Two weather-induced potholes in a street that could inflict pothole damage on vehicles.

Warning Signs of Pothole Damage

With winter firmly fixed in your rearview mirror, you can now turn your attention to getting your car ready for the warmer months. One of the first things to do is rid your vehicle of road salt and grime buildup, restoring it to its proper luster with a wash and wax. You also need to consider possible damage to the vehicle due to rough road surfaces. Damage from potholes isn’t always easy to spot. If you suspect your vehicle may have suffered pothole damage, pay attention to warning signs while you’re driving.

What Is a Pothole?

A pothole is a small crevice or hole in the road caused by water from melted snow and ice permeating the pavement, thereby softening it. As a result of successive cold spells, the water refreezes, then expands, causing the underlying pavement to separate.pot hole

The resulting gaps in the pavement and additional moisture seeping in weaken it further. With each passing vehicle, the pavement begins to separate more. Finally, with traffic continuing to cross the broken section, pieces of the roadway get kicked out, leaving a hole in its place. If you could observe the hole from its sides, it usually resembles a pot, thus the name pothole.

What’s Your Damage?

As you might imagine, driving over a pothole is never a good thing for any vehicle. Your tires make the first contact, which could lead to a blowout or cause rim damage. Less obvious, at least initially, is damage to your vehicle’s suspension system. Some of these telltale signs are as follows:

  • Your vehicle sits lower at the front or the rear. If this is the case, one or both shock absorbers or the coil springs may have become damaged. This same problem can also occur while accelerating.
  • Your vehicle no longer stays planted on twisty roads. You know how your vehicle behaves on curvy roads. Anything out of the ordinary, such as bouncing and sliding as you attempt to keep it centered in your lane, suggests a problem with the suspension. Rolling or swaying on turns is another troubling sign.
  • Your vehicle’s front end “dives” when you brake. When you apply the brakes, your car should stop without drama. If it takes a bow before it comes to a stop, you could be dealing with front-end suspension damage.
  • Your vehicle loses directional control during sudden stops or bottoms out when it hits a bump. Any time you sense that you’re losing control of your vehicle, that’s a clear sign something is desperately wrong. The first problem may have to do with the suspension and the steering rack. The second problem is definitely a suspension issue.

Physical signs of pothole damage include dents and rust, which may, on closer inspection, reveal a problem with a shock, strut, bushings, bearings, joints, linkages and other suspension parts. These can work loose and damage the car’s body.

In a worst-case scenario, especially where the pothole has expanded, your exhaust system could break, or your engine – or at least the oil pan – could sustain damage.

Whatever the problem detected, take care of it immediately to avoid further damage or a serious accident.

Check out all the steering and suspension parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on pothole damage, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

about author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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