March 9th, 2020 by Fix Auto USA
Driving over potholes is unpleasant, regardless of your car’s make and model and how you travel over them. Although avoiding potholes is sometimes tricky, there are lots of things you can do to limit the risk of car damage caused by potholes.
What Is a Pothole?
A pothole refers to a depression in the surface of a road. It often starts out as a tiny crack in a road that goes unaddressed for an extended period of time. In addition, a pothole can grow quickly. And in some instances, a pothole can become a few feet wide and several inches deep.
Potholes are commonly found in highways and city streets and make a road bumpy and dangerous. They can also damage a car’s tires, wheels, shocks, struts, engine, and more.
How Do Potholes Form in Roads?
Potholes form due to ground water that enters pavement via a small crack in a road. Typically, this water freezes in cold temperatures, which causes it to expand. When this happens, the pavement expands as well, leading to additional bending and cracking in the road.
Meanwhile, when ice underneath the pavement melts, the pavement contracts. Gaps then form in the pavement’s surface, water keeps getting trapped in these gaps, and the expansion and contraction process repeats itself over and over. The result: the pavement continues to get weaker, and cracks increase in size and severity.
Let’s not forget about the impact of cars and trucks that pass over gaps in the road, either. The weight of these vehicles is significant, and it puts pressure on the pavement. Over time, the pavement breaks down or becomes displaced, which can result in a pothole.
How to Safely Drive Over a Pothole
Car damage caused by potholes can be substantial, but you can limit the risk of damage if you know how to drive over potholes safely. Now, let’s look at five tips to help you avoid damage when driving over potholes.
1. Slow Down
In the event that you cannot avoid driving over a pothole, slow down your car as much as possible. Slow down before you reach the pothole and do not brake as you travel over a pothole, as this can actually increase your risk of car damage.
2. Prepare for Impact
Maintain a firm grip on your car’s steering wheel to avoid losing control as you drive over a pothole. If possible, warn any passengers about an upcoming pothole as well.
3. Use Caution When Traveling Over Puddles
Puddles of water sometimes hide potholes. So, drive cautiously over puddles, and maneuver around them whenever you can.
4. Stay a Safe Distance Away from the Car in Front of You
The best way to spot a pothole is to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. This also reduces the risk of a collision or accident if the driver in front of you suddenly slams on the brakes or swerves to avoid a pothole.
5. Inflate Your Car’s Tires to the Proper Level
Under-inflated car tires are less likely to withstand the damage caused by a pothole. Thus, you should inflate your car’s tires to the proper air level. Read your owner’s manual to find out the correct PSI for your tires and check the tire pressure at least once a month.
What to Do If Driving Over a Pothole Causes Car Damage
If you believe your car has been damaged due to driving over a pothole, pull off the road to a safe spot as soon as you can. Then, inspect the following areas of your car for damage:
Driving over a pothole can puncture a car tire’s sidewall. If this happens, the tire will lose air, and the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light on your car’s dashboard will likely turn on. You probably will need to replace the defective tire, too.
A pothole can sometimes cause a car’s wheel to bend, which means it won’t roll smoothly on the road. If you notice visible wheel damage after driving over a pothole, the wheel may need to be replaced.
Driving over a pothole can damage your car’s suspension and put your vehicle out of alignment. If you find your vehicle pulls to the right or left after you drive over a pothole, you should get your vehicle’s alignment checked.
If your car is making strange noises, seems unsafe to drive, or stops running after traveling over a pothole, call a tow truck to pick up your vehicle. You can then have the tow truck bring your car home or to an auto body shop so it can be fully inspected.
Potholes can be problematic, so you should try to steer clear of them any time you can. If you cannot avoid a pothole, do everything possible to drive over it safely. That way, you can lower the risk of car damage caused by a pothole.
This blog post was contributed by Fix Auto Folsom, a leading industry expert and collision repair shop servicing the San Francisco area.