The Pothole problem: how to keep you and your car safe this spring

Spring is here, Canadians rejoice!  Finally, we’re free from the snow, sleet, salt and sludge that characterize our winter.  But there’s one scourge that comes with spring, one that Canadian drivers and their vehicles are all too familiar with.

I’m talking about potholes.

When the snow melts and roads become visible again, so do these irksome and potentially dangerous dips in the ground.  Sometimes potholes aren’t even visible at all, especially at night or on poorly lit roads.  The only evidence of them is the jarring feeling of driving over one, and the damage they can do to your vehicle.

Since we want springtime to be a happy, positive time for all of our readers, we decided to get to the bottom of the pothole problem, with help from our friends at OK Tire.

OK Tire has been a household name in Canada for 65 years now.  In 1953 a group of independent tire shops came together with one goal in mind: to increase the selection and service that they could offer to their customers. Fast-forward to today, and OK Tire is the largest independent tire and auto service retailer in Canada, with more than 300 locations (and counting!) across our big beautiful country.

Considering how long these guys have been around, and how passionate they are about customers, cars and of course, tires, we felt more than confident entrusting our pothole education to the experts at OK Tire.  We linked up with them to learn the How, What, Where and Why of Potholes, and how to keep our cars and our sanity safe from them this spring.


How do potholes form in the first place?

Roadways are built in layers with the top layer built to resist moisture and constructed with several degrees of slope to encourage the drainage of water to the shoulder or edge of the road or highway. Over a period of time when this protective barrier starts to wear away, ground water seeps into the pavement. When the temperature starts to drop the water in the cracks start to expand. This expansion forces the pavement to move causing even more stress. This constant expansion and contraction create gaps under its surface making the top layer weak and susceptible to damage. Once this top layer is exposed to the ever-changing weather elements, combined with the stress from traffic, a pothole is born.

As temperatures changed from above freezing during the daytime to freezing at night we experienced potholes forming in early January around the city. Repairing potholes is notoriously challenging as they must not only be filled but also sealed to keep water from getting into any cracks.

What kind of damage can a pothole do to your car?

The damage a pothole can do to your car ranges from simple alignment issues to extreme damage.   Alignment issues can result in difficulty steering (vehicle pulling to the left or to the right). Vibrations can also occur in the car due to bent rims or the loss of a wheel weight after hitting the pothole. Suspension damage can also result from potholes. Repeated stress on the suspension can speed up the wear and tear on the suspension, ultimately decreasing performance.

The biggest problem when hitting a pothole is the risk of the underside of your car making contact with the road. If this occurs, physical and ride control damage can occur. This includes rim damage, scratches to the body and tire damage.


Are tires affected by potholes?

Tires take the brunt of the force when you hit a pothole. If the pothole is big enough the damage to the tire will be instant. Sometimes the damage is subtle at first and the tire may look fine but it should be inspected if you see any bulges on the sidewall of the tire. This indicates the inner lining has been compromised and the tire needs replacing.  It is best to replace the tire right away to avoid further complications.


What can you do to avoid damage from potholes?

First, adjust the way you drive. Leaving ample space between you and the car in front of you can allow you to see more of the road. In doing so, you have a greater chance of noticing a pothole and avoiding it. Additionally, driving slower can improve your reaction time and allow you to take the pothole at a slower speed, reducing damage.

Finally, one of the best defenses against pothole damage is keeping your tires properly inflated and checking the tire pressure every other week.


If you do sustain damage from potholes, what can you do about it?

The first thing to do when you sustain damage from a pothole is to, when it’s safe to do so, pull over and take inventory. Take your vehicle off the road and check it in the safety of a parking lot. Look for what was damaged, take photos and draw diagrams.

The next step in the process is filing an insurance claim or paying for the repairs yourself. If filing an insurance claim, you should be as detailed as possible. Including photos, repair receipts and additional information will help best inform your insurance company. This will be treated as a collision with your insurance company. Ultimately, it depends on what your policy will or will not cover.


What tips do you have for drivers to easily transition from winter to spring driving?

First, ensure your tires are properly inflated by checking your tire pressure. This will be the first line of defense against pothole damage. You should also leave your winter tires on until the temperature is consistently above 7 degrees Celsius. Finally, since you will already be at the shop having your tires switched over for spring, take advantage of the opportunity to have a complete preventative maintenance inspection done to ensure everything in your vehicle is up to date and in working order.

So go forth into spring and drive safe with the knowledge OK Tire has armed you with.  And consider leveraging their expertise for your auto repair and tire needs, at one of their many locations across Canada.



This article is a paid partnership between OK Tire and Addicted Media Inc. 

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Addicted Magazine. Her myriad of addictions include music, fashion, travel, technology, boxing and trying to make the world a better place. Nadia is also a feminist, an animal lover, and a neverending dreamer. Keep up with her on social media through @thenadiae.
Nadia Elkharadly