How to tell if your car has pothole damage

lt's pothole season and Lorraine Sommerfeld has advice on how to avoid the road craters and what signs to look for in your car if you drive over (or into) one.

By Lorraine Sommerfeld Wheels.ca

Apr 13, 2011 3 min. read

Article was updated 12 years ago

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If ever there was a time of year to not ride up the arse of the car ahead of you, this is it. Spring has sprung, and we are now officially in pothole season.

You really can learn most of what you need to know about the condition of the road by watching ahead. See that car swerve, yet no squirrels in sight? See that panicked smashing of brakes? See that curious combination of both of these actions? Back off, and save yourself a lot of grief. This is Canada; potholes happen.

Be Car Care Aware (www.carcarecanada.ca) offers some tips to help you avoid potholes, and how to know if you’ve suffered damage to your car if you can’t.

Related: A quick spring tune-up for drivers

Be on the lookout. Potholes can literally appear overnight and even those recently patched over can break up again.

Check your tire pressures. Keep all four of them at recommended levels to give yourself as much of a cushion as possible

Be careful on the swerving and only do it if you aren’t going to broadside another car. It’s an instinct, but know what’s around you at all times. Again, driving is all about good vision and zero distractions.

Find yourself in a pothole, anyway? Don’t hit the brakes hard. You will force the weight of your car forward, and into the pothole, causing even more damage. Maintain your steering and control until you can determine if there’s damage, and how much.

The bad news? Potholes can cause big damage. While there is recourse available through both municipal and provincial governments, don’t hold your breath waiting for your reimbursement. It’s an insurance issue, and they would rather you went through your insurance than theirs.

You have to prove negligence on the part of the government involved, and you have to do it fast. Go to the City of Toronto website for a thoroughly depressing exercise in trying to understand the proper channels to make the city pay.

How do you know you’ve bunged up your car? Other than the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, there are some very obvious clues.

Your steering will pull. This is your alignment and is paramount for handling as well as tire function. Your steering wheel should point the same way as your tires.

Your control is compromised and you feel your car bottoming out or bouncing erratically. You may feel swaying, especially on turns. This indicates your suspension has taken a hit, and can negatively affect everything from shocks, struts, ball joints, steering rack, bearings, seals and tie rods.

Yes, they’re as expensive as they sound. And also very important.

Take a look at your actual tires. Look for cuts or bulges. What may seem okay at low speeds can be a potential blowout at higher ones. You should visually inspect your car frequently; after a pothole crunch, do it immediately.

If you notice a change in your car’s behaviour, play it safe and get it checked.

Lorraine Sommerfeld appears Mondays in Living and Saturdays in Wheels. Reach her at:


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