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Potholes put dent in drivers’ wallets

Shops busy with tire, wheel repairs

The warmer weather may be welcome, but the rough roads left behind by winter are proving to be expensive for some drivers who are ending up with flat tires and damaged rims after hitting potholes.

Rick Eubank of the McMahon Best-One store on Coliseum Boulevard West said he’s been seeing customers with tire and rim damage coming into the store, though he couldn’t put a number on how sharp an increase there had been.

If you’re one of the unlucky ones, though, he can tell you that replacing an original-equipment rim on a car can cost $200 to $300.

Eubank also predicts it will continue to be a bad spring as the ground thaws and roads continue to fall apart.

Travis Strock at the McMahon tire shop at Glenbrook Square said he’s noticed quite a few bent wheels and blown tires. “This year is a lot worse than it has been,” Strock said, who added that the store has been getting a constant flow of about two calls a day from people whose cars have been damaged.

“They come in and say it was either hit a pothole or hit someone else,” Strock said.

Strock said that bent rims on steel wheels can be bent back into shape, but aluminum or alloy wheels have to be sent out for special repairs, and if they can’t be fixed, a new, original-equipment wheel can cost $400 or $500.

He said entrances into shopping centers and businesses are risky because the pavement has fallen apart between the road and the concrete entry aprons.

“Even the mall entrances are risky,” he said.

Employees at several tire shops said they weren’t permitted to be quoted by the media, but an employee at one shop said there was a clear consensus among all the tire shops in town: Tire and wheel damage is way up.

One big reason is that more vehicles have low-profile tires, meaning the tires are wider but have short sidewalls.

When a wheel like that hits a serious pothole, there’s only about 1 inch for the tire to give, and then the tire is either pinched against the wheel or the wheel itself is damaged.

An employee at another shop, who also said he couldn’t be named, just said, “Oh yeah, big time,” when asked about tire and wheel damage from bad roads. He estimated there had been an increase of 35 percent to 40 percent. One day, the employee said, they had 15 damaged rims, when it might be normal to have only a couple.

At another shop, an employee who said he couldn’t be quoted said he had also seen a noticeable increase in bent wheels and cut sidewalls, though he said he couldn’t put a number on it.

So many more cars have the low-profile tires, he said. If a tire is 5 pounds low on air and it hits a pothole, damage can occur easily.

Also, the employee said, alloy rims are often impossible to repair.

If you have a brand-new Ford pickup and damage a rim, he said, it could cost $600 to $800 to get a new wheel.

Strock recommended that when driving on a two-lane road, it’s a good idea to stay in the center if possible, because roads are falling apart more on the edges.

It might also be a good idea to avoid rush hour. If you’re in 5 o’clock traffic, you can’t dodge potholes, he said.