By Vuyi Mpofu
Potholes are a motorist’s worst nightmare and a nuisance on our roads. They form on almost all the roads in our country and cause considerable damage to our vehicles.
Whether you are avoiding one or driving straight through it, potholes make you cringe and leave you worried about the cost of repairing various components of your car.
Before talking about which parts you should have checked after hitting a pothole, let’s start by looking at what causes potholes in the first place.
How Potholes Form
Potholes develop when water on the road seeps under the pavement through cracks in the road. When the temperature drops below 32°, the water freezes and expands, forcing the pavement to rise.
As the day heats up and the temperature rises, the compromised section of the road contracts and breaks as vehicles drive over the pavement. The result is a pothole in the road.
In cold climates, the freeze-thaw cycles during winter and spring are a key contributing factor to the formation of potholes. The more freeze-thaw cycles a pothole goes through, the larger the pothole can become.
When it’s warmer, heat is the culprit. Heat causes splits in the road that serves as an entry point for water. The pothole forms as traffic goes over the gap in the pavement causing the top layer of the road to crumble.
Car Parts Which Get Damaged By Potholes
- Tyres and Rims
- Tie Rod Ends
- Control Arm
- Shocks and Struts
What Are These Parts and What Do They Do?
1. Tyres and Rims
Mowing straight into a pothole impacts your tyre first. If the tyre is underinflated, the sidewall is most likely to pinch and the tyre will immediately lose air and go flat in seconds.
On the other hand, the impact created by hitting a pothole can separate the liner from the tyre body, causing a bubble to develop on the sidewall which could eventually result in a blow-out.
Hitting the pothole with extreme force could cause the rim to chip, crack or bend. A bent wheel won’t roll smoothly and will most likely make a lot of noise asides from creating an uncomfortable riding experience; and besides, the tyre could deflate almost immediately there is a problem with the rim. Sometimes a bent rim can be repaired but those with cracks and chips will have to be replaced as they will eventually collapse.
2. Tie Rod Ends
Tie rod ends are small, swivelling ball joints that connect your power steering gear to the wheel. Prone to damage and wear, tie end rods can bend and in extreme cases, come apart altogether, leaving you in need of a tow.
3. Control Arm
Your car’s suspension system is designed to absorb impact while providing a smooth ride. When driving under normal circumstances, various components of the suspension system rebound to soak up the effects of shock along the road while your car’s control arms maintain the vertical position of your wheels.
In the event of a jarring hit against a pothole, the impact can cause a control arm to bend. This will result in your steering being off-center and your alignment becoming misaligned. Other damage could result in broken ball joints and damaged shocks and struts.
4. Shocks and Struts
Hitting rocks the entire suspension system and can cause premature wear and tear on shocks and struts, but spotting damage to shocks and struts can be tricky.
A flat tyre or bent rim are obvious signs of damage after slamming into a pothole and you’ll have a hard time driving with either of these problems afterward.
However, damage to your shocks and struts can be difficult to spot, so you need to be on the lookout for the followings signs.
- Excessive bouncing
- Loss of control
- Swaying and rolling when turning
- Excessive vibration
- Front end diving when braking
- Squatting when accelerating
- Sitting lower in front or rear
- Uneven tire wear
Fixing Pothole Damage
If you have hit one or more potholes and suspect you may have damaged more than just your tyre and rim, it would be best to take your car for a thorough inspection at an accredited tyre service provider.
They will most likely check your vehicle’s alignment among other things and provide you with a report of what may need to be fixed or replaced.
Remember that the longer you put off getting your vehicle inspected the more damage you may cause by continuing to drive it.