Rainy days and potholes

STANDING START - Lord Seno (The Freeman) - June 14, 2021 - 12:00am

While some of us who live in the Metro are lucky to have fair infrastructure that gives us relatively good roads, sometimes you hit that occasional pothole that leaves you asking if your car is okay.

Any driver who has gone over a pothole before will tell you that damages sustained from one may vary from car to car. Most of the time, we don’t have them checked until symptoms of damage are felt. This can be taxing on our finances because unlike accidents, damages from potholes are not claimable through accident insurance.

How do these potholes form? Potholes, known to us in our native tongue as “liba-ong,” begin as small cracks on the road. These cracks get bigger from water seepage and the continuous pressure from regular traffic, especially from heavy equipment. Over time, certain parts of the road weaken and break apart, forming a pothole. Generally, rain speeds up the deterioration process. The more rain, the more likely potholes will appear. If you've hit a big pothole, and you felt it hit the bottom of the car, it’s best to have it checked by a reputable shop as soon as possible.

Here are some common areas and ways a pothole can damage your cars:

Suspension - Your suspension system cushions the imperfections of the road, so you get a comfortable ride. If your ride experience starts getting noisy or rough after running over a pothole, some part of your suspension might be loose or damaged.

Tires and wheels -Tires may blow-out when hitting deeper potholes at considerably high speeds.  Potholes can cause cracks and bends on rims which will mess up with your wheel alignment and prevent your car from travelling smoothly.

Your tires may also experience a sudden blow-out due to sidewall damage or under inflation. Invest in a Bluetooth Tire Pressure Monitoring System. It's doesn’t cost that much for the work that it does and the convenience it gives.

Exhaust System - Exhaust pipes and mufflers run along the undercarriage and could easily be the lowest part of your car. This makes it more susceptible to damage. Exhaust pipes, mufflers and catalytic converter always make an unusual sound when their connections are damaged.

Steering System – After hitting a pothole, if the car feels that it deviates off course when you're driving in a straight line, it means there's a misalignment in the steering system that needs fixing. If it feels less responsive or loose and makes strange sounds when your steer, you might have a broken steering component like a tie-rod end or a balljoint. It is important that service should follow immediately as steering damage can cause instability and uncontrollability.

Chassis/ Lower Body Parts - If you hit a pothole, the chances of damages to your chassis, bumper and side skirts are slim except if your car is lowered. I’ve seen a newly painted car damaged a bumper when it fell off after hitting a considerably deep pothole. The shop who painted the car didn’t do a good job in securing the bumper with new fasteners and clips. I’ve also seen undercarriages dented or bent after hitting a pothole. Although some might be negligible damage, it’s always wise to have it checked by an expert.

What do you do if you can’t avoid the pothole? If you can’t avoid it, just let your suspension do its job of absorbing the impact. Don’t jam the brakes. Jamming the brakes will make the car squat on its suspension, making it less capable of absorbing the shock. Aside from that, you will run the risk of getting rear ended if you suddenly brake hard for a pothole.

It’s also important to be holding the steering wheel firmly and bracing for the impact. 

But always remember, reducing speed is almost always the default to lessening the blow of an accident. Going over a pothole at low speeds reduces the risk of damage to your car and of course, your wallet.

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