How to Avoid Hitting Potholes and Keep Your Tires and Wheels Protected

You’re on your way to work when the most dreaded thing happens. You’ve hit a pothole. Now, you’re clutching the steering wheel hoping that dreaded pothole didn’t just destroy your tire and wheel. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid hitting potholes and, instead, protect your tires and wheels from those crater-sized holes.

A Jeep Wrangler avoids hitting a pothole on a street.
Potholes In Road In Pennsylvania. | Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Do potholes damage cars?

If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to hit a pothole, then you already know the answer to this question. But if you haven’t? Then, yes. Hitting a pothole can definitely damage your car. In fact, according to Les Schwab Tire Center, hitting a pothole can leave you with a punctured tire or a bent or cracked wheel. It can also damage your tire’s sidewall and even knock your vehicle out of alignment. That’s not all the damage hitting a pothole can do either. Take a good enough hit, and a pothole can damage your car’s shocks, struts, and even its suspension.

If you have hit a pothole, Les Schwab Tire Center recommends checking for any signs of pothole damage. Not sure what to look for? Try this:

  • Is there a bulge on your tire’s sidewall? If there is, it could be a sign that the tire was pinched between the edge of the pothole and the wheel. Les Schwab Tire Center reports that such an issue could cause the tire’s internal plies to be weakened or severed.
  • If your car is now pulling to one side, you may have hit the pothole hard enough to knock your car’s alignment out of place. The pothole might have also caused damage to a steering or suspension component.
  • Are you hearing some noises? Feeling some vibrations? Les Schwab Tire Center says this could mean something was bent or displaced and could be rubbing on either the tire or the wheel assembly.
  • And if a dashboard warning light suddenly appears? Odds are, you likely damaged your tire or wheel when hitting that pothole.

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How to avoid hitting potholes while driving

According to data collected by Consumer Reports, pothole damage costs drivers about $3 billion annually, with repairs averaging about $300 per incident. Odds are, with those numbers in mind, you’re going to want to avoid those pesky potholes. The good news is that we have some helpful tips to prevent hitting potholes while driving:

  • This one is easy. To prevent pothole damage, AAA recommends inspecting your tires on the regular. Make sure they’re properly inflated and not worn out. AAA explains, “If you hit a pothole with worn or underinflated tires, there is a greater risk of wheel or suspension damage.”
  • Keep your eyes on the road too. According to AAA, staying alert and checking the road ahead is an easy way to avoid hitting potholes while driving.
  • Consumer Reports explains that slowing down before hitting a pothole can also help minimize damage. Of course, it’s best to try and avoid it altogether, but, unfortunately, that’s not always realistic.
  • Firestone also recommends steering clear of puddles, which can be deceptively deep and disguised as a pothole.

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Stay alert and pay it forward

When it comes down to it, all you really can do to avoid hitting a pothole is to stay alert. Paying it forward is important too. If you see or run into a pothole, help other drivers avoid damage by reporting it to your local government. In certain areas, you can also use a statewide hotline or app to report potholes in your community in certain areas.