If you want your asphalt driveway to have a long and productive life, it's important to know both the causes and solutions to common problems.
Divots and Ruts
Asphalt is a somewhat flexible material, which means if weight sits on one spot long enough, damage may occur. Heat can increase the softness and flexibility of the surface, so outside damage is even more likely to happen on hot days and during the summer months. Typically, these damages appear in the form of ruts and divots.
Ruts can form from driving a heavy vehicle over the path on the driveway day after day. They also form when heavy equipment is parked in the same spot for many months. The tires may actually depress the asphalt beneath them. Divots form from a similar method but are most often the result of a jack stand on a trailer or RV tongue. Placing a flat board beneath the tires or jack stand can distribute the weight and help prevent the problem.
Water incursion may very well be the biggest thing to affect asphalt since this is what typically leads to cracks and potholes. Water can get in through asphalt through the above-mentioned ruts and divots or from hairline cracks that allow water in. Worn and weathered asphalt can also absorb water. Further, sometimes an old failing driveway will have water begin to leach under the base as the material fails.
Ongoing maintenance can limit water incursion. Potholes and cracks must be repaired as soon as they appear, typically with a hot asphalt patch. Drainage issues, particularly those that cause water to pool on the paving or seep beneath, must be addressed. Drainage troughs and grates that route water away are good solutions. Finally, applying a seal coat to the surface every few years will also delay water incursion.
Asphalt begins with a lot of oils in it, which aids in its longevity. Over time, it begins to dry out and become brittle, which makes it more prone to cracks and the development of a crumbling surface. Dried-out asphalt typically becomes lighter and more mottled in color. The stone aggregate may also seem to rise, making the surface bumpier. In extreme cases, the aggregate will loosen and there will be gravel on the surface.
Sealcoating every couple of years is how you prevent the asphalt from drying out. If it has already dried enough that the aggregate has loosened, then you may need to have it resurfaced.
Contact an asphalt paving contractor if you notice surface damage developing on your pavement.