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The 4 Worst Kinds of Pothole Damage


Pothole damage can happen to anyone at any time. Poorly maintained streets, sudden thaws or soft shoulders can create potholes that are large enough to inflict serious harm on your tires, wheels and suspension. These road defects are something that you should avoid at all costs, because if you can’t, you could be looking at some extensive repairs.

Check out these four worst kinds of pothole carnage, and do your best to avoid falling prey to this stealthy street menace.

1. Bulging Sidewalls

Much of the worst pothole damage is caused by the force of the impact that your vehicle’s wheel and tire make with the pavement as a result of suddenly dropping down into the hole and then slamming into the edge of the asphalt. The first line of defense against this is your tire, which means it takes the brunt of the blow. Sometimes, your tire will slam into a pothole hard enough to damage its inner liner, creating a bulge or bubble in the sidewall that’s easily visible to the naked eye. This bubble is the result of the tire folding in on itself upon impact with the pothole, a sign the structural integrity of the tire is compromised, and it must be replaced.

2. Bent or Cracked Rims

PotholeThat same force that can bend the tire’s inner liner is also capable of deforming steel, aluminum or any other alloy used in the making of a car or truck wheel. It’s possible, in fact, for a wheel to be bent without the tire being damaged, which means you’ll usually only notice the bend or crack if it’s very obvious or if it causes a vibration that can be felt through the steering wheel. A damaged wheel is a serious concern, and you should park immediately if you notice a serious crack.

3. Suspension Failure

If a pothole is deep enough or if you’re traveling quickly, hitting a pothole can create enough stress to cause a shock absorber to fail, bend a tie-rod or damage one of the many joints at the front or rear of your vehicle. Again, telltale indicators of this type of damage include a vibration or a pulling from one side while driving.

4. Misalignment

Sometimes, you get off lucky after hitting a pothole and end up with a misaligned, rather than a damaged, suspension system. This type of pothole damage is correctable without having to replace any parts. However, you will have to take your car to the alignment shop and get it up on their rig, so that the front end can be put back into its proper configuration.

Pothole season is here, as roads thaw and rain falls on a more regular basis, but you don’t have to drive in fear as long as you stay alert.

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 yourlocal NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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