When it comes to vehicle damage from potholes, the biggest problems can be the least apparent.
It’s been an exceptional year for potholes, and the proof is in the staggering number of claims for vehicle damage that drivers have filed with the city. In January alone, 900 claims were filed, more than in all of 2017.
The damage claim total for February and March was another 1,066, an indication of just how brutal the winter of 2018 has been on our roads and the vehicles that drive on them.
Skyrocketing pothole damage claims will leave huge bill for city
“There have been days when we’ve had seven or eight customers who have come here with damage to tires or rims or their suspension because they hit a really bad pothole.
“One time we had four people show up here, and they all said that they hit the same pothole.”
Cooney-Mann said pothole-related damage is sometimes easy to see, but in many cases it is less than obvious, particularly when it involves suspension and steering gear.
He advises that when drivers hit a pothole with such a bang that it feels like the vehicle may have been damaged, chances are pretty good that they aren’t imagining it.
One of the most common problems is tire damage, either to the sidewall or the belts that run beneath the tread, he said. Drivers who suspect damage should closely examine the side of their tires for bulges and even run their hand over them to feel for small irregularities, he said, noting that a bulging sidewall could cause a blowout at highway speeds. A shifted belt in a tire will likely cause vibrations or shimmying at highway speeds.
Even if the tire is not damaged, Cooney-Mann said the rim may be bent. If it is, the tire could lose air or make the vehicle vibrate as the speed increases. If a vehicle suddenly starts to act up or a tire goes soft, there’s a good chance the rim is damaged and needs replacing.
Hitting a pothole can also throw off the wheel alignment, he said, which can make a vehicle vibrate or shimmy and cause tires to wear unevenly. A good service shop can identify alignment problems cheaply and easily, he said, adding that he checks out alignment issues for his regular customers for free.
In a worst-case scenario, the suspension or steering gear may be damaged, which will also cause a vehicle to act up as the speed increases, he said. If the steering wheel pulls to one side after striking a pothole, it’s a likely sign of suspension damage that will cause uneven tire wear, or worse, and needs to be addressed right away.
The bottom line, Coney-Mann says, is to not kid yourself about the possibility of damage, and to bite the bullet and deal with it sooner rather than later, before it gets worse.
He knows what he is talking about and his advice should be taken seriously.
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