POTHOLE DAMAGE

Pothole Damage

While the rains of the recent months have finally cleared up (for the moment at least) the same can’t be said for a lot of the road damage they left behind. Potholes are caused by water seeping beneath the bitumen through cracks, forcing the surface to rise. The weight of traffic causes the bitumen to break and a pothole to form. The more traffic that drives over a pothole, the worse it becomes. While many potholes have not yet been fixed, the damage they can cause to your vehicle can range from superficial damage to significant repairs &/or requiring replacement parts. Pothole damage can also be visible & not visible (while still causing problems). Two factors will impact this outcome; the speed that you hit the pothole & the depth of the pothole.

Tyres: 

Obviously, given that your tyres are constantly in contact with the road, they are one of the most vulnerable to pothole damage (especially vehicles with low-profile tyres).

Tyres can sustain sidewall bulges, tread separation, or a puncture resulting in a flat. Fortunately, unless you are driving at speed, the chances of a pothole puncturing your tyre is slim. However, a flat tyre is an immediate problem you cannot ignore. Do not drive on the tyre if the puncture is causing the tyre to lose air pressure. Flat tyres that are driven on for even a short period of time can be damaged beyond repair, as well as causing damage to the wheel. Generally, if the puncture is 5mm or less in diameter and has occurred within the tread area, a repair is possible. If the puncture is located on the tyre’s sidewall, exceeds 6mm in diameter, or your tyres are worn; a replacement is then needed. Repairs carried out on the tyre edge or sidewall are not considered safe or reliable according to the Australian Standards.

The impact of hitting a pothole can damage the airtight inner lining of the tyre, which can separate from the tyre’s sidewall, allowing air to escape into the body of the tyre & creating a visible bulge or bubble in the tyre’s sidewall. In this instance, the problem should be addressed immediately as the tyre is at risk of a blowout if it is continued to be driven on.

Similarly, tread separation can occur when the tyre is compressed against the wheel & can slice through the rubber on impact when you hit the hard edge of the pothole.

If you notice uneven wear on your tyres, it can be a sign of wheel misalignment (read more about this in the next section) so make sure you mention this to your mechanic.

Wheels: 

Your wheels are also vulnerable to pothole damage. Hard angles in potholes place force onto wheels in ways they weren’t designed to handle, leading to bends, chips, or cracks.

Chips will usually be easy to spot & appear as a small portion missing from the rim where it meets the tyre, while cracks can be more subtle or hidden in one of the spokes. A cracked or chipped wheel can potentially fail & be a major safety issue that will need to be replaced.

Additionally, most modern cars also have aluminum rims, which are easily dented. If your rims are dented, they should be replaced sooner rather than later. A dented rim can result in a weakened seal between the rim and the tyre, which can lead to air leaks and flat tyres, & can be a sign of further, unseen damage. If a tyre looks low, or is not rolling smoothly, this could be a sign of a slow leak, or a bent wheel rim.

A major issue that can occur to wheels as a result of hitting the hard edge of a pothole is wheel misalignment, caused by a hard jolt to the steering system. This will be evident by the vehicle pulling to one side while driving, the steering wheel vibrating, or the steering isn’t as responsive as it usually is. Alignment issues can cause uneven tyre wear & poor fuel efficiency, not to mention be a major safety concern.

Undercarriage, Body & Exhaust: 

Cars that are lower to the road are more vulnerable to damage from potholes. Scrapes on bumpers or side skirts can be purely cosmetic & do not require immediate attention. However, larger scrapes, especially on paint work, can cause rust in the long run.

Holes or scrapes that occur along your undercarriage have the potential to cause leaks. Pothole damage to your exhaust system (including exhaust pipes, muffler & catalytic converter) will be obvious through loud noises, possibly a loss of power & even leaking toxic fumes that can be harmful to the environment & leech into the cabin causing a health hazard. These issues will require a visit to your mechanic for investigation & repair.

Depending on how hard the pothole is hit, the engine could move off its mounts. This engine misalignment means the engine is forced to work harder, causing increased wear & tear over time.

Steering and Suspension

A vehicle’s suspension is designed to absorb impact & bumps in the road and give a smooth ride. Sudden, jarring impact at speed, like hitting a pothole, can travel through the tyres & cause damage to the suspension system. Issues can include part of the wheel rubbing against the suspension, misalignment, broken ball joints, bent rack ends, & damaged shock absorbers, control arms, or struts, & can exhibit though your vehicle pulling to one side, unusual vibrations or sounds. shaking, ‘loose’ handling, your steering wheel is off centre, & uneven tyre wear. Most steering and suspension problems can be fixed by replacing the worn or damaged part.

How can I avoid damage from potholes?

  • Sometimes hitting a pothole is unavoidable; the possible damage to your vehicle outweighs the risk of swerving & hitting another vehicle or pedestrian.
  • Ensure your tyres are properly inflated. This will help your tyres & vehicle to properly absorb the impact of hitting a pothole.
  • One pothole usually indicates that the road is in poor condition & there will be more ahead so be aware.
  • Keep your distance from the vehicle in front, so you have time to react & have a good view of the upcoming road.
  • If the pothole is unavoidable, slow down but don’t slam on your brakes.
  • If you notice any damage after hitting a pothole, or experience anything new & unusual with your vehicle; make an appointment with your mechanic. Inform them what happened & they can perform a thorough vehicle inspection.
  • Even minor impacts can cause damage to your vehicle, & it is better to fix small issues rather than ignore them & allow them to turn into larger, & more expensive repairs down the track.

At Burleigh’s Mobile Mechanic we can make any necessary repairs & have you back on the road with peace of mind. If you have any issue or problem with your vehicle, we are here to help! We offer a breakdown service to help out when you get stuck. Or, bring your vehicle in to our workshop for an inspection.

Give one of our friendly team a call on 0412 161 776 & remember to follow us on Facebook for more information, tips and monthly specials.