The Dreaded Pothole!

A word or two on Potholes, what causes them and what you should do if your car is damaged as a result of hitting one.

As roadways freeze and thaw, water erodes some of the dirt beneath the pavement. If the asphalt layer over these holes falls or cracks, the result is a crater called a pothole. Drivers who cannot see or avoid these hazards often suffer some form of pothole damage to their cars. This pothole damage may be instantaneous, such as a punctured tire, or cumulative, such as misalignments of the steering system. Pothole damage accounts for nearly 500,000 insurance claims per year, so experts suggest looking for signs of damage immediately following an encounter with a pothole.

We all know that due to traffic and other conditions it may be impossible for you to avoid hitting a nasty pothole. And pothole damage can be very costly, especially if the damage is not immediately noticeable. So before you reach for your wallet, find out what your options are for reimbursement.

I have found over the years that most people are not aware that they may be able to be reimbursed for damage caused by a pothole. Some cities will assume responsibility for pothole damage caused on their streets, but a significant number of local governments do not. Most insurance companies will recognize an immediate claim of pothole damage, so it is important to have your car inspected as soon as possible after you have hit a bad pothole. Particularly if your steering wheel is crooked or you now have a vibration that you did not have before you hit the pothole. Some of the damage caused by potholes is cumulative and if not noticed right away, your insurance company most likely will deny the claim.

Tires are common victims of pothole damage, but unless you have a trained eye, and are willing to crawl around on your back, you may not know until days or weeks later that the damage has occurred.

The rims of many modern cars are aluminum-based, which means they cannot withstand as much pothole damage as older steel rims.

Striking a deep pothole can cause dents to form around the wheels and undercarriage. If a car begins leaking fluids, it may be a result of pothole damage to the undercarriage or engine mounting area.

Perhaps the most obvious sign of pothole damage occurs in the car’s alignment and shock absorption systems. A car’s suspension system is designed to provide a smoother ride for the driver, primarily by allowing the tires and struts to bounce up and down. When the tire strikes a pothole, especially at highway speeds, the entire shock absorption system receives an immediate jolt. Over time, the shock absorbing springs and struts become less resilient, leading to a much rougher ride and less responsive steering.