Potholes can damage a variety of parts on your car and can even cause accidents and injuries. When it is pothole season here in the Midwest, it’s best to slow down and give yourself more space between the car in front of you. If can’t avoid hitting a pothole and notice any of the following problems – it is probably time to get your car checked out. We’ve highlighted the most common pothole problems and their solutions.
Your tires are the place where your vehicle meets the road. They are your first line of defense which makes them the most exposed item when you hit a pothole. The hard edge of the pothole pushes your tire against the wheel. This can damage the tire in various ways or it can blow out completely during impact or later.
If the tire survives the brunt, watch for a bulge or bubble in the sidewall*. There could be a gash where a piece of the tread or sidewall was lost. Likewise, you may start to feel a vibration through the steering wheel or the body of the car.
(*The sidewall of the tire protects cord plies and features tire markings and information such as tire size and type.)
A damaged tire is a pothole problem that needs immediate attention. DO NOT DRIVE ON ONE! Put on your spare, if you have one, or have the vehicle towed to a mechanic. Tread damage may be repairable, but sidewall damage usually is not.
Today’s aluminum alloy wheels perform well overall; however, a massive impact from a pothole can seriously damage them.
Potholes create a huge amount of force, focused on a specific point on your wheel, which can bend so it is no longer round. You may notice a vibration as you drive.
Potholes can also crack your wheels. This may result in chipping a piece of the rim. There could also be a hairline crack in the wheel, one difficult or impossible to see. Keep an eye on the tire, it may lose air!
Bent wheels can be repaired if the damage is not too severe. Cracked, chipped or otherwise physically compromised wheels are unsafe to drive on and will need to be replaced.
Pothole damage can go beyond your tires and wheels. Your suspension, which attaches those wheels to the rest of your vehicle, can also suffer. Suspension and steering systems are complex mechanisms, with plenty of parts that can get bent, broken or knocked out of alignment. For example ball joints, shocks and struts, bushings, control arms, tie rods, sway bars, etc.
Your car may pull to one side or the steering wheel may point to one side when you are driving straight. You might feel vibrations and hear strange sounds you had not noticed before.
Have your mechanic inspect your suspension components for any damage. Damaged steering and broken suspension parts can be replaced with new ones and the entire system can be realigned.
Your exhaust pipes, catalytic converter and muffler are attached to the underside of your car and can be threatened by potholes. You may notice that your exhaust suddenly sounds much louder, or there may be a dragging sound from a pipe that was knocked loose and is touching the ground.
Call your mechanic immediately and schedule repairs for this pothole problem. Any damage to your exhaust system can cause poisonous gases to leak inside your vehicle. If nothing is dragging on the ground, drive directly to your mechanic with all the windows open or have your car towed if you are in doubt.
There are other components underneath your vehicle that can scrape against a bad pothole. After a serious pothole, you may notice a fluid leak under your vehicle or possibly smell gasoline. Your brakes or parking brake may stop working as well as you are used to.
Damage to your braking system, gas tank or oil pan are serious pothole problems needing immediate attention from a mechanic.
If your car rides low or has additions, these can get damaged by big potholes. The results can include scrapes, cracks, or broken pieces.
While cosmetic damage to these low-hanging body parts looks awful, there is not much of a problem when a pothole smashes them. If the damage is severe enough, you might need to replace items like fog lights or parking sensors, if your vehicle has them built into its bumpers. In the event of a big hit, check for damage!
If the impact feels serious, pull off the road in a safe place as soon as you can. Check your wheels and tires for any signs of damage. Shut off the engine and listen for the hiss of air escaping from a tire.
If you have a flat tire, swap it for the spare or use your repair kit. Make sure nothing is hanging down from underneath the car.
If everything seems OK, continue driving at a slower pace, and listen for signs of pothole problems like any noises or vibrations that were not there before. Call your mechanic if you do not feel comfortable continuing.
If you have any questions or want a second look call Mike at Great Plains Auto Body & Car Care or stop in and see him; 4103 Leavenworth Street, Mike 402.551.6000.
At Great Plains Auto Body shop Omaha and Council Bluffs, we’re committed to giving you an unmatched level of service. As a company that’s been family-owned and operated for more than 26 years, we’re dedicated to treating our customers as we would treat members of our own family. We’ll keep you informed throughout the entire repair process and make sure you’re satisfied when the job is complete. From estimating and detailing to collision repair and paint services, our ASE-certified mechanics and technicians make sure the job is done right and on time.