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Pothole Survival 101

As irritating as they can be, however, they can also cause much more than just annoyance for a driver that’s faced with a pothole-plagued road.

Driving improperly over a pothole can cause serious damage to your vehicle. Use our pothole survival guide to keep yourself and your passengers safe, and to avoid (or minimize) damage to your vehicle when preparing to encounter a pothole.

How Potholes are Formed

To better understand how to best approach pothole-infested roads, you should first understand how potholes are formed in the first place.

The first step in pothole formation occurs when rain, snow, and sleet make their way into the pavement of the road, all the way down to the soil. Afterwards, when temperatures drop, this soil and pavement is pushed upwards as the water from the rain or snow freezes and expands.

When temperatures rise again, the pavement and soil begins to thaw and the water runs away. After the soil recedes, a hole is created under the pavement. When a passing car runs over this spot, the pavement is broken apart, and the pothole is formed.

Tips to Survive Potholes

Even the most experienced driver can be left with damage to their vehicle when they’ve driven over an unexpected pothole. If you’re headed down a road on which you know there are potholes, use the following tips to avoid them, and to minimize damage to your vehicle:

  • Before you get behind the wheel, make sure that your tires are properly inflated.
  • Slow down! When faced with a road riddled with potholes, the first thing you should do is simply slow down – especially on a road that’s well-worn.
  • The best way to minimize pothole related damage is to avoid it entirely – pay attention to the road ahead of you and keep a safe distance between your car and the one in front of you so that you can react properly if a pothole appears.
  • As you attempt to avoid a pothole ahead of you, be sure to do so safely, without swerving.
  • Be mindful of other motorists as you maneuver your vehicle around a pothole – watch for other cars or cyclists.
  • If you can’t avoid the pothole entirely, you should slow down before you drive over it.
  • Avoid braking abruptly when traversing a pothole, as this may actually worsen any damage caused to your vehicle.
  • If the roads are wet, you should drive extra cautiously, as potholes can remain hidden underneath puddles.
  • As always, it’s imperative that you and every passenger in your vehicle wears their seatbelt at all times – this is especially important when driving over potholes.

What to Do When You’ve Hit a Pothole

If you weren’t able to avoid a pothole in the road, there are a few things to keep in mind to assess the damage done to your vehicle.

Even if your tire hasn’t blown out, your car may still have incurred some invisible damage. Take your vehicle to the repair shop if you notice these symptoms of damage:

  • If your car is veering towards the left or right even though you’re driving straight, your vehicle might have incurred an alignment problem.
  • If your car is bouncing excessively on an uneven road, if it’s swaying when you make a turn, or if you find yourself losing control of your vehicle more easily, there may be a suspension or steering problem with your vehicle.
  • What’s more, check for over inflated or under inflated tires, dents in its wheel rims, or bulges/blisters on tire sidewalls after you’ve driven over a pothole.

To help future drivers, be sure to report any potholes in your community to your local transportation authorities.

Pothole Survival 101

Like traffic jams and road rage, potholes are an unavoidable fact of life for most Canadian drivers.