Potholes are a regular part of spring in Canada. They appear out of nowhere (virtually over night at times), can reappear after repair and can grow in size and depth at alarming rates. Sometimes a puddle is just a pothole in disguise and often they are in hidden dips in the road that sneak up on you. And potholes can ruin a car in no time. Fortunately, there are a couple things you can do to prevent damage:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. This one should be a no-brainer because distracted driving is unsafe. But keep an eye out for potholes or potential pothole places, especially on the roads you travel regularly as they can change pretty quickly in the spring — and you don’t want to damage your car because you weren’t paying attention.
  • Check your tire pressure. Keeping your tires at the recommended pressure levels will help maintain a good cushion in case you have to go through a pothole. It will also help prevent damage to your tires while you drive on really bad potholed roads.
  • Don’t slam on the breaks. If you do, you will force your car forward and into the pothole harder and faster, which will cause more damage than just driving through it.

How to tell if your car has been damaged by a pothole

We’ve all been there. You drive through the pothole and then you spend the next two or three blocks wondering if your car is just going to fall apart like it would in a cartoon. Here are some things to help you identify if your car has suffered some damage from the pothole encounter:

  • Steering wheel is pulling. The steering wheel should always point the same way as your tires. If it’s pulling one way or another, then you likely have a problem and should take it into a repair shop for inspection as soon as you can.
  • Look at your tires. If one tire is low all of a sudden, or you notice a bulge, it may be that the pothole encounter caused a rip, tear or hole in your tire. If this is the case, the safest thing to do is get the tire patched, repaired or replaced as soon as possible to prevent a blowout while driving.
  • Tire rims are bent. Hitting a pothole at the wrong angle or at faster speeds can cause the a tire rim to bend. This can cause problems while driving, including causing further damage to the tire.
  • Your car feels like it’s swaying. Sometimes, a pothole encounter can damage the suspension, putting you in a very dangerous and precarious position. If you are turning corners and feeling like it’s more difficult to control your vehicle, you may have suffered damage to the shocks, struts, ball joints, steering rack, or other parts of the undercarriage.

Money matters

Potholes can be hard on your car, and sometimes, harder on your wallet. Make sure you know and understand your insurance policies in case you have to make a claim because of a pothole. It may also be worthwhile checking with your municipality, as many local and provincial governments have programs that will reimburse people for damage caused by potholes. However, this can be a long, drawn out process and can be a bigger hassle than you’re prepared to deal with.