It’s pothole season again—that time of year when winter and spring play tug-of-war. That temp change often is resulting in fluctuating temperatures that can wreak havoc on roads.
Potholes begin when water seeps through cracks in the road. In colder climates, that water freezes and pushes sections of pavement upward; the eventual thaw results in unsupported pockets. (In warmer climates, soil erosion under the road can cause weak spots.) The continual pressure of vehicles may cause these weak areas to collapse.
So what should you do if you hit a pothole? Don’t ignore it—the bump can cause damage that may only get worse. Our suggestion, get it checked.
Hitting a pothole can be jarring to your tires, says Cox. And if the force is great enough, the sudden shift of air inside the tire can cause the sidewall to blow out.
If the impact has caused your tire to lose air, the vehicle’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) light will immediately go on. But even if the tire is holding air, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Look for any bulges sticking out of the side. They could be a sign of internal damage, which means you’re probably going to need to replace the tire. “Most of the time the damage isn’t to the tread, it’s to the sidewall,” says Cox. “And, unfortunately, there’s no way to patch or plug a sidewall.”
The hard angles of a pothole can also cause serious damage to your wheels. “The first thing to look for are bends or cracks in the side of the wheel, where the rim meets the tire,” says Cox.
If a wheel is bent, it won’t roll smoothly. Also, the airtight seal between the tire and the wheel could be compromised. Sometimes you can see where the pieces have broken off and the wheel is dented in. If there is visible damage, that wheel will most likely need to be replaced.
Suspension and Steering
If you notice your car pulling to the right or the left, the pothole might have bent one or more suspension or steering components out of alignment. Not only will that cause handling problems, but if you just had to spring for a brand new tire, a misaligned suspension will cause it to wear unevenly—and wear out prematurely.
In that case, get your alignment checked.