HITTING a pothole can be more than a momentary jolt. While the tires and wheels should be visually inspected as soon as possible, you should know there could be damage to the steering, suspension and alignment systems that you can’t see. To help determine if hitting a pothole has damaged your vehicle, watch for these warning signs:
• Loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. These indicate that key safety-related systems—the steering and suspension—may have been damaged. They largely determine your car’s ride and handling. Key components are shocks and struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack or box, bearings, seals and hub units, and tie rod ends.
• Pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear. These mean an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment is important for safe handling and long-lasting tires.
• Low tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the rim. These problems should be checked out as soon as possible as tires are the critical connection between your car and the road.
“If you’ve hit a pothole and suspect that there may be damage to the tires, wheels, steering and suspension, or wheel alignment,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council, “it’s worth having a professional technician check out the car and make any necessary repairs.”
As a general rule of thumb, he advises, steering and suspension systems should be checked at least once a year and wheels should be aligned at the same interval. Motorists who drive in areas where potholes are common should be prepared to have these systems checked more frequently.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers.
For a copy of the council’s “Car Care Guide” or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.
North American Precis Syndicate