Potholes form when moisture collects in road cracks and then freezes. As temperatures fall during winter months, the water freezes and expands, causing damage to the road. When the temperature rises, the ice turns back into water, only to freeze and expand again, causing more damage. Repairing damage to your vehicle caused by potholes can be expensive, and, what’s worse, hitting a pothole can cause an accident. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends the following for protecting your vehicle from potholes.
Inspect the tires. In addition to helping your car stay on the road, your car’s tires provide cushion from road hazards. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have enough tread. Most tire stores do free tread inspections.
Inspect the vehicle’s suspension. Struts and shocks need to be in good condition. Signs of suspension problems include uneven tire wear, changes in vehicle handling or excessive vibration. If you suspect suspension problems, have the vehicle inspected by a certified mechanic.
Focus on the road. Look ahead for potholes and avoid them, if possible. If swerving from the pothole presents worse dangers — an accident or running over a pedestrian, for example — then slow down to minimize the pothole’s impact. Be careful not to brake too fast. The vehicles behind you may not be as focused as you.
Watch out for puddles. Potholes are difficult to detect. Puddles are often an indicator of an asphalt depression. Treat a puddle as you would a pothole. There’s a good chance it’s hiding one.
Despite your best efforts, it’s possible you’ll still run into a pothole. If so, AAA recommends the following.
Check the car’s alignment. Hitting a pothole may cause damage to your car’s alignment. If the wheel of your car pulls to the right or left after hitting a pothole, you need to get the alignment checked as soon as possible.
Listen. Post-pothole noises may indicate dislodged wheel weights, damaged tires or broken suspension components. Post-pothole noises should be inspected immediately.
Remember, an ounce of pothole prevention is worth a pound of pothole cure.