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May 1, 2011

Car Talk

Which is the best way to approach potholes: fast or slow?

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

Every year we face the pothole issue. However, this year seems to be the worst in recent memory. Potholes are so big this year where I live that they've been given names, like the craters on the moon. Did I forget to mention that you need a trunk full of spare tires? Today I was following an octogenarian driver, and at each pothole, she came to a complete stop and then, at a snail's pace, drove through the pothole. I lost sight of her for a moment when she was all the way down in the hole, but picked her up again as she was climbing out. Being a relative spring chicken (54), I gunned through the pothole to get through it as quickly as possible. This action left me with the question I now pose to you: When facing this road nemesis, is it better to drive slowly through potholes, or throw caution to the wind (as well as money to your mechanic) and speed through them? Of course, it goes without saying that avoiding the potholes in the first place is preferred.
-- Gary

Ray: The old lady is right, Gary.

Tom: If I were to put the heel of my palm under your chin and very slowly push up so that, eventually, your head was tilted back, would it hurt? No. It'd be a little strange. And you'd be well within your rights to wonder why the hell I was pushing your head back.

Ray: But if that's what it's like going slowly through a pothole, going fast is like taking a sucker punch under the chin. It may be over faster, but you're also likely to loosen up some teeth, bite your tongue and scatter a few brain cells.

Tom: The same is true for your car when you hit a pothole at high speed. You could bend a rim, bend a control arm, break a spring or just whack all of those things and make them weaker or looser so they wear out or fall off sooner.

Ray: And by the way, Gary, if you do what your octogenarian friend does, you'll no longer need that trunk full of spare tires.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)

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