MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – With 80 percent of pavements on the state's primary system classified as fair to poor by South Carolina Department of Transportation, avoiding potholes is part of daily life. And since there is no immediate relief in sight through state funding, drivers should prepare for any potential damage to their vehicles.
One of the biggest issues mechanics see is damaged wheels, that's according to Gary Freeman at C&G Auto in Myrtle Beach. Mechanics at the shop are seeing one or two cars with pothole damage each week. When it comes to a damaged wheels, they are sometimes repairable. If the rim is bent, they can occasionally reheat it and bend it back to fix the seal. But if the wheel sustained too much damage, then it might need to be completely replaced. Depending on the type of wheel, it could cost anywhere from $60 to hundreds of dollars per wheel.
Freeman said the second-biggest problem they see is tire damage from hitting potholes. Patching a punctured tire could cost anywhere from $15 to $20. But if the tire blows and you have to replace the whole thing, that could cost much more.
Slamming into a pothole could also cause more severe and more expensive damage to your shocks, steering, alignment, and suspension. The bottom line is you should consider getting things checked out right away, because driving on a small problem could lead to big problems.
"Worst case scenario, the bottom of the engine or the oil could strike that abutment and knock a hole in that," said Freeman. "And we have actually seen that. Where all the oil then comes out and if you don't stop it, you'll burn the engine."
If the estimate from the mechanic shows the repair costs will be more than your insurance deductible, you can start a collision claim. But Tony McAfee with State Farm Insurance in Carolina Forest said, most of the time, the damage his clients see is to the tires and will cost less than their deductible to fix. And car insurance policies do not cover damaged or blown tires because of the wear and tear they face daily. So it's a good idea to call your insurance agent to check and make sure what your deductible is as you proceed.
McAfee also suggested there is a way you can still protect your tires if you plan ahead. "The road hazard warranties that many tire shops offer do provide coverage for potholes," said McAfee. "Because they know that generally insurance policies don't cover the tire. But if you purchase a road hazard warranty from the tire manufacturer, that's a way of protecting yourself against the road hazards such as potholes and things of that nature."
If the repair costs end up being under your deductible, you can also try to submit a claim to SCDOT to reimburse some of the costs. McAfee says the most important thing to remember is to document everything, whether that's for insurance purposes or to submit a claim to SCDOT.
First, you need to first make sure you immediately pull over once you hit the pothole. You need to take pictures of the pothole, the damage to the car, any road signs or landmarks. Also, call the police to come and make a report. That will be more proof of the event happening you can submit to DOT. Then keep all the estimates and receipts during the repair process. Once you have everything together, you will fill out a claim report from SCDOT's website and mail it in. You can only submit claims to SCDOT if you hit a pothole on a road that is maintained by the state. To find an interactive map to show who maintains which roads and to find instructions on how to submit a claim, click here.