For many Colorado drivers, they don’t think about the weather. They look at the roads based on how bad the drive will be.
Winter brings ice and snow. As it melts in the spring, potholes form all over the Front Range. Then we move into construction season, before it starts all over again.
Navigating any of them could be treacherous at best. Yet in many cases, potholes can cause the most damage. How do potholes damage wheel alignment and suspension? Read on.
What are potholes?
You can’t miss a pothole if you navigate the Colorado roads. You’ll find potholes in various sizes and shapes, yet no matter how large or small they are, they have the potential to damage your car.
They form through expansion and contraction of groundwater after the water has moved past the pavement and into the ground. When temperatures fall, the water freezes and expands. This works similarly to an ice cube tray you pop into your freezer. The water may be level as you fill up the tray, but once it freezes, the ice cube may reach beyond the limits of the tray, taking up more space. This happens underground too. Water seeps in wherever there’s room. Then when it has a chance to freeze, it takes up more space, expanding, bending, and cracking the pavement wherever it lies.
When the ice melts, the pavement contracts, leaving gaps and voids underneath the pavement. This allows more water to seep in, and the process starts all over again, expanding as it goes. This leaves weak spots underneath the pavement.
As cars and trucks pass over weak spots in the road, the pavement starts to weaken. This causes the material to shift and be displaced until a pothole forms.
When CDoT adds chemicals and salt to help keep Colorado roads clear, it lowers the temperature that water will freeze. This creates and expands the cycle that allows freezing and thawing to occur, which can cause more damage to the roads.
If you’ve ever hit a pothole and immediately thought your car may have been damaged, you may be right.
What damage can be caused by potholes?
When you hit a pothole full-on, you can feel it jarring your car. The bigger the pothole, the greater risk it has of damaging your vehicle. No matter what size it is, it can be a nightmare for your wheels and suspension.
In most cases, drivers hit potholes of various sizes every day. We tend to ignore the effects because it’s a common part of our drive. It may even seem like potholes don’t impact your car. Yet the more you hit them, the more potential damage may occur. It can alter the angles of your wheels, which impacts the way it connects with the road. That can result in a safety issue over time.
Damage often starts with the wheel. If tires make direct contact, it could cause rim damage or even lead to a blowout. But it often starts in more subtle ways.
Wheel alignment is essential for the integrity of your car. When your tires are aligned, rotation follows a straight course. That means it’s easy to steer the car, and you have little resistance to keep your car on course.
A misalignment means the drive moves off-center. It becomes increasingly difficult to keep it moving in a straight line. You may feel a vibration, or feel the car pull to one side.
Misaligned wheels put undue stress on the suspension system, will decrease your fuel economy, and may impact the lifespan of your tires too. Misalignment is easy to fix; stop by for an alignment and we can have you back on the road in no time.
The longer you drive a vehicle with misaligned wheels, the more issues you’ll find throughout your car.
Tires may start to show uneven wear. This can cause them to become ineffective and unsafe if not corrected.
A bad alignment can also put more stress on the vehicle’s suspension system. Think of your car’s suspension system as a series of components that help ensure your vehicle drives safely and smoothly. It’s a kind of carriage on which the cabin of your vehicle rests. It’s comfortable because of the various working parts designed to keep your car working well. It’s an insulator to protect the passengers on the inside.
A car’s suspension includes:
- Springs to help control height and load of the suspension and interior cabin
- Shocks to help absorb and dampen energy as it moves from the road, through the tires, and into your vehicle
The suspension also has an anti-sway bar to help with movement from your wheels to the steering wheel. This is what stabilizes your vehicle as it travels across the road.
How you hit potholes matters
When you come to a speed bump or dip in the road, it’s only natural to slow down to create less impact on your vehicle. Hitting a pothole doesn’t work in the same manner.
If you can’t steer around it, it’s better to hit it without applying the brakes. Your natural reaction might be to press down on the brake pedal to lessen the impact. That can actually cause more damage. When you apply the brakes, your car’s front end dips down as the suspension slows the front wheels. This compression causes the wheels not to absorb as much of the road impact. Which ultimately can lead to more serious damage throughout your vehicle.
Braking for potholes can be especially damaging to shocks and struts. Because shocks and struts affect alignment, if they are damaged, chances are your alignment is thrown off too.
Have potholes impacted your vehicle?
How many potholes have you hit this season? Lost count?
While your vehicle can navigate the roadway without issue in most cases, over time potholes can impact the performance of your vehicle.
Noticed it’s harder to control the car? Does it sway to the right or left? Do you feel a vibration as you drive? All could be problems with your wheel alignment. And if not corrected, it could do more damage to your suspension.
Stop by today, and we’ll have you back on the road safely in no time.