Are you offering a ‘pothole special’?
Ah, the lowly pothole. There are millions of them, many more this year due to the harsh winter in many parts of the United States.
According to Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council on wwwcarcare.org, “No matter where you drive these days, there’s a pothole epidemic. And as winter turns to spring, it’s only going to get worse.”
According to the website www.pothole.info, potholes are mainly caused by fluctuations in temperatures above and below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. “But the degree of moisture in an area, extreme heat, heavy traffic, poor maintenance and time all contribute to their creation. That explains why some of the most pothole-ridden cities are not anywhere near the Snowbelt.”
The top 10 worst U.S. urban-area roadways for potholes are San Jose, Calif.; Los Angeles, the Bay Area of California; Kansas City; New Orleans; San Diego; Sacramento; St. Louis; Omaha and New York City, according to the pothole experts.
“Drivers know immediately when they hit a pothole, but what they don’t know is if their vehicle has been damaged in the process,” says White. “While tires and wheels can be visually checked, potholes can also cause considerable damage to the steering, suspension and alignment systems that you just can’t see.”
The American Automobile Association (AAA) reports that the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America estimates “nearly $4.8 billion is spent each year to repair damage to Americans’ cars resulting from run-ins with potholes and other dangerous road conditions.” Motorists file about 500,000 auto insurance claims each year for pothole damage.
According to www.seriousaccidents.com, potholes also are one of the top causes of car accidents. They are 19th, after distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, reckless driving and others but before tire blowouts (21st).
Potholes can cause damage such as tire punctures, alignment problems, wheel damage, broken suspension components, shock or strut wear, and exhaust system problems. Because of this, many dealers are offering “pothole specials.”
As an example, Ken Kania, owner of Rochester Hills Tire in Rochester, Mich., runs a pothole special coupon on his website (www.rochesterhillstire.com). For $99.95, his customers receive a four-wheel computerized alignment, a tire balance, tire rotation, tire pressure check, and a top-off of fluids.
His business has been booming this year. His area had a record-breaking 74 inches of snow so far this winter and many days of sub-zero temperatures. That contributed to a lot of business from customers with bent wheels, misaligned front ends, blown tires and dead batteries.
He says he’s been in business 35 years and has never seen such harsh weather conditions. “Our roads are terrible.”
Although unable to pin down an exact percentage of business attributable to pothole damage, he adds they have been good for business.
Paul Kroger, owner of Carlisle Auto & Tire in Carlisle, Ohio, says his 11-year-old, six-bay location has seen an increase in business thanks to Mother Nature. “We’ve seen bent rims, dead batteries, tire damage — it’s been a horrible winter.”
Kroger posts a coupon on his website for a “pothole fighter special” that includes an all-wheel alignment and a complete car checkup for $49.99 for most vehicles. He says no one ever uses it!
“We’re a two-lane, two-red-light town. Our customers know us, know we hire ASE-certified technicians. They come to us knowing we’ll take care of them. I don’t volunteer the information on the special, and I don’t need the coupon to close a sale.”
So no matter where you are located, be aware that pothole damage likely will be a problem your customers will have to face — with or without a coupon. ■
Being car care aware
If you want to know whether or not your customer’s vehicle has suffered pothole damage, question the driver even before you get the car on the lift.
There are a number of signs, according to the Car Care Council (see website www.carcare.org). Ask if your customer has noticed:
* loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. These are indicators that the steering and suspension may have been damaged. Key components are shocks and/or struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack/box, bearings, seals and hub units and tie rod ends.
* pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path.
* low tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the rim. Uneven tire wear also is a sign.