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What Can Potholes Do To Your Vehicle?

There are many telltale signs that herald the return of spring. The days start to get longer. The birds return. Flowers are in bloom. And, of course, potholes become more and more common along our roadways. The latter can be bad news for your vehicle.

All it takes is one good jolt from a pothole to affect your vehicle’s handling. When you consider the cumulative effect of driving over them repeatedly in spring, it can really take a toll on your vehicle’s:

  • Suspension
  • Alignment
  • Tires

Unseen Complications due to potholes

Whether you hit a pothole head-on, or you react in time to partially avoid one, it can damage your vehicle. Two things will typically affect the extent of the damage:

  1. The speed at which you hit the pothole
  2. The depth of the pothole

While some forms of damage will be immediately apparent—such as tire failure—other times you might not even know there’s something wrong. However, over time, you might start to notice that your vehicle rides a little bumpier, or handles a little sloppier.

Tire Damage

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The most immediate concern when hitting a pothole is your tires. This can lead directly to uneven wear and tire damage. A significant enough blow can bend a rim. This can result in a poor seal between the rim and the tire, which can cause air leaks and flat tires.

That is why it’s a good idea to inspect your tires as part of your annual spring maintenance. For more on this, read: The Spring Tune-up: Do Vehicles Still Need Them?

Alignment Issues

Alignment problems caused by potholes can lead to unpleasant and potentially unsafe complications such as:

  • Vibrations
  • Poor steering
  • Premature or irregular tread wear

If you notice that your vehicle is ‘pulling’ to one side while driving, it’s usually an indication that your vehicle is misaligned. This can increase the cost of operating your vehicle because you will have to replace your tires more frequently. This condition also affects safety and contributes to driver frustration and/or fatigue.

Suspension Problems

Your vehicle’s suspension system is designed to:

  • Support the vehicle’s weight
  • Absorb and dampen shock
  • Ensure constant tire contact with the road

When a vehicle drives over a pothole, the initial force on the tire is transferred to the components of the suspension system (springs, shock absorbers, linkages etc.). Repeated jolts caused by potholes accelerate wear and tear of your suspension, while decreasing its performance.

As mentioned, the effect might not be recognizable at first, but over time, you might notice that your vehicle no longer absorbs bumps like it used to. It might even begin to bounce unstably.

Vehicular Damage

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If a pothole is deep enough, and you hit it with enough force, the resulting compression of your suspension can cause your vehicle to make contact with the road surface. The extent of the damage could range anywhere from a scratched undercarriage to broken mechanical components.

For tips on how to avoid potholes, check out our post: Helping Your Tires Survive Pothole Season.

Is your vehicle pulling to one side, or riding bumpier than normal. Perhaps it’s time to visit your local Kal Tire store for an inspection by a certified technician.