Anyone who’s ever hit a pothole in the road and lost control of the vehicle knows full well the dangers these nasty little surprises hold for unwary drivers. The fact that even a small pothole can result in bent rims or blown tires (especially if the tires are badly worn already) can mean hundreds of dollars in repair costs. Better to take pre-emptive action.

What causes potholes? Repeated freezing and thawing is the culprit. When this happens, moisture seeps through the road surfaces and creates potholes over time.

Slow down. This tip bears repeating. The best way to avoid hitting potholes is to be extra vigilant when driving. That means, in many cases, to slow down, and maintain enough distance between you and the vehicle ahead, being sure you’re not tailgating. This gives you extra time to be able to spot and react to potholes before you experience them.

Make sure headlights work and windshield is clear. It can be hard enough to spot potholes in the daytime. At night or during inclement weather, it’s even worse. That’s why safety experts recommend keeping the headlights in proper working order, making sure they’re clean to ensure maximum forward lighting. Also keep enough windshield wiper fluid in the reservoirs so that you can use your wipers to maintain a clear windshield. Every little bit helps when you’re trying to be proactive to avoid hitting potholes.

Use caution driving through puddles. One of the factors at work to create potholes is water. When you see puddles on the roadway, it’s best to exercise caution. That puddle may be either hiding a pothole or creating one. In either case, drive around the puddle if possible or go through it slowly.

Drive with both hands on the wheel. It’s honestly amazing how many drivers are casual about how they hold onto the steering wheel. From one-handed to one-fingered grips, too many drivers don’t realize they have little to no control without having a firm grip on the steering wheel. This means using two hands. Hitting a pothole can cause sudden direction changes. Avoid steering into another lane, as you certainly don’t want to avoid a pothole only to cause a collision with another vehicle.

Be up-to-date on tire maintenance. Another excellent way to be proactive with respect to preventing pothole damage is to pay attention to tire maintenance. Keep tires inflated to specification. Overinflated or underinflated tires are no match for potholes. Also, examine your tires regularly to spot any bulges or excessive wear and repair or replace these tires, accordingly.

Have the suspension and steering checked. This bit of advice is especially important if your vehicle is older or you’ve hit potholes in the past. Take your car to a mechanic to have the suspension and steering checked out. Good, responsive steering will help you avoid potholes in the first place. Properly working suspension helps cushion the blow of hitting the potholes you aren’t able to avoid (or perhaps didn’t see).

way to drive through potholes? Drivers will, of course, have their own experience with this, but there are generally two ways to approach driving through potholes. The first one is to barrel through, hoping to “jump” over the pothole. The second is to jam on the brakes at the last minute so you hit the pothole as slowly as possible. What do safety experts recommend? If you can, steer around the pothole. But this may not always be possible. In that case, slow down and then release the brake before hitting the pothole. What this does is to reduce impact speed and give the suspension adequate time for full range of travel to absorb the pothole impact.

Another tip is to hit the pothole straight on and roll through it – that is if you can’t avoid hitting it altogether. This method will cause less severe damage to a tire than when it is skidding over a pothole during braking. You also don’t want to hit a pothole on an angle. That can transfer impact energy in ways that are far more likely to result in damage to your vehicle.

Dealing with Damage After the Fact

It’s almost inevitable that drivers will hit a pothole at some time during their lives. Some drivers, in fact, become experts at how to avoid potholes and what to do it they hit one. Most drivers, however, can use a little advice so they’re less anxious after they’ve encountered their first pothole that causes damage to the car.

Tires and wheels are the most obvious areas to suffer damage from a direct pothole hit. So, inspect them to see the extent of the damage. Badly damaged tires and wheels can be expensive to repair and/or replace.

If your car seems to pull to the left or right after you’ve hit a pothole, there’s likely going to be a need for a steering realignment.

A car that appears to be bottoming out or bouncing may have suspension damage. This type of repair can be even more costly than repair/replacement of tires and wheels, depending on the extent of the damage.

All of these examples of pothole damage mean you should take your car to be inspected and the necessary repairs made.

As a final note, while road crews will do their best to repair potholes at appropriate intervals, this can’t come soon enough to drivers who have to travel a pothole-strewn roadway every day. Still, report potholes to area road commissions so that there’s some hope they’ll be fixed.

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