An early freeze-thaw has brought pothole season to an early start this year in Ottawa, much to the aggravation of drivers in the city.

Now that much of the ice and snow has melted, potholes can be difficult to avoid, said taxi driver Jamal Sahak.

"A lot of potholes everywhere, on Bank Street, Elgin Street, Carling...a lot of potholes," said Sahak.

Ottawa potholes

Vehicles drive along the cracked surface of Bank Street on Monday morning. January has seen temperatures fluctuate from above zero to well below freezing. (CBC)

Gary's Automotive general manager Rick Voskamp said there has been a corresponding increase in car suspension work at all five of their locations in the city as a result of the rougher roads.

Kevin Wylie, the manager of roads and traffic operations for the city, said when ice on the roads thaw, the water gets into the crevices of the asphalt, and when it freezes the water expands, breaking the asphalt and creating holes in the road.

"They start as small holes, and then the amount volume of traffic that goes over them just causes them to keep on breaking open and before you know it they're large holes, so it's best to get at them right away," said Wylie.

City rejects most pothole damage claims

Wylie said the city has $6 million budget to deal with the issue, and said it was too soon to know whether that will be enough to handle the potholes this season.

If drivers damage their vehicles on a pothole on a city road, they can make a claim with the City of Ottawa to be reimbursed for any damages.

But Wylie said those claims are usually only accepted if the pothole had been reported earlier but the city had not acted within 30 days to fix it.

The city received 497 claims last year, but paid in only 17 cases. Since 2005, the city has denied claims in 97 per cent of all claims for pothole damage.