March is National Pothole Month, and we’re here to answer the question, "Can a pothole throw off the alignment on your vehicle?" Yes, it can! Learn how potholes can affect your alignment and how to tell if your vehicle is in need of pothole damage repair from Firestone Complete Auto Care.
How Hitting Potholes Affects Handling & Alignment
As winter comes to an end and frozen roads thaw, potholes start popping up on roadways across the nation. Not only are potholes a nightmare for your tires and suspension, but they can also impact handling and alignment.
While we’re all familiar with the awful BA-DUNK sound our cars make as they slam into a pothole, the damage from a pothole may go unnoticed for some time. Frequently hitting potholes — or even just one bad one — can alter the angles at which your wheels come in contact with the road, potentially resulting in a safety issue and expensive repairs later.
Misalignment leads to premature, uneven tread wear on tires and may require you to replace your tires much sooner than expected. It also affects the steering of your car and may cause unintended drifting. When the alignment is off, you may notice your car pulling to one side while driving or that your steering wheel is skewed at an odd angle.
Even if everything seems fine after hitting a pothole or two, it’s possible that your car took some damage. Just like you can’t always see a pothole in the road, sometimes you can’t see pothole damage until it’s too late. It's best to take care of alignment issues before they come up by bringing your vehicle in for a Complete Vehicle Inspection for a full damage assessment after hitting a pothole.
Don’t Brake When Driving Over Potholes — Here’s Why
It might seem counterintuitive, but the best thing you can do right before going over a pothole — aside from steering around it — is taking your foot off the brake. When you apply the brakes, your car’s front end dips down as the suspension compresses over your front wheels. When the suspension is compressed, it’s not able to absorb as much road impact. In other words, braking over a pothole can take away your vehicle's ability to absorb the high-speed impact, potentially leading to serious damage.
Braking over potholes can be especially damaging to your vehicle's shocks or struts. Struts largely affect alignment, so if your struts take damage from braking over a pothole, there's a chance that your alignment has been thrown off, too.
After hitting a pothole, be on the lookout for any signs you may need new shocks or struts, such as unusual sounds or jerky driving.
Don’t Let Pothole Damage Slow You Down
Springtime is pothole time. There's no way around it! If you hit a pothole and now your alignment feels off, head to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care. Our expert technicians will assess the state of your steering and suspension system to determine if a wheel alignment is necessary to get you back on the road safely.