Pothole Season: How Do They Happen?

By David Thomas  on February 21, 2007


Have you ever wondered how potholes appear? You take the same route home every day, hundreds of days in a row, and then one day, all of a sudden … BAM! Your car hits a hole the size of a pet cemetery plot.

The Chicago Tribune wrote all about the potential explosion of potholes when temperatures change suddenly. The newspaper even hit up the experts, who say that, here in Chicago, we’re in for some bad roads this spring thanks to February’s long stretch of frigid weather, followed by a sudden warm-up.

"Whenever you get freeze-thaw cycles, you can almost hear the pavement cracking," said David Schulz, director of the Infrastructure Technology Institute at Northwestern University.

How does a pothole actually happen? According to the Tribune and the experts it spoke with, “it's basic physics. Water collects under roadways, freezes and expands, weakening the pavement above. After the water dissipates, a void is left, and the roadway collapses under traffic.”

[Pothole Crews Say Freeze-Thaw Cycle Just Warming Up, Chicago Tribune]


Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David