Can Potholes Damage My Car?
With winter on its way out, the conditions are ripe for pothole formation. Fortunately, most pothole hits don’t cause any major damage. That said, a severe impact can result in a trip to the garage. Potholes can’t be wished away, but you can minimise the risk to your car.
The Pothole Seasons
Expect more potholes after winter or heavy rains. Cracks on the road surface allow water to percolate under the road surface during the wet season. The same thing happens towards the end of winter when it starts getting warmer and the ice melts.
Once water gets into the soil beneath the road, it becomes soggy and is unable to support the surface above. When a heavy vehicle passes over it, the surface gives way resulting in a pothole. Once a pothole is formed, it starts growing wider and deeper as more vehicles pass over it. Repairs are usually delayed because the authorities are overwhelmed by the number of new potholes. You can expect to tackle them until mid summer.
Damage due to potholes can be expensive to repair so it makes sense to see if you can avoid or limit it. The best thing to do is to avoid potholes.
If you know that a route is particularly ridden with potholes, take another one with better roads even if it is slightly longer.
Drive slowly and leave extra space between your car and the vehicle ahead during the pothole season. This gives you more time to see and react to potholes. If you see one in time, try to dodge it.
When a pothole hit is inevitable, slow down as much as possible, but release the brake just before you go over it. Allowing the wheels to roll softens the impact and limits the damage.
Maintain the exact tyre pressure recommended by the manufacturer. It gives the right cushion to absorb the shock.
If your car takes a bad pothole hit, inspect it for damage as quickly as possible. If left unrepaired, it can lead to bigger problems and a larger repair bill.
Signs Of Pothole Damage
If you notice anything unusual after a pothole hit, get your car checked at a good garage. Here are some common problems.
If your car sways or becomes difficult to control in a bend, it could be the sign of a damaged steering or suspension. This is usually the result of broken ball joints, shock absorbers or struts. If your car is pulling to one side, you probably have a wheel alignment problem.
Sometimes, the shape and depth of the pothole may result in the wheel rim striking the road. This can result in a dented or bent rim. Damaged wheel rims may prevent the formation of the airtight seal necessary to keep air within the tyre. If you start to lose tyre pressure, a damaged tyre or wheel rim is the cause.
Tyre damage is common in severe pothole hits. Bulges or blisters can appear on tyres or tread separation can occur. Tyre and wheel damage are easier to see if you examine the wheel after lifting it with a jack.
A wheel or tyre problem must be fixed on priority because it can lead to a blowout, which can result in sudden loss of control. Tyres with sidewall damage must be replaced. Any repair on the sidewall is dangerous and should not be attempted. In most cases, a bent wheel will also need replacement.
There are many components on the underside of your car. If you go through a large pothole, there is a good chance of some of these components striking the road and getting damaged. You may notice fluid leaks from broken tubes. Broken connections or holes in the exhaust are also possible.
If you notice any abnormal vibration, noise or loss of power, you should get your exhaust system checked. Any damage to the exhaust should be promptly repaired because there is a risk of toxic combustion gases entering the cabin.
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