Safety & Accident

Safety Tip: Averting Pothole Damage

February 06, 2017

VIDEO: Calif. Streets Riddled With Potholes

It’s a bumpy road out there — have you noticed? Across the nation, streets are riddled with potholes. And many drivers don’t realize just how much damage these irksome mini-craters can cause.

AAA recommends the following measures to help protect vehicles from pothole damage:

Inspect Tires — Make sure tires are properly inflated and have enough tread. An under-inflated or badly worn tire is more likely to suffer damage, or allow the wheel or suspension to be damaged, when hitting a pothole.

When checking tire pressures, ensure they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended levels, which can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker on the driver’s doorjamb. Don’t use the pressure levels stamped on the sidewall of the tire. To check the tread depth, insert a quarter into the tread groove with Washington’s head upside down. The tread should cover part of Washington’s head. If it doesn’t, then it’s time for new tires.

Inspect Suspension  Make certain struts, shock absorbers and other suspension parts are in good condition. Changes in vehicle handling, excessive vibration or uneven tire wear can indicate damaged or worn components. Have the suspension inspected by a certified technician if you suspect problems.

Look Ahead — Make a point of checking the road ahead for potholes. An alert driver may have time to avoid potholes, so it’s important to stay focused on the road and not any distractions inside or outside the vehicle. Before swerving to avoid a pothole, check surrounding traffic to ensure this won’t cause a collision or endanger nearby pedestrians or cyclists.

Price ranges based on 2014 prices. Graphic courtesy of AAA.
Price ranges based on 2014 prices. Graphic courtesy of AAA.

Slow Down — If you can’t avoid a pothole, reduce your speed safely and check the rearview mirror before braking abruptly. Hitting a pothole at higher speeds greatly increases the chance of damage to tires, wheels and suspension components.

Beware of Puddles — A puddle of water can disguise a deep pothole. Use care when driving through puddles and treat them as though they may be hiding potholes.

Check Alignment — Hitting a pothole can knock the wheels out of alignment and affect the steering. If a vehicle pulls to the left of right, have the wheel alignment checked by a qualified technician.

Recognize Noises/Vibrations — A hard pothole impact can dislodge wheel weights, damage a tire or wheel, and bend or even break suspension components. If you begin noticing any new or unusual noises or vibrations after hitting a pothole, the vehicle needs to go into the shop immediately for an inspection by a qualified technician.

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit, scientific, and educational organization that dedicates its efforts to reducing the losses, deaths, injuries, and property damage, from crashes on U.S. highways.

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