How to Avoid Pothole Damage

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When winter’s snow and ice  melt away, they invariably leave behind an unpleasant reminder of the winter’s severe storm season—potholes. Potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall, the moisture expands and contracts due to freezing and thawing. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in a pothole.

Driving through a seemingly innocent hole in the road could result in costly car damage. Before you end up at the auto shop in need of suspension repair or wheel replacement, know the five best ways to avoid pothole damage.

1. Check

Tires
Frequently inspect your tires to ensure they are properly inflated and do not have significant wear. If you hit a pothole with worn or underinflated tires, there is a greater risk of wheel or suspension damage. Inflate tires according to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure levels. Find this information on the door jamb sticker and in your owner’s manual. Do not use the pressure levels molded on the tire sidewall. To check the tire tread depth, insert a quarter upside down into several tread grooves. If the top of Washington’s head is visible, it’s time for new tires.

 

2. Inspect

Suspension
Make certain struts, shock absorbers and other suspension parts are in good condition. Changes in vehicle handling, excessive vibration or uneven tire wear can indicate damaged or worn parts. Have a certified auto service technician inspect the suspension if you suspect a problem.

 

3. Look Ahead

Stay alert and check the road ahead to avoid potholes. Stay focused on the road and avoid distractions. Before swerving around a pothole, check your surroundings so you do not collide with another vehicle or endanger nearby pedestrians or cyclists.

 

4. Slow Down

If you cannot avoid a pothole, reduce your speed safely. Check the rearview mirror before braking abruptly. Hitting a pothole at higher speeds greatly increases the chance of tire, wheel and suspension component damage. Releasing the brakes just before hitting a pothole allows the wheel and tire to roll through the depression and helps minimize potential damage.

 

5. Beware of

Puddles
Drive cautiously through puddles as they may be deep potholes filled with water.

 

What to Do If You Hit a Pothole and Suspect Damage.

Hard pothole impact can knock the wheels out of alignment and affect steering, dislodge wheel weights, damage a tire or wheel, and bend or even break suspension parts. Have a qualified mechanic check the wheel alignment if the vehicle pulls to the left or right and have the suspension inspected if you notice any new or unusual noises or vibrations.

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