Just when you thought it was safe to travel the roadways, kaboom! You've hit one of those pesky potholes that are now appearing along Connecticut roadways as the temperature rises and fall.

On the positive side, potholes are a sign of spring. Unfortunately, however, the thaw-freeze-thaw cycle that creates pavement breakup in roadways can cause vehicle damage, contribute to tire wear, and just give motorists overall panic attacks.

To help motorists navigate Connecticut roadways this season, AAA offers this `prescription' for potholes:

Look Ahead -- Make a point to check the road ahead for potholes. Stay focused. Look well ahead of the front of your car so you have time to react if needed. Before you swerve to avoid a pothole, make sure you check surrounding traffic.

Slow Down -- If a pothole can't be avoided, safely reduce your speed. Be sure to check your rearview mirror before any abrupt braking. Just before you roll into the pothole, release the brake. Hitting a pothole at higher speeds or with locked brakes greatly increases the chances of damaging your tires, wheels and suspension components.

Beware of Puddles -- A puddle can disguise a deep pothole. Treat them as though they may be hiding potholes.

Oops, too late! Now what?

Check Your Alignment -- Hitting a pothole can knock a car's wheels out of alignment and affect the steering. If a vehicle pulls to the left or right, have the wheel alignment checked by a qualified technician. Have the technician perform a thorough inspection of the steering and suspension components.

Recognize Noises/Vibrations -- A hard pothole impact can dislodge wheel weights, damage a tire or wheel; and bend or even break suspension components. Any new or unusual noises or vibrations that appear after hitting a pot-hole should be inspected immediately by a certified technician.

Inspect Your Tires -- The tire is the most important connection between your vehicle and the road. Inspect your tires for damage, cuts and bruises. Make sure you have both sufficient tread and proper inflation. To check the tread depth, insert a quarter into the tread groove with Washington's head upside down. The tread should cover part of Washington's head. If it doesn't, then it's time to start shopping for new tires. When checking tire pressure, ensure they're inflated to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended levels. This number can be found in the owner's manual or on a placard on the driver's door jamb.

AAA Southern New England is a not-for-profit auto club with 40 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, providing more than 2.8 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance and auto-related services.

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