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What Do Drivers Need to Know About Pothole Damage?

It’s been a bizarre, severe winter in nearly every corner of Canada, and for many communities, that means potholes. And more potholes. And yet a recent Kal Tire survey shows while 72 per cent of motorists have hit a pothole, only half with pothole damage have had their vehicle fixed.

What does that mean for driver safety? How much damage can potholes do to vehicles anyway? What do Canadians know—or not know—about pothole vehicle damage risks?

In the thick of Canada’s pothole season and to help educate drivers, Kal Tire set out to share the answers to these questions.

1. How does pothole damage impact vehicle safety?


Even if your wheels become bent only slightly, it can lead to poor seals between the rim and the tire, which can lead to leaks and flat tires. Wheel damage can also cause vehicle shaking as well as reduced handling, steering and poor braking performance.

In this fantastic video by Mike Granek of Top, his interview with automotive expert Bill Gardiner begins with an explanation of the impacts of wheel damage.


Even a single dramatic pothole damage impact, or minor repetitive ones, can cause suspension issues that impair the vehicle’s ability to steer, absorb and dampen shock, maintain road contact and support the vehicle’s weight.


When your vehicle hits a pothole, it’s at risk of becoming misaligned—or no longer square to the vehicle, possibly in one of these ways:

Misalignment can cause poor steering, irregular tire wear and vibrations that lead to driver fatigue. Learn the three signs you need an alignment, and how Kal’s technology and technicians ensure all four wheels are parallel and sitting flat on the road, and that your steering wheel is centered.


Other systems, areas and components that can be affected by potholes include scratched undercarriages and ball joints.

2. What do Canadians know and do about pothole damage?

Kal Tire’s pothole survey, which polled more than 1,000 Canadians from BC to Ontario, offered some interesting insight into how drivers experience and react to pothole vehicle damage.


  • Nearly 72 per cent of motorists have hit a pothole this winter, yet only half the people with pothole-related vehicle damage have fixed the problem
  • 40% of motorists who have hit potholes this winter say that it damaged their vehicle. The most common damage was to alignment (39 per cent).
  • 32% of motorists with damage reported their steering started pulling to one side, and or that the impact damaged their wheel rims (11%).
  • For vehicles that sustained alignment damage, only 44% of drivers have had it fixed, many motorists left damaged undercarriages, shocks and struts as is.
  • Other problems caused by potholes include vehicles vibrating, shaking or wobbling (37%), damage to undercarriage (28%), vehicle bouncing/swaying (22%), flat or damaged tires (17%), body dents (14%), leaking fluid (4%).

“These are all problems that, if dealt with early on, have a much better chance of costing less and giving you less hassle,” says Sean Thompson, mechanical program manager, Kal Tire. “No one wants to be on the road late at night and hear a rim about to wobble off, or feel their vehicle get ‘the shakes.’ Even having an alignment performed will save on premature tire wear, so it’s about safety and savings.”

3.What can you do to reduce the impact of potholes?

There are ways to help reduce the amount of damage and safety risks associated with potholes. Watch this video by CTV Toronto’s Pat Foran to find out what you can do.

fig. Click the pothole to see Pat Foran of CTV talk about potholes.

“I think as Canadians, we get so used to potholes that we don’t realize how damaging they can actually be to our vehicles or how that damage can impact our safety on the road,” says Thompson. “Sometimes all it takes is one bad hit to the wheel to knock your vehicle out of alignment and create shaking and wobbling or even loss of steering.”

Help your vehicle recover from pothole damage and prepare for safe spring driving! Book an inspection at one of our Kal Tire locations near you!