Pothole Pain Is Tire Shop Gain
BREAKING: @WIBCTraffic has learned An Indianapolis delegation will appear before the International Olympic Committee in hopes of introducing and making the “pothole slalom” an official Olympic sport. Originated in the Circle City, drivers will navigate a Ford Focus over a mile and-a-half stretch of road littered with banks, hairpin turns, and as the name implies, potholes. Winners will be determined by speed and damage to their car. If successfully incepted, it could pave way for other Hoosier born and bred driving sports to become Olympic sports, including the Little 500 and snake pit projectile vomiting.
Really, what the hell happened this winter? Indianapolis lifers tell me the same thing: this has been the worst pothole winter ever. Their cars are a mess. Drivers are paying for wheels and tires now, but waiting until the spring to fork out the cash for realignment and suspensions. it’s an expensive, vicious cycle - especially when the same potholes keep reappearing because of the crazy weather we’ve had.
(Photo credit: RTV6)
Feed me, Seymour!
Somebody is obviously making money on this - as in auto body repair shops and tire stores. In order to fulfill the curiosity of several listeners and readers, I gave a call to my personal auto repair store, Goodyear in downtown Indianapolis, on Delaware St., and sat down with Brian Ott - Service Department Manager - to see how business was doing during this inexplicably bad pothole season. Needless to say, they were busy.
DISCLAIMER: These guys aren’t paying me a dime for this. They’re not trading services or giving me a discount. I pay full price like everyone else, but I do like going there.
BUSINESS THROUGH THE MOON
According to Ott, business is up 90-percent (!!) over last year's “damage season,” or “pothole season.” The number swells to 120-percent when considering they turn away 30-percent of repair requests due to overcapacity in the repair shop. Usually, they’ll take your car on the day it’s damaged, but due to the unprecedented amount of work requests, the store is having to schedule 3-4 days out. People call in all day long because they just nailed a pothole.
DON’T DRIVE ON THREE WHEELS
Cars have arrived at Goodyear by a variety of means. They came in on low tires, on donuts, by tow trucks, and worst yet, on the rim. Thing is, if you feel any kind of rupture after hitting a pothole, you need to check it out - especially if the gauge comes on, according to Ott:
When that low pressure light comes on, you need to turn aside and stop your life -where you’re going and where you’re headed - and get to the nearest place to air it up.
The gallery below will make you clutch your checkbook and feed it a midnight snack. Driving on a low tire or a rim is going to cost you. Again, that’s before you go in for realignment.
If your tire is holding up and you can make it to a store like Goodyear, they’ll at least air you up for free, says Ott.
We do free airchecks all day long, because most of the gas stations’ air stations do not work - and they just want to take your money. So we tell people all day long, we’ll get your car in and at least get you aired up. If we have to turn somebody away, we’ll air your tires up, get that light off, and hopefully they can schedule time and get their car back in and get it repaired.
PEOPLE ARE PISSED
Ott’s been with the downtown Goodyear store for 33-years, and says this is the worst pothole season he’s ever seen. Consequently, customers are understandably salty when they arrive.
We’re all there. Money and time all out the window. There were cars waiting for service that had the driver’s side front tire and the passenger’s side rear tire completely wasted. How does THAT happen? I’d be incensed. I’d be pissed at the pothole, at the city, every driver around me for not allowing enough space, and most importantly, myself for not paying enough attention to my environment.
And listen, it’s not like I walked into Goodyear and it was getting measured for marble floors and bidets (toilets that wash your butt) in the men’s room. Despite the profit - and profit is a good thing - the crew members at Goodyear have to drive through pothole hell like the rest of us. These guys were working hard - tired, but working hard - while trying to manage an unprecedented workload.
The result is an unbelievable amount of frustration. A person’s life is altered for a period of time. Their financial situation is temporarily altered, and nobody likes that - we don’t like that. If they come in, we have all the empathy in the world for them.
Photo credit: @FAL_Jared
DEALING WITH POTHOLES
Since Ott has been fixing cars for 33-years, I asked for his expertise on the best way to avoid a pothole and pothole damage. Here it is:
- It’s common sense, but maintain a safe distance between the car in front of you. You’ll have a better chance to slow yourself if the car in front of you overcorrects because of a pothole.
- If you see a pohtole, don’t slam the breaks. There could be someone behind you. You might get rear ended.
- Be careful about swerving into the other lane. This is a potentially dangerous situation since the opposite lane might not be empty. Again, always be aware of your surroundings during pothole season.
- Pay attention to the driver in front of you. If they swerve or break hard, it could be a pothole. Use that information to make a responsible move of avoidance or protection.
- This might be a tough one to swallow, but sometimes you’re going to have to eat it. If the next lane isn’t clear and there’s traffic behind you, slow the best you can and go through the pothole. Think about your life and your neighbors around you. Take the damage - get it fixed.
- Slow down. This may seema bit redundant, but here’s the thing - even driving down the road myself - if there’s a pothole in the lane, and you’re behind a car (and in close proximity) - be ready to react when they do. It could be a sudden reduction of speed, an aggressive lane change, or some sort of gyration. Again, be prepared to make your own move, and be prepared to make it responsibly.
Everyone's been super cool about sharing the bad spots, and I know the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has even responded to several listeners, and reacted. Hey, we're a good team - you and I.
As previously (gulp) noted, I-65 is expected to close this month. I'm working on an update. In the meantime, safe travels. Thank you for reading and listening.
Matt Bair has somehow avoided pothole damage to his crappy little car, but has fungus growing on both of his thumb nails. He's the new voice of Indianapolis traffic , and can be followed on Twitter @WIBCTraffic. Tips? Call direct at (317) 684-8134 or the 93 WIBC Newsroom at (317) 637-6397.