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Rough Roads Costing Minnesota Drivers Hundreds Each Year In Auto Repairs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Every time you get behind the wheel in Minnesota, bumps in the road chip away at your wallet.

We're talking hundreds of dollars beyond the basic maintenance fees you expect to pay each year. And it's not just during pothole season. Year round, rough roads accelerate the wear-and-tear on your car.

They're little dips, bumps and sometimes jolts in the road you might just consider part of driving. But each suspension-shaking impact adds up to a quicker than typical trip to the repair shop.

Shawn Bona is an area manager for Bridgestone Retail Operations in the Twin Cities. When it comes to slamming into a pothole, he said there are two types of damage. The first is the immediate kind a driver will feel or see, like a popped tired, cracked rim, or steering issues.

He says suspension repairs run between $400 and $600. A wheel replacement could start around $200. A new tire starts around $80.

But not all damage happens at once, rather over time from consistent impacts.

"Your vehicle out of alignment can cause a lot of issues, and you may not even feel a pull from your vehicle being out of alignment," Bona said.

A car being out of alignment often causes tires to wear down quicker and unevenly, meaning replacing them happens sooner.

"You can stop [tire wear] from getting worse by doing an alignment, but you'll never be able to put anything back to how it was," he said.

Tire Repair Auto Repair
(credit: CBS)

The question is how does one quantify the wear and tear on cars from navigating rough roads year round? WCCO spoke with Rocky Moretti, director of policy research for TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington D.C.

"When you don't repair those pavements, it's the public that are paying more money in additional vehicle operating costs," Moretti said. "Every year the Minnesota Department of Transportation is required by federal law to monitor the condition of pavements in all the major roads of the state, and not just the state maintained, but also the locally maintained."

Based on that information, TRIP has determined 38% of roads in Minnesota are in either poor or mediocre condition. Driving on them will cost motorists an extra $543 per year. TRIP determined that number through four parts. It includes additional repairs, like replacing a cracked rim. There's also vehicle depreciation, increased fuel consumption from the car working harder and tire wear.

"If all roadways in the state of Minnesota were in good condition, that number would be zero," he said.

The average price across the country per driver is just under $600 a year. Washington D.C. ranks first overall, outpacing all 50 states at $1,100. Minnesota's number falls in 29th place, with Wisconsin a few dollars higher $547. Tennessee drivers pay the lowest amount at $209. When you add up each driver's costs around the country, the total surpasses $135 billion.

"It points out the tremendous need at the state and regional level for additional investment in roads and bridges," Moretti said.

Minnesota is on the tail end of a massive federal funding boost known as the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act. Starting in 2016, the state was give $4.2 billion to help with construction projects, however that money expires this fall. Congress is currently debating another infrastructure bill.

Last fall in Minnesota, lawmakers passed a $1.87 billion bonding bill which will help pay for road and bridge projects.

"We know how to keep pavements in good condition, and we can keep them in good condition longer if we have adequate resources and that actually costs a lot less," Moretti said.

Until those rough roads get repaired, Bona had a few tips to avoid wear-and-tear costs. Maintain proper tire inflation, which lowers your chance of pothole damage. Slow down on rough roads to better avoid hitting potholes. And get an alignment check. It costs around $20 and could save you more in the long run.

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