You’re not imagining it: Potholes are worse this year, Philly mechanics say

“Sometimes they just jump out of nowhere.”

Philly mechanics say potholes are especially bad this year.

Philly mechanics say potholes are especially bad this year.

Flickr Creative Commons / hogophotoNY
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This season, Mark Eaxinos estimates he’s fixed pothole damages on at least two cars a day.

At Pax Brothers, the Torresdale Avenue auto shop he’s owned for 24 years, potholes are always a major reason he gets work. But this year, in his unofficial but expert opinion, the Philly pothole pandemic is even worse than usual.

Eaxinos’ assessment is backed up by data from AAA. In February, the auto group responded to 17,000 flat tire calls in Philadelphia County — that’s up 30 percent from last year, and up 50 percent from the previous month. Per a handful of mechanics Billy Penn spoke with, a good percentage of those flat tires are likely pothole related.

The dips and breaks in pavement can easily flatten your tires and bend the rims on the wheels — and more. Especially if your car is low to the ground, mechanics say, potholes can cause pretty serious damage to the body of the vehicle.

Winter in Philly is notorious for leaving a rash of treacherous potholes in its wake. That’s because when it rains or snows, existing cracks in the road fill up with water. The water expands as it freezes, and widens the cracks into holes — ultimately creating hazardous traps for unsuspecting motorists.

The Streets Department has consistently promised to fix any reported potholes in the city in three business days. If you see one, you can report it to the department online or by calling 311.

But it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the holes’ proliferation, which can turn costly for car owners.

“People may not notice right away,” Pax Brothers’ Eaxinos explained, “which can cause longer-term damage,”

Stephen Haw, owner of Chinatown’s Steve & Dominic’s Auto Repair, said he’s seen customers rack up substantial bills due to potholes. For two new tires and two wheels, customers might have to fork over nearly $1,000, he estimated, adding to their aggravation.

Nobody’s happy when they hit a pothole,” Haw observed dryly. “Potholes can just about total your car if you hit it right.”

Mechanics aren’t exempt from the agony. Phil Ricks, the owner of Phil’s Excellent Auto Services in South Philly, drives I-95 two or three times per day, and said his 2011 Honda Pilot can’t take any more pothole-related blows.

“Potholes, man,” Ricks sighed. “That’s my whole struggle with my own car. I try to dodge them myself.”

Ricks estimates he treats at least one car a day in his shop with pothole damages. His advice on how to handle them? Just do your best to avoid the holes entirely.

“All I can say is pay attention,” Ricks said, “because sometimes they just jump out of nowhere.”