You’ve probably heard the joke that in Colorado, there are four seasons: fall, winter, spring, and construction. Yes, summer is a great time to get out of the house and enjoy lots of sunny days and warm weather. But driving around town can leave you a little agitated at best.
It’s hard to miss the number of potholes that lurk all over town. They may start out small, but they quickly grow into a car-eating disaster.
Potholes are caused by the expansion and contraction of water. As cracks occur in the pavement, water leaks down underneath. On cold days it freezes. Think of it like an ice cube; it moves from a puddle of water to a solid, frozen shape. That pushes and shoves the pavement in new directions.
Then on warm days, it thaws. The water moves to new locations, penetrating even more of the uneven pavement. It flows into new cracks, and takes up more space.
Over and over this occurs, all winter long.
Of course, that’s not the only thing that helps a pothole grow. Especially on a busy road, cars and trucks drive over it, pounding the pavement in all sorts of directions. The weight makes the material weaker, breaks it off, and causes it to move in new ways. The more this occurs, the larger the pothole grows.
Colorado has thousands of miles of paved roads weaving in and out of some of the most beautiful country in the world. If you haven’t had the chance to drive across this state, try picking one from this list and enjoy the breathtaking views.
As you round each corner and move up and down the hills, try and avoid the potholes at all costs. Brace yourself when you simply can’t. And understand the impact each pothole has on your car parts, the damage it creates on your vehicle’s suspension system. By being aware, you can learn when it’s time to bring your car into our shop and get the suspension fixed before further damage can occur.
What a pothole can do to your car
When your car hits a pothole, it’s usually the pothole that will win. It can damage your tires and wheels, cause alignment issues, or even cause premature wear to your shocks. When you hit a pothole, it can damage:
- Your wheels – it can bend or even crack wheel rims
- Your tires – flat tires, uneven wear, and weakened belts and cords
- Your alignment – ever noticed your car pulling to one side or the other?
- Your suspension system – it can impact shocks, struts, springs, and more
- Your exhaust system – cracks, leaks, and holes can put you at risk
That damage adds up to quite a lot – according to AAA auto club, over $3 billion a year.
How do you know if your car has been damaged by a pothole?
Here in Colorado, it’s hard to avoid potholes. But pay attention to the ones that make you cringe and groan. You know when you hit an especially bad one. It rattles the entire car. And once this happens, be on the lookout for these things:
- Do you have to turn your steering wheel so it’s crooked to stay straight on the road? It’s a sign the steering component is bent.
- Do you notice excessive bouncing and loss of control as you drive? It’s a sign of steering and suspension issues.
- Have you noticed pulling to one side or uneven tire wear? It’s a sign of problems with your alignment.
- Are there bulges on tire sidewalls or dents in the wheel? It’s symptoms of tire damage.
- Do you notice a vibration in your steering wheel? It’s a sign of a bent rim.
- Do you find fluids underneath your car when you pull away? It could be a signal of a line or hose that’s cracked, wiggled loose, or no longer functioning.
- Is your exhaust system noisier than normal? It could be a result of damage from the undercarriage of your car scraping because of the pothole.
What if you think you’ve sustained damage after hitting a pothole?
Or course, it depends on what the damage is. Some damage is more dire than others. If you don’t come in with some issues, it can put you at risk for more serious damage, or for an accident.
You should never take your car for granted. You should always take the approach of “listen, sense, and look.”
Every time you start your car, listen for sounds that weren’t there before. Do you hear a new rattle? Do you hear a new clank? Each of these sounds is trying to tell you that something is wrong with your car. Do a little sleuthing and find out exactly where it’s coming from. Even if you can’t determine the exact cause, it will help you be able to talk more clearly with your mechanic when you bring your vehicle in.
Gain a good sense for what your car feels like every time you take it out on the road. Learn how the steering feels as you make turns and keep your car on the road. Do you notice different movements, especially at varying speeds? Do things change on the highway? Do things change when you come to a stop? Note these differences and describe them when you come into the shop.
You should also make a periodic overview of your car, both inside and out. Just like a pilot makes a full check before he pulls the plane out and flies it to the next destination, so too should you do a thorough investigation once in awhile, to ensure everything looks okay. Glance under the car, do you see part of the exhaust system hanging free? Do the tires look deflated or flat? When you pop the hood, does something appear to be out of place?
You don’t need a certificate in auto mechanics to notice when something is wrong with your car. And considering how important your suspension system is to the way your car behaves on the road, it’s one of the most important systems to watch.
How many potholes have you hit this year? Isn’t it time to make sure your suspension system is fully working, and won’t cause you problems down the road?