Anchorage’s icy, snow-covered roads causing some vehicle damage

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 7:55 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage’s icy and snowy roads have made it not only challenging for drivers but also created conditions ripe for causing damage to vehicles.

The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said on Monday that the icy ruts, which have formed on many roadways, are tough on vehicles and hard on the equipment trying to remove them.

“It’s a priority for us to get them off the road, just to make the roads safer and easier to travel,” said Justin Shelby, the administrative operations manager with DOTPF.

Over the past couple of weeks, when driving around town, it’s easy to find cars stuck in snow, going into ditches, or even parts of cars lying on snowbanks.

On Tuesday, some Anchorage vehicle body shops said they hadn’t seen any car damage from the icy roads, but others emphasized they’d seen punctured tires, underbody damage, and even went so far as to say that the roads are causing cars to fall apart.

According to Jeremy Ottum, who has been a diagnostic mechanic at the Alignment Center for 17 years, the icy, bumpy roads create wear on the suspension and amplify any existing car problems.

“The biggest issue you get when you have this much snow is ice in your tires, so you feel like you’re shaking when you go faster, especially on the highway. So the best thing to do is try and keep the snow and ice out of the inside of your tires and rims,” Ottum said.

Ice can also cause breakages to skid plates and protections under vehicles, leaving those parts hanging from the vehicle or detaching completely. Potholes are also a cause of warped tires, which Ottum described as often looking like a wart protruding out of a tire.

Any way you look at it, driving in icy conditions is dangerous and possibly expensive.

“It throws the back of your car sideways, when you don’t expect it. You feel like you’re on a nice, flat road and all the sudden you hit a bump and it just kicks the back of the car out,” Ottum said. “It can be unnerving and if you don’t know what to do you can end up sideways in the blink of an eye.”

The Anchorage mechanic said repairs resulting from landing in a ditch can be over $2,000.

“It definitely wears down on your suspension, but the worst thing is going into the ditch and then being pulled out in the wrong spot where you’re going to bend components, where you shouldn’t be hooking up a tow hitch to. Or once you get stuck in the ditch, things get pushed around underneath,” Ottum said.

Ottum recommends having good tires and maintaining them, especially since they control how fast the car can go and how fast it can stop. He also says to take your time while driving and to watch the road carefully while you’re driving in icy conditions.