How to tell if a pothole damaged my car

9 minute read Published on Nov 16, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Blue car driving next to a winter pothole on open road

As the seasons change and the weather takes its toll on our roads, one thing remains constant - the dreaded pothole. Those pesky craters seem to pop up overnight, creating a bumpy obstacle course for drivers everywhere. Whether you’re cruising down a city street or navigating through rural routes, potholes can strike at any moment, making them sometimes impossible to avoid hitting, leaving your vehicle’s well-being hanging in the balance.

At BrokerLink, we understand the frustration and concern that potholes can cause. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you answer the age-old question: Has a pothole damaged my car? From subtle signs to unmistakable red flags, we’ll delve into the world of pothole-related car damage, answer some car insurance questions, and equip you with the knowledge you need to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.

What kind of damage can potholes do to my vehicle?

Hitting potholes, those notorious craters that appear on roads, is a very common type of car accident. They can inflict a range of damage on your vehicle, both visible and hidden. The severity of said damage can vary depending on factors such as the size and depth of the pothole, your vehicle’s speed when it hits the pothole, and the quality of your vehicle’s suspension system. Here are some common types of damage that potholes can cause:

Tire damage to your vehicle

Potholes are often deep and sharp-edged, posing a significant risk to your tires. The impact can lead to punctures, cuts, or even blowouts. In some cases, it may cause a slow leak in your tire, which can be challenging to detect immediately.

Wheel and rim damage

The force of hitting a pothole can bend or crack your wheel rims, affecting the aesthetics and functionality of your wheels. Damaged rims can result in loss of tire pressure and an uneven ride.

Alignment and balance issues

Not all pothole damage is immediately visible. Over time, hitting potholes can result in subtle alignment and balance issues that gradually affect your vehicle’s performance. On the other hand, hitting a pothole can also immediately knock your wheels out of alignment. This means your tires may no longer point straight ahead, leading to uneven tire wear, reduced fuel efficiency, and compromised handling.

Suspension and brake damage

Potholes can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s suspension system, which includes shock absorbers, struts, and springs. The jolt from hitting a pothole can lead to misalignments, bent components, or even structural damage. This can result in poor handling, uneven tire wear, and a less comfortable ride. Potholes can even cause shock absorbers and struts to wear out prematurely, affecting your vehicle’s ability to absorb shocks and maintain control on the road. In severe cases, a massive pothole can damage critical brake and suspension components, including control arms and bushings. This can affect your vehicle’s stability, steering system, and braking performance.

Exhaust and undercarriage damage

Potholes can scrape the undercarriage of your vehicle or damage the exhaust system. This can lead to rust, leaks, reduced fuel efficiency, and even compromised emissions performance.

Body and paint damage

Extremely deep potholes can cause your vehicle’s body to hit the road surface, leading to dents, scratches, or paint damage.

Electrical and wiring issues

Potholes can jolt the electrical components within your vehicle, potentially causing issues with sensors, wiring, lights, or electronic systems.

Does my car insurance cover pothole damage?

One of the most unwelcome surprises for drivers is the encounter with a deep, menacing pothole. The jolt, the noise, and the sudden worry about potential damage to your vehicle are all too familiar. But amidst the frustration, a pressing question arises: Does my car insurance cover pothole damage? The short answer is that it might. It depends on your coverage.

Insurance companies generally categorize hitting a pothole as a single-vehicle collision. This means the vehicle owner must have at least collision or all-risk insurance for pothole coverage. Both collision and all-risk insurance are optional insurance add-ons, so you’ll need to have one or the other in place to apply. However, for some insurance companies, pothole damage may fall under comprehensive car insurance if they don’t consider it collision-related damage. While comprehensive coverage typically includes coverage for incidents like theft, vandalism, and natural disasters, it may also cover pothole damage if it’s specified in your policy as an “other than collision” event.

