Does Hitting a Pothole Damage My Tires?

Hitting a pothole is never fun. But those holes in the road can do more than spill your latte. Potholes can puncture your tire or bend or crack your wheel. It can damage your tire’s sidewall or belts. Even a minor impact may knock your vehicle out of alignment. A pothole strike can damage your shocks or struts, or harm your suspension.

Give Your Vehicle a Quick Inspection

After hitting a pothole, check for any of the following signs of pothole damage.

  1. A bulge on the tire sidewall. This is an indicator that the tire was pinched between the edge of the pothole and the wheel causing the internal plies to be weakened or severed.

  2. Your steering wheel is no longer centered or the vehicle wants to pull to one side or the other. The impact may have been hard enough to affect the alignment or damage a steering or suspension component.

  3. You feel abnormal vibrations in the steering, seat or floor.

  4. You may hear a new noise when underway. Something may have been bent or displaced and could be rubbing on the tire/wheel assembly.

  5. A dashboard warning light appears.

How Badly Can Potholes Damage My Vehicle?

Hitting a pothole can cause bent wheel rims, internal tire damage, alignment problems, and shock and strut issues depending on the severity of the impact. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll puncture your tires or damage your vehicle, but if you have any concerns, get it inspected.

Below are some photos that show how potholes can damage wheels or rims.

Wheel damage from potholes
Wheel damage from potholes

Tire damage from potholes
Tire damage from potholes

When you take your vehicle to a tire technician or mechanic following a pothole impact, ask for an inspection that covers:

  • Wheels/steering knocked out of alignment
  • Damage to the tire’s steel belts
  • Intact tire balancing weights
  • Bent or cracked wheel rim
  • Damage to shocks and struts
  • Other broken suspension components

Tips to Minimize Pothole Damage

With summer and winter weather throughout the West impacting our roads, potholes are going to happen. Here’s what you can do to minimize the damage and possibly avoid these hazards.

  1. Always drive on tires that are properly inflated and in good condition. This will give you the best chance of absorbing the impact safely.

  2. Drive defensively. Slow down when you’re on an unfamiliar or rough road, and avoid distracted driving.

  3. Be alert to what’s ahead, and make sure you keep enough distance between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can avoid issues.

  4. Recognize that though you might miss the first pothole, there may be another waiting.

  5. When you can’t avoid a pothole, take your foot off the gas and hold your steering wheel tightly. Don’t brake. This will allow you to maintain the most control during the impact.

Les Schwab Has Experience with Pothole Damage

Our pros have seen plenty of pothole damage and can offer recommendations, including tire repair and replacement, alignment work, and more. Stop by your local Les Schwab for a free inspection. If you need new tires, wheels or alignment, we’ll help get you and your family quickly and safely back on the road.