How Potholes Can Damage Your Car

It’s pothole season again—that time of year when winter and spring play tug-of-war, resulting in fluctuating temperatures that can wreak havoc on roads.

Potholes begin when water seeps through cracks in the road. In colder climates, that water can freeze and push sections of pavement upward; the eventual thaw results in unsupported pockets. (In warmer climates, soil erosion under the road can cause weak spots.) The continual pressure of vehicles may cause these weak areas to collapse.

So what should you do if you hit a pothole? Don’t ignore it—the bump can cause damage that may only get worse, says Jeff Cox, president of the Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association. He recommends pulling over to a safe place and checking out the following parts of your car.


Hitting a pothole can be jarring to your tires, says Cox. And if the force is great enough, the sudden shift of air inside the tire can cause the sidewall to blow out. “Think of it as being like a balloon,” says Cox. “If you keep squeezing, at some point it will create its own puncture.”

If the impact has caused your tire to lose air, the vehicle’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) light will immediately go on. But even if the tire is holding air, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Look for any bulges sticking out of the side. They could be a sign of internal damage, which means you’re probably going to need to replace the tire. “Most of the time the damage isn’t to the tread, it’s to the sidewall,” says Cox. “And, unfortunately, there’s no way to patch or plug a sidewall.”

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The hard angles of a pothole can also cause serious damage to your wheels. “The first thing to look for are bends or cracks in the side of the wheel, where the rim meets the tire,” says Cox.

If a wheel is bent, it won’t roll smoothly. Also, the airtight seal between the tire and the wheel could be compromised. “Sometimes you can see where the pieces have broken off and the wheel is dented in,” says Cox. “If there is visible damage, that wheel will most likely need to be replaced.”

Suspension & Steering

If you notice your car pulling to the right or the left, the pothole might have bent one or more suspension or steering components out of alignment. Not only will that cause handling problems, but if you just had to spring for a brand new tire, a misaligned suspension will cause it to wear unevenly—and wear out prematurely.

In that case, get your alignment checked. “Ask them to put your car on the machine, and then take a look at the report,” says Cox. “If the box is green, you’re good to go. If it’s red, that means it’s out of alignment. There’s really no gray area.” Fortunately, he says, if your car does need to be realigned, many shops run specials during pothole season.

If you’re ever stranded on the road, having Emergency Roadside Service (ERS) is essential–and it’s available at your fingertips through your GEICO Mobile appAdd ERS to your policy for peace of mind while you drive.

By Rod O’Connor

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    Leave a comment

  1. Edwin says,

    I cant believe how the insure company resolve their problems ,it is easy to write things that have no senses,what about the taxes that we pay and high cost you charge us.i cant beleve.

  2. Robert G White says,

    I hear that the city is responsible for the repairs needed to your rims or tires if you hit a pothole but I don’t know who to call if you have a number for my area who to call that would be very helpful the repairs cost me 200 each tire

    • Steven Humphrey says,

      I have been on the waiting list to have the city of Chicago to repair my tires since 2008 .do not waste your time trying to get the city to pay for your tires do to pot holes,the city will only give you the run around

  3. Deborah Parsons says,

    Great Job GEICO I just hopeand pray that the city will start fixing the many potholes from Lea Blvd thru Market St going towards town PLEASE HELP OUR CARS?

  4. Marie C Jerome says,

    Great job Geico that’s why I been your customer since 2003 and referred many people to You. I appreciate all the information they really helpful ??

  5. Elizabeth says,

    So where is the tax on gasoline going? It sure would be nice if the president of Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association and Geico to step up for us. If you are truly concerned about your customers safety contact Governor Brown and ask, “Why aren’t the potholes being fixed?”

  6. Laura Lopez says,

    Are we, as drivers, responsible for repairs to our vehicles (punctured tires) due to hitting a pothole? Or would the city/county reimburse us?

    • Zaki Abdallah says,

      I hit a pothole damaged the rims on 2/27/18 coast me $237 what do I do to recover my losses? Lol how do you prevent it from happening at night ?

    • Karen Lafrance says,

      The city will reimburse you where I live, (MA) but a police report & any receipts & pics should be saved.
      I would check your city offices & if they don’t, the state may pay for damages.

  7. Joe Garone says,

    That’s why Geico is the best on car insurance because of emails and information like these thank for appreciating your customers.

  8. Lois Hall says,

    Great articles! Very helpful. I don’t use my phone or text while driving. I leave it in bag and ignore calls. Especially like all the other articles…the pothole one..wish i had an opportunity read this before..hut a pothole and drove on a bent rim for way to long ..what a mess anyhow thanks for putting this together! Way to go Geico…

  9. Sheila Grey says,

    Could a homeowner association be responsible for repairs to cars damaged by the above where the roads are private & owned by the HOA?

    • Willie says,

      New york city is the same. Sometimes I think it’s a conspiracy of the city and all the car’s repair shops

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