Types of Asphalt Pavement Distress

Do you know what causes those cracks and potholes in the asphalt roads you drive on every day?

In this article, we’ll explore the various types of asphalt pavement distress and what causes them.

From cracking and potholes to rutting and weathering, we’ll break down each type and explain how it impacts the durability and safety of our roads.

So, buckle up and get ready to learn about the common issues that can plague asphalt pavement.


You may notice several types of cracking in asphalt pavement.

One common type is longitudinal cracking, which appears as long, straight cracks running parallel to the pavement’s centerline. These cracks often result from the natural aging process of the asphalt or from heavy traffic loads.

Another type is transverse cracking, characterized by cracks that intersect the pavement’s centerline at a perpendicular angle. Transverse cracking usually occurs due to temperature changes and the contraction and expansion of the pavement.

Block cracking is yet another type, characterized by interconnected rectangular-shaped cracks forming a pattern similar to a checkerboard. This type of cracking typically occurs when the asphalt pavement has lost its flexibility and becomes brittle.

Understanding the different types of cracking in asphalt pavement is crucial for effective maintenance and repair strategies.


You may also encounter another common asphalt pavement distress known as potholes. Potholes are depressions or holes in the asphalt surface caused by the deterioration of the pavement. They’re often the result of water infiltrating the pavement through cracks and then freezing and expanding during colder temperatures.

The expansion creates stress on the asphalt, causing it to weaken and eventually break apart, forming a pothole. Potholes can vary in size and depth, ranging from small divots to large craters. They pose a significant risk to vehicles, as hitting a pothole can cause damage to tires, suspension systems, and even lead to accidents.

Potholes should be repaired promptly to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of road users.


Have you ever noticed uneven depressions or grooves in the asphalt surface of roads? These depressions are called rutting, and they’re a common type of distress that can occur on asphalt pavement.

Rutting is characterized by the formation of channels or grooves in the wheel tracks of the road. The main cause of rutting is the repeated loading of vehicles on the pavement surface. As vehicles pass over the road, the asphalt can deform and compact, resulting in the formation of these depressions.

Rutting can be particularly problematic because it can lead to poor drainage, reduced skid resistance, and an uncomfortable driving experience. To prevent rutting, proper design and construction techniques, as well as regular maintenance, are essential to ensure the longevity and durability of asphalt pavement.


Asphalt pavement distress can also be caused by the natural process of weathering. Over time, exposure to various weather conditions can deteriorate the asphalt surface, leading to cracks and other forms of damage. The effects of weathering can be particularly pronounced in regions with extreme temperature fluctuations, heavy rainfall, or intense sunlight.

In colder climates, freezing and thawing cycles can cause the asphalt to expand and contract, resulting in cracks and potholes. Similarly, excessive heat can cause the asphalt to soften and become more susceptible to deformation. Additionally, ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can break down the binder in the asphalt, leading to further deterioration.

To mitigate the effects of weathering, regular maintenance and timely repairs are crucial to prolonging the lifespan of asphalt pavement.


To identify the distress of bleeding on an asphalt pavement, look for the appearance of shiny, black, or brownish patches. Bleeding occurs when the asphalt binder rises to the surface, creating a glossy, sticky film. This can happen due to excessive asphalt content, high temperatures, or poor compaction during construction.

When you observe bleeding, it’s important to address it promptly to prevent further damage to the pavement. The glossy patches not only make the surface slippery, but they can also attract dirt and debris, leading to a decrease in skid resistance. Additionally, the excess asphalt can soften under high temperatures, causing the pavement to deform.

Therefore, proper drainage, control of asphalt content, and ensuring adequate compaction are essential in preventing and managing bleeding distress on asphalt pavements.


In conclusion, asphalt pavement distress can be caused by various factors such as cracking, potholes, rutting, weathering, and bleeding. These issues can lead to decreased durability and safety of the pavement.

Regular maintenance and timely repairs are essential to prevent further deterioration and ensure the longevity of the pavement.

By addressing these distresses promptly, we can maintain smooth and resilient roads for safer and more efficient transportation.

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