Does Hitting a Pothole Damage My Tires & Suspension?

Have you ever hit a pothole so hard that you apologized to your vehicle? Hitting large asphalt chasms is never fun, but those road ravines can do more than rattle your senses or spill your favorite beverage. Repeatedly hitting potholes can puncture your tires, cut the sidewall or belts, bend or crack a wheel, damage parts of your suspension, or simply throw your car or truck out of alignment. Here’s what to look for after several run-ins with canyons in cul de sacs.

Recognizing Hidden Damages from Potholes

The damage from a pothole might not be visible right away. Small cracks on your tire’s sidewall can lead to slow leaks and eventual tire failure. If you have aluminum or steel wheels, the impact can cause a dent. That small blemish can cause an air leak between the rim and the tire. Other less visible signs of problems include damage to your shocks, springs, ball joint, struts, or tie-rods.

Give Your Vehicle a Quick Inspection

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

Tire damage from potholes
Tire Problems

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

Steering Issues

Your steering wheel feels off-center or your 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.

Wheel damage from potholes
Wheel Damage

Potholes can dent or bend aluminum or steel wheels. This can cause an air leak or safety issue.


If you feel abnormal vibrations in the steering wheel, seat or floor, the pothole may have damaged your suspension.


New noises could mean something has been bent or displaced and could be rubbing on the tire/wheel assembly.

Warning Lights

If a dashboard warning light appears, get to your mechanic or come to any Les Schwab.

Performance Issues

There may have been damage if your cornering is impacted, your vehicle starts to sway or bob up and down a lot over speed bumps, or your steering and braking feel impacted.

How Badly Can Potholes Damage My Vehicle?

Depending on the severity of the impact and the size of the pothole, potholes can cause bent wheel rims, internal tire damage, alignment problems, as well as shock and strut issues.

But not all impacts are instantly recognizable. Some problems develop over time. If you suspect you may have bent a wheel, punctured a tire, or caused damage to any parts of your suspension, stop by anytime or book an appointment at Les Schwab for an evaluation. Ignoring any potential issues can add to the cost. Something as simple as a damaged shock or strut can cause issues to other parts of your vehicle, including your brakes.

The professionals at Les Schwab will give your vehicle an inspection for the following issues:

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

Tips to Minimize Post-Winter Pothole Damage

Here’s what you can do to minimize the damage when facing potholes or damaged roads.

  • Always drive on tires that are properly inflated and in good condition. This will give you the best chance of absorbing the impact safely. This can also help avoid damage to your shocks, struts, and suspension.
  • Drive defensively. Slow down when you’re on an unfamiliar or rough road, and avoid distracted driving.
  • 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.
  • Recognize that though you might miss the first pothole, there may be another waiting.
  • 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.

Book an Appointment
Book an Appointment