If you live in the upper Midwest, you probably already know what the biggest contributing factor to the deterioration of asphalt roads and parking lots is. Water. In and of itself, water can wear down pretty much anything given enough time. When combined with the fluctuating temperatures of the seasonal changes, water can actually become a great threat to the structural integrity of asphalt.
The smallest of cracks in asphalt may seem more like an annoyance than anything else. Ants find their way through them and mar the surface with their ant hills. That might not seem like a big deal, but if ants can find their way through a crack, water is surely going to do so as well. The unique aspect of water that makes it so powerful is that when it freezes, it expands unlike every other material that will shrink in the same conditions. After even a year of freezing and thawing, a small crack can become a serious issue.
Commercial paving contractors can easily repair those cracks to prevent water from further damaging the surrounding area or the crack from getting any bigger. There are a variety of ways and materials that these repairs can be performed, but the most important thing is that water will no longer be able to get into the cracks.
A more proactive method of protecting your asphalt surfaces is to seal coat the surface early in its life and to regularly re-seal to prevent as much contact with water as possible. Once cracks start appearing, more involved repairs will be necessary to prevent them from growing. If nothing is done to remedy the situation, a small crack can easily become a complete break-up of the surrounding surface or worse.