Save Your Car: 5 Car Parts That Can Get Damaged by Potholes
For a person who loves to drive or someone who goes on a drive to relax, there can be no worse experience than driving on a road that has a lot of potholes, effectively slowing the speed and the drive being a bumpy ride.
Everyone gets potholes on one or the other road that causes them quite a lot of trouble. But it’s not just the person or the passengers who have to endure the potholes, the car does too.
Potholes have the potential to mete out severe damage to the car.
How Potholes are Formed
Potholes are the result of imperfections of the road, when the soil that is compacted beneath pavement gets displaced or weakened. One of the most common time for potholes to form in the winter and/or the rainy season, depending upon where a person lives.
This is because, in these months, there is a lot of ice/running water which disrupts the base layer beneath the pavement.
When cars drive over these weak spots, the motion and pressure cause the pavement to deform, crack and chip away, which leaves a hole on the road’s surface.
Potholes start off as small holes, but with the number of vehicle passing, potentially get deeper or larger enough that they can damage a car.
How Potholes Affect Drivers
Potholes of all shapes and sizes have the capability of wreaking havoc on the cars. For example every year, American drivers have to pay around $3 billion, just to fix the damage that has been caused by the potholes. Even then, a lot of motorists encounter trouble with potholes every winter and rainy season, thus, making the car repair for potholes a ritual that is performed year after year.
Although, potholes aren’t only a problem of the cold or rainy places. Even in places with hot climate of around 50 degree Celsius or more, there is a problem of roads being of poor quality and hence succumbing enough to form potholes. Because of this, any and every driver has to go over the potholes sooner or later.
What to Check if the Car Hits a Pothole
If while driving through a major pothole, a person feels a jolt or the car went quite roughly, then, in that case, it is important to get down and check these five areas for making sure there aren’t any problems that need immediate redressal.
Tires are the only part of the car that should touch the road and can come in contact with a lot of rough surfaces. These shouldn’t come as a surprise that the tires are highly susceptible to damage from potholes in the form of a flat tire(punctured), sidewall bulges, and tread separation.
A reason for the susceptibility is that potholes often have a hard edge, which causes the tire to compress against the wheel on the impact, meanwhile snapping the belts that hold a tire or slicing the rubber. Even though driving while the tire is blown out isn’t safe, it can be checked and reaired by self or otherwise with easy.
On the other hand, a tire that has separated tread or sidewall bulge will need to be replaced as soon as possible keeping in mind the safety. Two issues make tires further prone to damage even on low intensity impacts and those are low-quality tires and lack of proper inflation levels.
To make sure the car tires don’t go down in this manner, get the tires properly checked over time with proper care.
Any scraping on the rims doesn’t look good, but what can’t be accomplished by worst of gashes, can be done by a pothole.
Hard angles on the potholes and its interiors can apply a lot of impact force to the wheels at a speed and in a fashion, they weren’t designed to handle, and this leads to cracks, chips or bends.
A wheel that has got bent will not be able to roll as smooth as a normal tire and hence, might not be able to form an airtight seal between the wheel and the tire.
Amongst the issues that can happen, chips are easiest to be noticed as they look as if a chunk from the rim is missing, where the rim meets the tire. Meanwhile, cracks might be in the form of subtle hairline fractures that go along the wheel circumference or in one of the wheel spokes. Since road grime and brake dust can make it difficult for a person to check and find a crack, it is better to clean the wheels and then check for the crack!
Car suspension has its purpose designed as being responsible for absorbing impact and providing a smooth ride, but like other mechanical parts can handle the stress only to a level.
Sudden, jarring hits against the potholes might cause a significant number of suspension problems that include misalignment, damaged shocks or struts, and broken ball joints.
A suspension that has been bent out of alignment can be fixed by a mechanic but till it is fixed, the steering wheel will be off centre. Which means, if you put the car steering straight for a period of time, it’ll start going to either left or right slightly, the handling will feel loose and the tires will wear unevenly.
Any unusual sounds and vibrations, poor ride quality, wandering steering or the leaning in either direction of vehicle points to broken ball joints, shocks and struts that need immediate replacement.
Since correcting the damage to suspension can be difficult as diagnosing the suspension damage can’t be done by someone not used to it, a trained mechanic should be called in to check the entire suspension system.
Exhaust pipes are the perfect target for any potholes lurking on the road, as the exhaust pipe runs along the car’s undercarriage. Deep potholes can cause the car to bottom out, thus scraping the car’s undercarriage against the pavement. This can be highly damaging as it can potentially dent or rip a hole in the muffler, catalytic converter or the exhaust pipes.
A car will experience unpleasant noises or a loss of power in case of a hole in the exhaust system, but the worst possible situation is that the car will end up spewing harmful pollution unchecked. Also, a leaky pipe can cause exhaust fumes finding their way into the car’s cabin, hence, a potential health hazard for the person as well.
In most cases, the lower a car is, the better handling of the car. But cars that sacrifice their ride height in order to gain sportiness are more at a risk of being damaged by the potholes.
Otherwise too, the potholes can scrape and cause damage to low hanging side skirts and bumpers. Even though this damage type is cosmetic and has no effect on performance or safety, this is something most drivers who love their car and the looks will look to avoid.
Despite all this, the basic news to feel alright about is that most potholes aren’t deep or big enough to stand a threat to the car. With the aligned suspension and properly inflated tires, chances are that the car will be able to go over them with ease. But in any case, there should be due importance given to checking the potholes as it is better to be cautious than to pay for an expensive car part replacement or repair.