DEARBORN - Now that the harsh winter weather is behind us – let’s keep our fingers crossed – it’s the perfect time to assess your vehicle for pothole damage.
“Driving into a pothole puts a lot of strain on your tires, wheels, suspension and the vehicle’s body. The size of the pothole and the speed you are driving all play a part in the severity of potential damage,” said Dave Lloyd, supervisor, Tire and Wheel Design & Release. “At Ford we do a lot of things to make our vehicles robust to potholes. We design our parts to certain criteria based on years of customer input. That doesn’t mean that our customers will never have a problem though because there is always a pothole that’s too big.”
One of the best ways to prevent pothole damage in the first place is to make sure you have the appropriate air pressure in your tires, according to Lloyd.
“There is a placard label on the inside of the driver’s door on our Ford vehicles that tells you what the air pressure should be in the tires,” he explained. “You want to keep the pressure at the recommended level to make sure the tire will absorb as much energy as possible before putting the rest of the load through the vehicle. It’s important to monitor and maintain your tire air pressure when the weather changes. When the outside air temperature drops so will the air pressure in your tires.”
Another thing you can do to prevent pothole damage is to avoid a “panic stop,” according to Susan Cline, Road Load supervisor, Cars.
“When people see a chuckhole in the road, their natural tendency is to want to brake and slow down but that’s one of the worst things you can do if you’re driving at a fast rate of speed because it locks the suspension up and creates a situation where the vehicle is pitching into the ground,” she said. “A better thing to do would be to slow down way ahead and go over the pothole slowly. If you can’t slow down, then just go over it at the same speed versus trying to do a panic stop.”
Lloyd said it’s always best to keep a good, safe distance between you and the car in front of you.
“Your greatest asset when you’re driving is your vision,” he said. “If you’re too close to the vehicle in front of you, you won’t be able to avoid a pothole because you won’t see it in time. Extra caution is needed to avoid impacts that could cause wheel and tire damage.”
Those are preventive measures.
Here are some signs of potential damage to watch out for if you’ve already driven over a particularly severe pothole. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, you may want to take your vehicle to the dealership for inspection.
Tires & Wheels
Check the tires for low pressure. A cracked wheel or cut tire can cause a leak. Inspect the tire tread and sidewalls for damage such as cuts or bulges in the tread or sidewalls. Inspect the rims (outboard and inboard flanges) for cracks and dents.
“Some vehicles offer low-profile tires which are usually paired with large-diameter wheels,” noted Lloyd. “These low-profile tire and their paired wheels are more prone to road damage from potholes.”
Wheel & Tire Balance
Wheels that have been knocked off balance can cause vibrations or shaking while driving. This can affect handling, stress your car’s suspension and increase fuel consumption and wear on tires.
“If the wheel & tire are out of balance, you may feel a vibration or shake when driving at highway speeds,” said Lloyd.
Signs of misalignment: if you have to hold the steering wheel at an angle in order for the vehicle to go straight; if the vehicle is pulling to one side; if you notice uneven, accelerated tire wear.
“If you’re driving down the road and you’re holding the wheel clocked from what you consider straight, then the alignment is out of specification,” said Lloyd. “If your alignment is off, you can have accelerated wear on the inside or outside shoulder of your tires.”
Suspension damage can cause looseness or clunking in steering, poor alignment and difficulty straightening out after a turn. The car may also begin to sway or rock, or bounce or bottom out and might require more effort steering.
“The vehicle has shocks that give you damping as you go over potholes in the road, so if the shocks become damaged they may not function as well which may cause the vehicle to bounce and be more susceptible to pothole damage,” said Lloyd.
New, strange or loud noises coming from exhaust system can indicate a leak or other sign of impact.
“Is your exhaust noticeably louder?” said Lloyd. “If you hit something so hard that it damaged your exhaust system the vehicle will give you some feedback through noise.”
Oil or coolant leaks can be signs of pothole damage.
“If you had an oil leak or some other sort of leak, you may see a puddle in your garage or on your driveway where you park your car,” said Lloyd.