What Pothole Damage Can Do to Your Car
It’s officially spring, which means it’s officially pothole season. As much as you may try to avoid driving over these obnoxious roadway obstructions, you’re bound to hit one eventually.
What are they? Potholes are cracked, sunken in portions of the road that form when water weakens the soil underneath the pavement.
Potholes are especially bad during early spring when temperatures start to fluctuate. If you think back to your middle school science class, you’ll remember that when water freezes, it expands. Potholes form when water gets into the soil beneath the road, freezes, then pushes up onto the pavement. Once that water thaws, the pavement remains raised, creating a gap between the pavement and the ground. Once a car drives over that cavity, the pavement surface cracks and sinks in.
The combination of rain, snow, ice, and sleet from the winter, plus the weight of heavy traffic make for a vulnerable roadway. This also makes your vehicle vulnerable to damage. According to AAA, pothole damage costs American drivers an average of $3 billion a year.
So, before you hit the road again, make sure you’re aware of the potential effects that potholes can have on your car.
What’s Affected By Pothole Damage?
This may be obvious because your tires are the only part of your vehicle that makes contact with the road.
Potholes can put an immense amount of pressure on your tires. These sunken chunks of asphalt often have hard edges, meaning that upon impact, potholes can slice rubber and even snap the material that holds your tires together. If you happen to hit a pothole, check out your tires for obvious signs of tread separation, sidewall bulges, and flats. If you’re not sure, bring your vehicle into Virginia Tire & Auto and we can perform a thorough inspection.
Extremely deep potholes can cause a vehicle to “bottom out.” This means that the exhaust system comes into contact with the roadway and can rip holes into the pipes. Listen for unusual noises while you’re driving, which may indicate that your exhaust pipes have suffered damage.
It’s rare that the body of your vehicle ever touches the ground. However, when it comes to potholes, anything is possible. Hitting a pothole can mean the bumpers or sides of your car get scratched or chipped.
Although most of the damage is cosmetic, it’s still a costly repair if you want to keep your vehicle looking sharp. Sportier cars that hang lower to the ground are at a higher risk of experiencing cosmetic damage from potholes.
Sudden jolts to your vehicle can affect your car’s suspension, causing misalignment issues and harm to your shocks, struts, and ball joints.
Your car’s suspension is the system that connects the vehicle to its wheels. You may notice that your car is misaligned if it naturally pulls to the left or right, your wheel vibrates, or if you’re driving straight and your wheel isn’t centered. This can be extremely dangerous and should be addressed immediately.
Keep in mind that more modern vehicles made in the last several years are made to compensate for the pull of misalignment. This means that your vehicle may be out of alignment without pulling in a certain direction and can only be seen with an alignment check or if your tires wear unevenly over time.
Virginia Tire & Auto can adjust your vehicle’s suspension and ensure that your wheels are obeying all steering commands.
Hitting a pothole can create cracks and chips in your rims and can also cause your wheels to bend. This creates a problem when your wheel cannot form a solid seal with your tires or if it is not rolling smoothly.
Wheel bearings can also suffer damage after a run-in with a pothole. Bearings are groupings of small steels balls contained within a metal ring called a race. They help your wheels rotate efficiently with as little friction as possible, enabling your vehicle to turn from side to side.
Not being able to turn your vehicle is clearly a big problem. If you start hearing grinding noises when you turn, this can indicate that your bearings were damaged.
Have you hit a pothole recently?
It’s never safe to drive a vehicle if something seems out of the ordinary. Bring your car into one of our Virginia Tire & Auto locations and we can assess the damage.