Flat tires. Bent rims. Missing hubcaps. These are obvious, visible signs that your car encountered a nasty pothole or speed bump. But did you know that even the smallest road ruts can cause pothole damage—and you might not even realize it? If you’ve encountered any of these warning signs coming from your vehicle, you may need to visit a car repair shop near you (and find a new, pothole-free route back home).
#1 Tip for Avoiding Pothole Damage
But first, a tip. If you can’t swerve to avoid a pothole, the best strategy is as follows:
- Slow down as quickly as possible but DON’T STOP FULLY!
- As you approach the pothole, remove your foot from the brake pedal.
- Accelerate slowly when your tire strikes the pothole.
This strategy raises your car up to avoid significant underbody damage and ensures your tires aren’t taking the full force of the hit, which would occur if you struck the pothole with wheels locked (braking).
1. Steering is “Weird”
Over time, driving over potholes and the occasional curb can damage your vehicle’s steering column and axle components (suspension). This can include tie rods and sway bars, which aim to keep your car connected to its wheels and control “sway” around corners.
Once these become damaged or compromised, you’ll begin noticing some odd issues with your steering.
· The wheel may begin feeling loose, especially when rounding turns, and less responsive.
· Your car may pull to one side, which will inevitably worsen with each pothole you hit.
· Steering wheel physically pulls right or left when you remove your hand.
· Vibrations in the steering wheel that get worse the faster the vehicle travels.
· Tire wear will be uneven.
Aligning your wheels will help alleviate some of these problems, especially if you drive an AWD vehicle like the Ridgeline or Passport AWD. But any suspension system that’s suffered from severe pothole damage may need to be replaced entirely. This might include replacing bent tie rods, installing new ball joints, or swapping bad control arms with new ones.
2. Excessive “Bouncing” & Bottoming Out
When your shock absorbers go bad, your vehicle will bottom out at the bottom of your driveway and become a four-wheeled bouncy castle when driving over speed humps. After significant pothole or curb damage, the shocks (and entire strut assembly) won’t be able to absorb as much as normal, resulting in that bouncing feeling inside the cabin. This may be due to leaking shock absorber fluid, a bend or a crack in the upper strut mounting near the body, or a complete break of the shock coil.
General suspension problems like this are among the most common signs of pothole damage, though you may not notice an issue until the entire suspension system has gone kaput. That’s why it’s important, especially if you live and drive in Dayton, to get a full inspection of your vehicle every year. A professional set of eyes will help you identify these signs of hidden pothole damage before your suspension goes bad entirely.
3. Won’t Shift
Can potholes damage transmissions? Although rare, really angry potholes can do a number on vehicle transmissions. If hit hard enough, potholes have been known to crack transmission mounts, break driveshafts (U-joints), and disconnect shifter linkages. This would present with shifting issues, like feeling stuck in “neutral.”
Usually this type of transmission damage—an inability to shift—will present immediately after hitting a pothole, though it may take a few extra “jostlings” to get there.
4. Rattling Noises
Any sort of rattling, clanking, or clinking noises should be investigated forthwith (that is, ASAP). Speed Bumps and potholes can loosen screws and bolts that hold important components, like your exhaust pipe, to the underside of your car. In many cases, a quick trip to your car repair shop or a mechanic will result in a cheap fix (replacing the broken nut, for instance), though the odd noises may be indicative of a bigger problem.
5. Leaking Oil
Notice that your car’s leaking some fluid in your driveway? If you’ve constantly been bottoming out, you might have more than just suspension problems—you might have pothole damage to your undercarriage.
Asphalt, curbs and other sharp objects can pierce your oil filter or oil pan, damage your coolant lines, or even puncture your fuel tank (though, this is uncommon). In some instances – like if you hit a pothole and park – you’ll notice these fluid leaks; many times, however, fluid will leak as you drive, unbeknownst to you, until your car sputters to a stop, overheats or flashes a warning light in the dashboard. It’s best to stop and inspect your vehicle for signs of fluid leaks right after hitting a pothole or scraping a speed bump.
In any event, you won’t be able to drive very far with any of these problems, so a phone call to a service center and tow truck is in your immediate future.
Need pothole damage repair, an OEM Honda Civic hubcap (you don’t want to get dinged at lease-end, do you?) or a wheel alignment in Dayton? Contact any of our Miami Valley Honda Dealers near Dayton to schedule an inspection and get an estimate. We have auto service centers throughout Ohio and Indiana, so book your appointment today!