Preventing Pain from Pesky Potholes

May 2, 2018

Let’s be honest – spring in Washington is less “April showers bring May flowers” and more “April showers bring May showers.”

And with all that rain and wet comes potholes – a nuisance in your driveway and a danger on the road. Whether the roadway is asphalt or gravel, most potholes are formed when water collects beneath the surface and erodes the supporting layer, causing the top layer to collapse as vehicles drive over it.

In addition to making for a bumpy ride, potholes can wreak havoc on your car. The jolt of a pothole can puncture tires, bend wheel rims, misalign steering, damage or break components of your suspension, and more. And though collision coverage on your auto policy will likely cover damage caused (subject to a deductible, of course), it’s certainly better to avoid the damage and hassle in the first place.

Before you get on the road, make sure your car is in good shape. The most important factor in handling potholes is tire inflation – tires that are over- or under-inflated will fare much worse than properly inflated ones if you hit a sudden edge. Also ensure that your suspension is in good health to handle the blow as smoothly as possible.

As you’re driving, avoid potholes in a controlled manner. Never swerve into an occupied lane to miss a pothole, as you risk causing far more damage by hitting another car. Drive at a reasonable speed for conditions, especially at nighttime, so you can see a pothole coming and have more time to react. Use caution when driving through puddles, as they may either be a pothole filled with water or a pothole in the making.

If you just can’t avoid a pothole, minimize the damage by:
  • Keeping both hands firmly on the steering wheel (to prevent a sudden change in direction)
  • Approaching with wheels pointed straight forward (hitting at an angle will likely cause more damage)
  • Braking, then releasing just before hitting the pothole (this slows the vehicle but also allows the suspension a full range of travel)

After hitting a pothole, take a moment to assess your vehicle. If it’s pulling to one side or making any new noises, it’s best to have it checked by a professional. Minor issues can become extensive problems if left unfixed.


(Based on information provided by the Michigan Department of Transportation: https://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,4616,7-151-9615_30883-323487–,00.html)