How to Stop Potholes from Ruining Your Car
You’re cruising along a major road, in a good mood, hearing nothing but the hum of your engine. Then comes a bonk as your car bounces for second. You just hit a pothole. You might utter a word or phrase that would make churchgoers gasp, shaking your head in frustration. If the impact was heavy enough, you might even pull over at a parking lot to inspect the damage.
Much like sinkholes, which we discussed in a previous post, potholes can plague city roads due to a variety of factors. Bad weather, poor maintenance and wear-and-tear are often the causes. If you live in a city that seems to have more potholes than people, there are several practices that can help you avoid them and even minimize damage if you make contact with one.
While on the road
Sometimes, it may seem you need superhuman reflexes to dodge a pothole. It’s unlikely that you’ll see every pothole before you, meaning that you’ll occasionally hit one, but you can avoid most of them by driving smart. There’s no need for special abilities.
- Don’t brake or speed over pothole – If you realize you can’t avoid a pothole, please, don’t change speeds while passing over it. Hard braking is especially bad. Stomping on the brakes at higher speeds can damage the front-end suspension system, and increase contact between the tire and the pothole itself. Also, the practice of abrupt braking can lead to rear-end collisions.
- Slow down if you see a pothole – If you spot a pothole before landing in it, you’re golden. It’s as simple as slowing down to reduce the impact you would normally sustain at a higher speed. This is much better than swerving around a pothole. While it’s okay to weave around one on a clear street with minimal traffic, doing so on a busier road can lead to accidents.
- Don’t follow other drivers too closely – Driving too close behind a car is never a good thing (it’s tailgating), but it can actually increase your likelihood of hitting a pothole. Why? Well some drivers don’t react fast enough to potholes themselves and if you’re following too close, you might not notice a crack in the road. So it pays to leave some distance.
- Watch traffic in front of you – Closely related to the previous point, is the idea of watching the “big picture”. Looking out for what other cars are doing, can alert you of road obstacles ahead, such as potholes. This illustrates an important driving safety habit – scanning ahead of you for a distance of one city block.
- Limit distracting behaviours – One of the easiest ways of avoiding a pothole is to keep all distractions in the background. Leave the phone alone. Tweak your playlist later. Whatever it is that distracts you, forget about it, or else a gigantic pothole might be what’s necessary to wake you up!
Before leaving your driveway
Here’s a factor you may have overlooked – “pothole preparedness”. It’s a strange term and truthfully, it’s not an official one, but the importance behind it is nonetheless worth considering. Essentially, it’s assessing your car to see if it can handle the impact of hitting a pothole. After all, you won’t avoid every single one. So it’s good to check a few components in your vehicle, especially if you live near roads that are prone to potholes.
- Check your tires for inflation – Checking tire pressure regularly is vital. A tire that’s adequately inflated can mean the difference between escaping a pothole unscathed, or having to take your car for repairs. The uneven ridges of road cracks and fissures can puncture a tire, or at the very least, damage the treads. That’s why you should always make sure your tires are in good shape.
- Watch your shocks and struts – Provided you’re not moving too fast, hitting a pothole is not necessarily a bad thing – assuming your car is “cushioned”. That’s where your struts and shocks come in. These components will cushion the impact of landing in potholes, so your car doesn’t sustain any damage. Of course, you have to make sure they’re in good condition.
- Give your suspension and steering some attention – If your suspension and wheels are already damaged, then hitting potholes will make things worse. The impact pushes the tire backward and upward, transmitting the shock to the suspension, the steering and the wheel. To prevent this from happening, take your car to a mechanic to have these components examined.
- Keep a clean windshield – A simple tip to follow, is keeping your windshield clean. A lot of drivers roam the streets with grime on the windshield, making it tricky to see the minute details of the road. Also, avoid keeping objects above the dashboard – you can obstruct your view, making it harder to find potholes.
- Make sure your headlamps shine bright – Seeing potholes at night is tricky, so they need illumination. Street lamps only do so much – your headlamps need to point them out. Make sure they’re working well, and replace bulbs that are going dim. Don’t just “hope for the best” when driving at night.
After you’ve hit a pothole
If you do hit a pothole, you’ll most likely not experience too many issues. You will understandably feel irritated, especially if you’re driving a newer car. But there are still some “procedures” to take after making contact with a pothole.
- Check your tires for damage – After hitting a pothole, one of the first things to do is to check your tires. Potholes damage rubber. It’s important for you to check for punctures, warping, or a full-out ‘flat’ (although a flat tire will be noticeable in the form of a bumpy ride). If you’re unsure of your tire’s condition, you can always bring it to a mechanic to have it examined.
- Get a feel for smoothness of your drive – If you notice your car isn’t as smooth as before, don’t take it lightly. If your car ride seems rougher than before, then the contact made with a pothole may have damaged your shocks, struts, or springs. Such a change in performance warrants a mechanic’s attention.
- Watch to see if the car pulls to one side – It’s unlikely that you’ll experience your car pulling to one side after hitting a pothole. However, if you do, it is a sign that your alignment is out of whack, or that you have component damage.
- Watch out for a shaky steering wheel – Another sign to watch out for after hitting a pothole, is a shaky steering wheel. This often occurs as a result of a wheel balance problem, or damage to a tire or rim. Again, if you notice such a change, have your car examined by a mechanic asap.
- Take pictures and report the pothole – Reporting a pothole has a two-pronged advantage: 1) You can have any car damaged inflicted by a pothole repaired by making a claim 2) A phone call can actually have it repaired by road crews. It really is worth bringing a pothole to the attention of your local authorities.
Avoiding the Pitfalls of Potholes
Yes, potholes are the bane of drivers everywhere. There’s nothing fun about having a pleasant and peaceful ride disturbed by landing into severed stretch of road, especially when it’s unexpected. However, potholes don’t have to completely ruin your driving experience. You can dodge them just by adopting the right driving practices. And even if you stumble upon one, you can reduce the impact by prepping your car beforehand, and learning what to do afterward. Potholes are problematic, but they don’t have to ruin your ride.