If you live in cold and wet climates you are no stranger to what driving conditions you’ll get into once the ice begins to thaw or when flooding happens. Those undesirable and often unavoidable potholes appear on roadways. Potholes cause billions of dollars in car damages and to make it worse they can also cause highway accidents.
After hitting a pothole, it’s natural that all you can think about is how your vehicle is doing. It could be that all it did was give you a jolt but it could also mean serious damage to your vehicle. What makes pothole damage more complicated is that they can be as unseen as potholes on roads covered with snow. So it helps for you to know the warning signs of damage to your car after hitting a pothole.
Here are some warning signs to watch out for:
- Tire Problems – This is the first and the most noticeable sign that you have a pothole damage. If you experience low tire pressure, notice bulges or blisters on the sidewalls or hit a dent in the street then you should have your car checked immediately. Even if a flat tire isn’t obvious, it is important to address the problem right away. Tires are the important connection between your car and the road. Make sure you have the issue fixed while the car is still drivable.
- Bottoming out – Another indication that your car’s been damaged is when you feel it is swaying when you are making routine turns or “bottoming out” when you hit a bump. You may also notice it bouncing excessively on rough roads. This means your steering and suspension may have been damaged after hitting a pothole. The steering and suspension are very important for driving safely. Both are mainly responsible for your car’s ride and handling.
- Bent Rims – This is another warning sign that your vehicle took a harder hit than what you would have liked. Older car models have steel rims but most newer cars have aluminum-based-rims. The more forceful you hit that hole, the higher the chance that you bent your rim. Make sure to also inspect the inside lip of the wheel to see if there is any damage.
- Odd noises or unusual vibrations – This is a sign you most likely won’t miss. If your vehicle starts to make any sort of strange sound after hitting a pothole, have it checked right away. The pothole could have damaged your exhaust system.
- Undercarriage Leaks – Another part of your car that can be damaged when hitting a pothole is your undercarriage. This is not as noticeable as weird noises and flat tires. You might overlook leaks and tears on your undercarriage when doing a quick check. This is why it is important to have a mechanic inspect what is going on underneath your car especially when you hit a large pothole. Doing so will help you prevent any bigger issues that may arise.
- Alignment problem – You might feel your vehicle pulling in one direction, instead of staying on a straight path. Uneven tire wear is another sign of alignment problems. This issue should be addressed immediately too since proper wheel alignment is needed for the longevity of your tires and it also helps in ensuring safe handling of your vehicle.
Tips in Avoiding Potholes
While it is not easy to avoid hitting potholes (even if you are very careful), there are tips to help you in spotting them so you can avoid hitting them. Here are some things you can do to avoid hitting potholes:
Make sure your windshield and headlights are clean.
This seems to be a no-brainer but there are still people who are not consistent in cleaning their windshield and headlights. Obviously, if you have a clean windshield you can have a clearer view of what’s going on around you which makes you see your surroundings better. Having clear headlights gives you more light to shine through when it’s dark. This allows you to see things better even when it’s dark at night.
Check the vehicles ahead of you.
If you see vehicles in front of you suddenly swerving, chances are there’s a pothole they are trying to avoid. This will give you more reasons to be cautious of the road and stay alert at all times.
Drive with extra caution when driving on gravel roads.
Gravel roads are infamous for having potholes, probably because they are so prone to it. Be more careful when driving on them especially during nighttime.
Make sure to slow down when driving on damp or wet roads.
Those holes can fill up pretty fast during heavy rains which can make them less visible so be sure to stay alert at all times when driving on wet roads.
Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
Maintaining good tire pressure is important not only to make car driving more efficient, but they also provide a good buffer between potholes and your car’s rims. You can typically find what’s the optimum tire pressure for your vehicle inside your owner’s manual or on the driver’s side door jamb when you open the door.
Stay off areas of the road that are prone to potholes.
Avoid driving on seams at the edges and center of the road. These are spots where potholes typically develop.
Make sure you maintain proper following distance when driving.
Keeping a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you will make it easier for you to spot a pothole.
Be an advocate for safe roadways.
Be an activist in your community. You can reach out to your state congressmen/women and petition for greater infrastructure funding for building, repairing and maintaining safe roads. You can talk to your local officials if there is a problem. When your neighborhood has plenty of potholes, sometimes all it takes are a few calls to public officials to get the problem fixed. This will save you and other drivers the headache and inconvenience of pothole damage. Most big cities have a dedicated line for these types of complaints but for small cities simply going to City Hall might fix the issue.
