifications usually only reserved for specialized off-roaders and racers. After all, no car owner wants to incur preventable damage, especially when that damage can be easily prevented for you. Contrary to popular belief abroad, America’s roads are not paved with gold, however, we will all settle for them being paved at all.



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