How potholes damage your vehicle
The impact of a road riddled with potholes is something Canadians are all too familiar with, compliments of severe weather swings in the winter and spring.
Potholes are created when water seeps through pavement and freezes during the winter months, causing the ground to expand and crack. Then as spring comes around, that water melts and leaves a new or bigger hole in the pavement. Canadians spend an average of $1.4 billion per year in pothole damage repairs, according to a 2016 study done by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), but it’s not just bent rims and leaky tires you need to worry about. When it comes to potholes both old and new, there are several ways they can damage your car.
“There are two categories I would split pothole-related car damage into. One category is when you hit a pothole and it causes visible damage to your car and the second category is when you hit a pothole and acquire invisible damage," Arif Bhanji, co-founder and CEO of Fiix Auto Repair, a team of expert mobile mechanics serving the GTA , said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca.
According to Bhanji, many people don’t usually get their cars checked after hitting a pothole because of the prices associated with mechanics but the longer people wait to deal with these issues, the more they cost.
“If you hit a pothole really hard and you damage your control arm, which basically connects your wheels to your steering, you can’t actually tell that it’s damaged unless you go to a mechanic and they hook it up to an electric computing system that can identify the problem,” Bhanji said.
A tire is connected to a few parts that can cause steering misalignment if damaged by a pothole. For example, you have a lower control arm, which leads to the tire and you have an upper control arm, which connects to the frame of your car. In most cases when you hit a pothole, it’ll impact your tire and wheel but it can bend and damage other components as well.
According to Bhanji, one way to tell if a vehicle’s suspension is damaged is if the car is veering from one side to another. Another way is if the car starts to shake.
Bhanji said it’s unlikely that hitting a pothole will cause direct damage to the engine but it can certainly cause damage over time. One way a car’s engine may be directly affected is if someone hits a pothole hard enough to move the engine off its mounts.
Another way a vehicle’s engine may be affected is if your car becomes misaligned from the impact of hitting a pothole. The engine has to work much harder to get your vehicle to drive in the right direction which can cause damage over time.
“The way a car works is very similar to the way a body works and the engine is the heart so if there’s damage to the heart the rest of the body will be affected. If your arm breaks, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to those parts,” Bhanji said.
In a city like Toronto with extreme weather conditions, Bhanji said bad roads and potholes are inevitable. He said it’s really the power of the impact that damages the car.
“The speed in which you hit these potholes obviously dictates how much damage will be caused.”