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Surviving Potholes: The Essential Guide for Drivers

Surviving Potholes: The Essential Guide for Drivers

Potholes …need I say more? I can already see you getting hot under the collar. But as much as we hate them, they are a fact of life if you drive on Canadian roads. The worst part is, besides causing bumpy and annoying rides, they can do a real number on your vehicle — from flat tires and bent rims to suspension, alignment and steering issues.

Potholes are often caused when moisture from snow and rain seep into the road’s cracks. The moisture freezes and expands; then on a warmer day, it melts and weakens the underlying soil. Once a few cars drive over the spot, you are left with what we know as a pothole. Because of the role freezing plays in pothole formation (not to mention road damage that can be caused by snowplows and road salt), winter weather can often lead to an increase of potholes, which is why we see so many reveal themselves in the early spring.

If you live in a community with lots of potholes, here are a few tips I learned from our resident auto expert Joe Da Cunha to help protect you and your vehicle:

  • Avoiding potholes is the best bet, so slow down and pay attention to road conditions. Keep some distance between you and the car you are following so you have time to react to a pothole up ahead.
  • Keep your tires inflated to the recommended inflation pressure (found in your vehicle owner’s manual). Properly inflated tires will hold up better against potholes than tires that have too much or too little air.
  • If you can’t avoid a pothole, take your foot off the gas and slow down before you hit it. But don’t brake directly while going over a pothole as this can actually cause more damage and result in loss of control over the vehicle.
  • When going over the pothole, hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control and drive straight into it. Turning into a pothole exposes more tire sidewall (the side of the tire found between the rim and tread) to potential damage. It’s important to maintain the integrity of the sidewall as it supports the weight of the vehicle and affects overall ride quality.
  • Don’t be fooled by the appearance of a pothole. Use caution. Some potholes may look small if filled with water when it’s really a giant crater.

While hitting a pothole could blow out a tire instantly, other damage may not be as easy to spot. Stay alert after a pothole encounter. Listen and pay attention to your vehicle. Here are a few things to watch for:

  • Alignment issues — if when driving straight you feel the car pull toward the left or the right, it could indicate an alignment problem.
  • Uneven tire wear could also indicate an alignment issue.
  • Low tire pressure.
  • Over inflated tires
  • Bulges or blisters on the tire sidewalls.
  • Dents in the wheel rims.
  • Loss of control, swaying when making turns, excessive bouncing on rough roads, or bottoming out on city streets, could all indicate problems with the steering or suspension.

If you notice any of these symptoms you’ll want to take your car into a reputable shop to have it checked out.

If you encounter a pothole in your community, be sure to report it to the local transportation authorities. Many major cities now have mobile apps for sharing pothole locations. In some cases, the community may even reimburse you for some of the repair costs if the pothole caused damaged to your vehicle.

Do you have any pothole stories to share? We’d like to hear about them in the comments below.