What to do in case running through a pothole is inevitable
You must always avoid or drive around a pothole if you can. However, there are instances when running through a pothole is unavoidable. Here are some tips you can do to lessen the damage it can bring:
- Slow down before hitting a pothole. Take your foot off your accelerator and hit your brake gently and gradually.
- Make sure not to brake directly over the pothole. Pushing the pedal hard will only cause your car’s entire weight forward. This will push your car further inside the pothole which will only worsen the problem.
- Stay in control. Grip the steering wheel firmly to have better control of your car as it goes down. This is the best practice to do when driving over a pothole. You should also angle the vehicle in such a way that it goes straight through it (not in a diagonal angle or any other angle). This will reduce the probability of damaging the tire’s sidewalls and wheels.
What You Should Know About Pothole Damage Claim
A pothole damage claim – a single-car accident filed as an at-fault accident by the driver/owner’s insurance carrier. Hitting a pothole is taken as a collision so a collision deduction will be applied. Your rates could increase at your next renewal because of filing an at-fault claim. But filing of a claim is irrelevant if the damage incurred cost lower than your deduction.
Instead of filing a claim, you might opt to get a reimbursement if the area that you live in makes it possible to do so. But first you must determine if the road where you hit a pothole is a city, country or state road. Seeking for reimbursement can be a lengthy process so it is best for you to prepare to pay the repair cost upfront. But if the damages are only minor, it is better you skip an official claim process for it is not just worth your time and energy.
In case you are filing a claim with your insurance or the government, remember to have these things prepared: a picture of the pothole at the time of the incident, a picture of the damage done to your car, and at least two estimates from two different mechanics. Also take note of the date and time of the accident.
Other Facts About Potholes:
Potholes are naturally-occurring pits in a roadway. They develop when there's erosion of the asphalt. Their depth can range from shallow to deep. Their size can also range from small to large. They can cause all kinds of damages to your car particularly your tires.
How potholes develop
Potholes are an added nuisance when driving. This is how they develop:
Groundwater held in rock fissures seeps into the asphalt. Over time, the asphalt develops minor wear and tear because of the stress it gets from vehicular traffic. These wear and tear come in the form of pocks, cracks and pits. They may be small but under the right conditions they can cause a bigger damage. We all know that water expands when freezing and contracts when melting. As the temperature decreases, the water inside the asphalt freezes and occupies more space. It stretches, warps and eventually weakens the asphalt. When it gets warmer or when the temperature rises again, the water melts. As the pavement contracts, the smooth surface of the roadway breaks down. Potholes are the result of this expansion and extraction. As you might have noticed, potholes often appear in springtime following temperature fluctuations.
Pothole Prone Areas
Areas with poor drainage are more prone to having potholes. Areas with great vehicular traffic are also prone to pothole development. And of course, roads with poor maintenance that allow small fissure to deteriorate are also most likely to have potholes. Potholes are not only found in cities in the snowbelt. In fact, Los Angeles and San Francisco are included in the list of cities having the worst road conditions.
Economics of Pothole – Its Funding and Costs
According to American Society of Civil Engineers it would cost around $2.7 trillion to repair crumbling highway and bridge infrastructure in the U.S. When it comes to vehicle repairs due to rough roads, an individual motorist spends an average of $377 annually which varies by market. Repairs due to potholes usually include tire repairs, suspension system repairs, shock absorber repairs, wheel alignment, struts, rims and catalytic converter repairs. Aside from vehicle repairs, potholes also hurt people financially due to personal injury lawsuits. These lawsuits are very costly to both public and private property owners.
Dangers of Potholes:
There are around 33,000 traffic fatalities every year and 33 percent of it involve poor road conditions. Twenty-seven percent of major urban roadways including freeways, interstates and other arterial routes are believed to be substandard and offer unacceptably rough rides for motorists. Roads that are in good condition are believed to be only at 31 percent.To make it worse, vehicular traffic is expected to increase by 25 percent by the year 2030 which means the roads are subjected to more stress that can lead to faster road deterioration. There is also an issue with the grave danger that potholes can cause to bicyclists. Municipalities who fail to repair dangerous potholes can face multi-million dollar lawsuits because of this.
Solutions to Potholes
The materials as well as the method used to build, maintain and repair potholes vary and evolve. It typically depends on the climate of the area. What is suitable for regions with warmer climate is different from regions with four seasons. In northern climates, repairs done during the winter season are temporary. Permanent repairs are done in warmer and drier times of the year. But there are some types of asphalt which allow permanent fixes in cold and wet conditions.
Today citizens can play a big role in solving pothole issues. They can get involved by reporting them through phone apps. You can also fix potholes in your driveways on your own or you can hire someone to do the job for you.