If you’ve been driving for awhile, you’re probably used to encountering occasional potholes on the road — including some that can be rather large. You know that potholes can create an unpleasant and bumpy ride, but did you know that they may also cause damage to your vehicle? The tips below can help you learn how to handle potholes safely and may even minimize the impact they can have on your car.
What Causes Potholes?
Many potholes are caused when water seeps into soil under the pavement and then freezes and thaws, weakening the road. This may cause the pavement to crack, which, when combined with the weight of vehicles driving over the road, eventually turns these weak areas into potholes, says the Summit County Engineer in Ohio. Because of the role freezing temperatures can play in pothole formation, severe winter weather can often lead to the creation of potholes.
How Can I Safely Handle Them?
If you live in an area with lots of potholes, knowing what you can do to help safely maneuver around them is key. First, you should maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you so it’s easier to spot potholes ahead, says Accuweather. You should also use caution when approaching puddles of water as they could really be potholes in hiding. If you can’t avoid hitting a pothole, says Accuweather, slow down before you hit it and firmly grip the wheel to help avoid losing control of your vehicle.
To potentially minimize the impact that hitting a pothole can have on your car, ensure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended level, suggests Consumer Reports — an under-inflated tire may not have enough resistance to withstand the impact of a pothole. Lastly, you should ensure your car’s suspension is in good condition, recommends Accuweather. It may be a good idea to have a mechanic help you confirm this.
What Kind of Car Damage Can Potholes Cause?
In addition to causing damage to the tire itself, potholes may cause alignment or suspension problems to your vehicle. Below are some signs that your car may have sustained damage after hitting a pothole, according to Accuweather and Consumer Reports:
- One or more deflated tires
- Severe cracks or bulges in the tires
- Dents in the wheel rims
- The vehicle shaking and pulling to the left or right, which could indicate an alignment problem
- Fluid leaks, which may mean your undercarriage is damaged
- Odd noises coming from the exhaust system
If you notice any of these issues, you may want to take your car to a repair facility to have a professional check it for damage as soon as possible. If the pothole did cause damage to your vehicle, it may be a good idea to call your insurance agent to see if your auto policy might help cover some of the repair costs.
Some potholes are unavoidable, but learning how to safely handle them on the road may help you save money and frustration down the road. The next time you see a pothole ahead, remember to slow down, and call your mechanic right away if you notice any subsequent issues with your vehicle. It might also be a good idea to notify your city or county transportation authorities so they are aware of potholes that need to be filled.
Originally published on February 4, 2017.