Potholes—How They’re Formed & the Affect They Have on Your Car

While inclement winter weather may be in our rear-view, driving conditions do not necessarily get better as sunshine and warm weather moves in. You’ve probably experienced these conditions on your everyday routes, and while you may try and avoid their landmine frequency, there’s always one that catches your tire and rattles the entire car. Yes, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

Potholes are everywhere this time of year as the weather changes and excess moisture begins its next freeze-thaw cycle. While almost every driver knows to avoid them, very few know how they’re formed or realize the actual impact that hitting a pothole has on your car.

How They’re Formed

Potholes are primarily formed as a result of water freeze-thaw cycles and traffic. Seasonal temperature changes play a major role in this process as the water that has seeped through roadway cracks freezes and expands during winter months (frost heaves). As the snow melts and the roads thaw, the same water that caused the road to rise months before now does the inverse. It’s through this repeated cycle and habitual wear-and-tear on high-traffic roads that potholes are born.

Potholes by the Numbers

Not limited to New England, potholes and other poor road conditions are seemingly inevitable as crews throughout the nation try and maintain already failing infrastructure. By the numbers, potholes are a costly and dangerous annoyance. Some reports estimate that potholes are responsible for over $6.4 billion in car repairs. In addition to costing drivers a significant amount of money, hitting a pothole can equal the force of an accident at 35mph.

Effect on Your Car

Keeping the above statistics in mind, it’s clear that potholes can have a serious financial impact on your car and result in long term issues if left unaddressed. Below are some of the most common types of damage your car may endure when driving over a pothole. This video also does an excellent job of demonstrating their effect.

Wheels: In addition to increasing the wear on the tire, a puncture is possible as well. Depending on the size of the pothole, the wheel rims may also be affected as they scrape against the walls of the hole.

Suspension and Alignment: Extreme stress on your car’s suspension, shocks, and struts is common as the car tries to balance the effects of the pothole. This stress can also result in misalignment.

Engine and Exhaust: If the size of the pothole is severe enough, your car may bottom out and directly affect the way your engine or exhaust system performs, resulting in costly repairs or replacements.

Because potholes occur so frequently and are almost impossible to avoid entirely, we recommend conducting regular inspections on your vehicle, specifically looking at the above areas, to mitigate any short-term issues before they become long-term problems.

For additional information and auto parts needed to keep your car healthy and safe, contact or visit the knowledgeable professionals at a Sanel NAPA store near you.

About Sanel NAPA

Since 1920, Sanel NAPA has been a leading auto parts, heavy-duty truck parts, and body shop supplies distributor with over 42 store locations throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts. We deliver quality car parts, heavy-duty truck parts, automotive paint and body supplies, and tools and equipment that are durable, dependable, and long-lasting in order to provide our clientele with the best products and services possible. For more information, call (603) 225-4000 or click to find a store near you.

Find Your Closest Sanel NAPA Store

With over 48 locations across New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts

Find a Location Near You