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How Do Potholes Develop? Here's What You Need to Know for Your Vehicle

Potholes in the road vary in shape and size, but they always appear in the spring. How do potholes form? Here's what you need to know for your car.

AAMCO Overland Park, KS  | 05/30/2019  | Car Comfort & Safety Tips

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How Do Potholes Develop? Here's What You Need to Know for Your Vehicle

We've all been there. You're driving down the road on a beautiful spring day and enjoying the sunshine when, suddenly, you hit a pothole and feel like you're about to be launched straight through the roof of your car.

It's not exactly a pleasant feeling, is it?

Nobody likes potholes but, unfortunately, they happen. They cost us roughly $3 billion per year in damage to our vehicles, too.

How do potholes form, though? Is there anything you can do to protect your car from the damage they cause?

Read on to learn more about potholes and what you can do to guard your car against them.

How do Potholes Form?

Potholes form when water seeps into the ground. When the weather cools down in the winter, the water that makes its way into the ground freezes. This, in turn, causes it to expand and push upward against the pavement.

When the weather warms up in the spring, the frozen water melts. This leaves behind a hollow bubble in the pavement.

When people drive over these bubbles, they pop and crumble. This, in turn, creates a hole in the road.

As more and more people drive over this hole, it gets larger and becomes even more problematic.

Common Types of Pothole Damage

There are a number of ways in which potholes can damage your car. Some of the most common types of pothole damage include:

  • Misaligning the steering wheel
  • Damage to the suspension, including the shocks, struts, bearings, tie rods, ball joints, and steering rack
  • Damage to the tires
  • Damage to the wheel rims
  • Damage to the exhaust system 
  • Dents or punctures in the undercarriage, which can lead to fluid leaks and rust formation

Clearly, a lot can go wrong with your car if you happen to hit a pothole while driving.

Protecting Your Car from Pothole Damage

Ideally, potholes in your city's streets would be filled in promptly when spring rolls around. As we all know, though, potholes and other poor road conditions aren't exactly a top priority for most elected officials.

Because we can't always count on our local government to fill in potholes for us, we need to take matters into our own hands and make sure our cars are protected against the damage potholes can cause. 

Luckily, there are quite a few steps you can take to defend your car against pothole damage, including the following:

Drive Carefully

First, make sure you are always driving carefully. Don't speed or follow other cars too closely. Not only does this help to minimize your risk of not noticing and hitting a pothole, but it also helps to keep you and other drivers safe from other types of accidents.

Slow Down

If you're driving in an area in which you know there might be potholes, or if you see a pothole up ahead, slow down.

If you can safely navigate around it, do so. If you can't, go through it as slowly as possible. This might not fully protect your car, but it will at least help to mitigate the damage the pothole may cause.

Inflate Your Tires

Properly inflated tires can be an incredible shield against pothole-filled roads. A properly inflated tire will act as a cushion between your car and the road and minimize the amount of damage your car sustains.

Keep Your Windshield Clean

Make sure that you're taking steps to increase visibility while you drive. Keep your windshield clean at all times so that you can easily see potholes (and other potential obstacles) while you're on the road.

Follow the Leader

If you notice a car in front of you slowing down, follow suit. The same applies if you notice them navigating around something.

Don't assume that they're a bad driver or are intentionally trying to make you late for your appointment. There's a good chance they're trying to avoid a pothole or another obstacle on the road.

Turn on Your Headlights

When you're driving at night or in inclement weather, make sure your headlights are turned on. This will help you see potholes and avoid them before it's too late.

Report What You See

If you encounter a pothole while you're driving, report it as soon as possible. Most local governments have a form on their website that makes it easy for you to report potholes and other road issues.

Signs of Pothole Damage

It's also important to be able to spot signs of pothole damage as soon as they happen. If you've recently hit a pothole with your car, be on the lookout for the following signs:

  • Your car is hard to control or feels like it's swaying as you turn
  • There's visual damage to the tires, body, or bumper
  • You're having trouble steering
  • You're hearing unusual noises while driving

After you hit a pothole, it's important to pull over and inspect your car. Pay attention to how it feels when you drive it and listen for any strange noises. If you notice anything strange, take your car to a mechanic right away.

The sooner you spot signs of pothole damage, the better. You can get any necessary repairs taken care of right away and avoid more costly problems later on.

If you notice and report the damage right away, you may also be able to seek reimbursement from your local government.

Has Your Car Been Damaged by Potholes?

Now that you know the answer to the question, "how do potholes form?", you might not be feeling quite as excited for the warmer weather and the increase in potholes you're likely to encounter during your commute.

Your car might even still be hurting from the pothole damage it sustained last spring.

If you're currently dealing with pothole damage to your car and live in or around the Lee's Summit area, we can help.

Bring your car to us today, or give us a call to learn more about our Shocks and Strut services. This is one of the most beneficial services for folks who have experienced pothole damage.

We'll make sure everything is working properly and that your car is in the best shape possible.

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