Unpaved driveways, whether they have a dirt or gravel surface, eventually need to be re-leveled because of the effects of runoff and vehicle traffic. If you've moved into a home that has a dirt or gravel driveway, and you've never dealt with those before, watch out for ponding, cracks, and loosening soil. For gravel-covered driveways, watch for exposed patches of dirt. Once you see any of those, it's time to have the driveway smoothed out and regraded -- and possibly paved completely.
Wheel Ruts and Erosion
When rain falls on a paved driveway, it runs off (this is assuming no cracks in the pavement are letting water through to the underlayer). But when rain falls on a gravel or dirt driveway, the rain can carry loose dirt and smaller gravel off the driveway, especially if the rain is heavy. This creates divots and cracks or small ravines in the surface. The same happens when you keep driving over the surface, especially in a heavy vehicle. The tires displace gravel and dirt over time.
As a result, the driveway becomes uneven and difficult to walk on. Rain can form small ponds in the shallow depressions left by your tires, increasing the risk of yet more erosion. If you live in an area where rain happens mainly in spring and summer, those ponds become a mosquito larvae breeding ground. For gravel driveways, the exposed mud can make it difficult to move the vehicle.
Excavation and Paving
If you're lucky, you won't have to regrade the driveway that often. However, if you find yourself faced with continued problems, have the driveway excavated, regraded, and paved. As part of the paving process, you'll get better drainage, too. Paving does not have to be expensive, but if you deal with a lot of rain, you'll want a company that can work on the surrounding land as well. You may need an extra drainage channel, like a French drain, added nearby.
Excavators can also check for stability issues with the soil. While everyone's case is different, you should be able to get the soil amended or moved so that you're left with a stable base for a new, paved driveway.
Pavement has its own care issues; you have to watch for cracking, the material has to be sealed, and you have to watch out for frost heave. But those problems are not as prominent as erosion. Contact an excavation and paving company, like L. N. Rothberg & Son Inc, to have your driveway evaluated.