How Pothole Damage Can Ruin Your Vehicle

An in-depth guide on pothole damage and how it can affect your vehicle. How Pothole Damage Can Ruin Your Vehicle drivrzone.com

Everyone has hit the troublesome pothole at one time or another.  People complain about them every year and the cities receive many complaints about them each year.  They especially become problematic the first of spring when snow is melting away or in a very rainy season. Pothole damage is one of the worst things that can happen to your vehicle.  In this blog, we hope to give you some information on the types of damage that can happen to your vehicle and how to avoid it if possible.

What Are Potholes

Pothole Damage - Tire in the pothole

When the soil under pavement becomes weakened or moved, an imperfection is formed which is called a pothole.  Potholes are more likely to form in spring and winter months when lots of water misplaces the base layer of soil under the pavement.

As vehicles drive over the weakened pavement over and over again, the pavement begins to crack, chip or move beneath the tires.  These will start very small, but the more vehicles that move over it, the bigger the hole will become.  Not long after that, they will be large enough to do some serious damage to your vehicles which would include tire damage.

Pothole Damage to Watch For

If you happen to drive through a pothole, there are some major areas you need to check for damages.  Here are the main things to look over on your vehicle once you have hit one.

Suspension & Steering Pothole Damage - axle and wheel

Your vehicle’s suspension is made to absorb impacts as well as provide a smooth ride.  Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much it can handle over time.  The sudden jarring from going over a pothole can cause damage to the suspension.  This would include misalignment, broken ball joints, damaged shocks or struts.

When this starts to happen, you will feel the steering wheel pulling to one side or another, or notice that the handling of the vehicle will be loose.  If you feel unusual vibrations, hear sounds, or the vehicle leaning to one side, you probably have broken ball joints, struts or shocks.  You will want an experienced mechanic to inspect the entire system.

Rims

The rims are the outer edge of the metal part of the wheel holding the tire in place.  Ever hit a curb when parking or gone over a speed bump too fast? Over time, the rims on your vehicle can become damaged.  Hitting a pothole, with all the angles it has, can impact the rims in ways they were not designed because the tire is the only part that should be touching the road.

Rims will become bent from repeated damage, which can cause the tire to come off the rim.  Check for chips, bends or cracks in the rim.  Wheels that are bent can usually be fixed, but if it is chipped or cracked, it will have to be replaced entirely.  Tire sidewall damage can be catastrophic if driving down the road and tire comes off or blows out.

Tires

When you hit a pothole, your tires are put under a lot of stress, and if your wheels are not straight or full of air, you can do damage to them.  They are made of rubber, and while it is a harder rubber, it does not make them invincible to damage.

Tire bulging is a common thing to happen when hitting potholes.  This means that the tire was compressed upon impact with the rim, and slicing of the tire is letting air in the space.  Chunks of the rubber can be broken off if it scrapes the pothole just right.

Also, the tires are prone to cracking, and because of this, dust and grime from the road can get into the tire and make the tires fail and slowly loose air or become flat.

Body of Vehicle

You have all seen those vehicles that ride low to the ground.  Mainly in the younger generation, because they are cool or go faster because of their sleek design.  Unfortunately, potholes are not friends of these types of vehicles.  Any vehicle is low to the ground or has bumpers and side skirts that are low to the ground, have the potential of being damaged.

Most potholes won’t do that much cosmetic damage to a vehicle, but the bigger the potholes get, the more likely that damage will be done.  Scraping against the road is the most common thing to happen, so the damage will be cosmetic and not something that you will most likely notice unless you go under your vehicle.  Worst case, the bumper could be damaged or the side skirt could potentially come off if the pothole is big enough and you scrape the road.

Exhaust Exhaust

The exhaust is probably the lowest part of your car, hanging from the undercarriage of your vehicle.  The undercarriage has the potential of scraping against the pavement if you hit the right size pothole.

The possibility of denting or ripping a hole in the exhaust is common, but you could also potentially cause damage to the muffler or catalytic converter.  If you experience any of these issues, you could have a loss of power, loud obnoxious noise from under the car, white smoke coming out of the exhaust, or exhaust fumes in the car itself.

Reducing the Damage of Potholes

The best way to avoid any of the damage above is to avoid potholes altogether.  We know that this is not always something that can be avoided, however, there are ways to minimize the damage done if you do happen to go over one.

Keep Tires Inflated

In order to prevent pothole tire damage, keep the tires inflated to the recommended air pressure listed in the manual versus the sidewall of the tire.  Don’t over-inflate the tires, this will probably cause more damage when hitting a pothole to your suspension.  Keeping the tires inflated according to the recommendation will keep the tires at the right height if you do happen to go over one.

Don’t Tailgate

Don’t follow too closely to another vehicle, in other words, do not tailgate.  Following someone that close will not allow you to see what is ahead of you on the road, and this can lead to you hitting a pothole instead of being able to react to it.  Keeping your distance will allow you to watch more closely for potholes and react appropriately.

Adjust Speed

Make sure that you are going the speed that matches the road speed limit and/or weather conditions.  If you know you are going to hit a pothole and cannot avoid it, reduce your speed if you can, but don’t hit your brakes when you hit the pothole, this will shift the weight of the vehicle and possibly do more damage.

If you hit a pothole that is really deep at high speeds, that also raises the possibility of you losing control of the vehicle and possibly being involved in an accident.

Avoid Covered Spots on Roads

If you can, try to avoid areas on the roads that are covered with standing water or snow.  As we discussed above, the weather plays a factor in how potholes are formed and numerous vehicles going over the same spot will create bigger and wider potholes.  Any standing water or snow in one spot is potentially covering a deep pothole, so try to avoid if you can.

Pothole damage - puddle

Potholes Discovered

As you can see, potholes are a nuisance and can potentially do a lot of damage to your vehicle.  Roadways are a major part of most people’s lives, being used daily for travel.

Damage to vehicles each year is climbing due to rough roadways and based on the American Society of Civil Engineers, it would cost $2.7 trillion dollars to fix U.S. highways and bridge infrastructures.  Depending on where you live, keep your eyes open for potholes and save yourself the mechanic bill from having to have repairs done on your vehicle.

Sources

  1. Your Mechanic – 5 Car Parts Potholes Can Damage
  2. Popular Mechanics – How Badly Can Potholes Damage Your Car?
  3. Geico More – How Potholes can damage Your Car
  4. Driving – Seven of the worst things you can do to damage your car
  5. Chaneys Collision – How to Protect Your Car From Potholes
  6. Gerber Collision and Glass – How to Avoid the Damaging Effects of Potholes