When obtaining car insurance in Edmonton, you’ll want to ensure that your policy includes coverage for pothole-related damages. However, keep in mind that an accident affects car insurance rates, even a single-vehicle collision, so it’s advisable to conduct thorough research before calling your insurance company after a minor car accident to determine whether it’s financially beneficial.

What might a car sound like after hitting a pothole?

Hitting a pothole can produce various sounds in your car, depending on the severity of the impact and the type of damage it causes. A loud thud or bump sound is often heard when your tire strikes the edge of a deep pothole. This sound indicates a sharp impact and could mean your tire or suspension has been affected. As for what sounds you might hear afterward if your car is damaged, you’ll find a detailed list below:

Rattling or Clunking

A rattling, knocking, or clunking noise, especially when going over bumps or uneven surfaces, can be a sign of damaged suspension components. Potholes can cause these components, like shock absorbers, struts, or control arms, to become loose or misaligned.


Squeaking noises when driving over potholes or rough terrain may suggest issues with suspension bushings or ball joints. These components can wear out or become damaged over time, leading to squeaky sounds.

Tire Hiss or Whir

If you hear a hissing or whirring sound after hitting a pothole, it could indicate a punctured tire or damage to the tire’s sidewall. This noise may be accompanied by a gradual loss of air pressure in the affected tire, leading to a flat tire.

Scraping or Grinding

A scraping or grinding noise coming from the undercarriage of your car could signal damage to the vehicle’s exhaust system, undercarriage components, or even the body of the vehicle if it scraped against the road surface.

Knocking or Pinging

A knocking or pinging noise might occur if a pothole has damaged your vehicle’s alignment or balance. Misaligned wheels can create irregular tire wear and generate knocking sounds.

Unusual Engine Noise

In some cases, hitting a pothole can lead to engine-related sounds, such as loose or damaged exhaust components. If the exhaust system is affected, you might hear a louder exhaust note or unusual vibrations.

It’s important to pay attention to these sounds after hitting a pothole and have your car inspected by a professional mechanic if any unusual noises persist. Ignoring these noises or driving with damaged components can lead to further and potentially costly issues down the road. Regular maintenance and prompt repairs are key to ensuring the safety and longevity of your vehicle, especially after encountering potholes and other road hazards. Check out our pothole tips to help you prevent or minimize damage to your vehicle.

Why does my car feel bumpy after hitting a pothole?

Potholes are essentially holes or depressions in the road surface, and when your car encounters one, the wheel and tire drop suddenly into the hole. This abrupt change in terrain causes the suspension to compress rapidly and then extend just as quickly as the wheel moves through the pothole. So if your car feels bumpy after hitting a pothole, it’s a clear indication that your vehicle’s suspension system has been affected.

The suspension system, which includes components like shock absorbers, struts, and springs, is designed to absorb and dampen the impact of road irregularities, including potholes. When you hit a pothole, the suspension system compresses and absorbs the shock to prevent it from transferring directly to the vehicle’s chassis and occupants.

After your suspension compresses to absorb the impact, it needs to rebound or extend back to its normal position. This rebound action is what you feel as a bump or jolt when you hit a pothole. If the pothole is deep or severe, the suspension may not fully absorb the impact, making the bump more pronounced.

Potholes can also cause your tires to momentarily lose contact with the road surface, disrupting your ride’s smoothness. When the tire makes contact with the road again, it can create additional jolts and vibrations. Furthermore, hitting a pothole can knock your vehicle’s wheels out of alignment or upset the balance between them. This misalignment can lead to a bumpy ride as the tires no longer make even contact with the road.

So, in other words, your car feels bumpy after hitting a pothole because the suspension system is working to absorb and dampen the sudden impact caused by the pothole. While modern suspension systems are designed to provide a smoother ride and protect your vehicle from damage, severe or frequent encounters with potholes can still lead to suspension issues and a bumpier driving experience.

How do I check my car’s suspension after hitting a pothole?

The moment you hear that unsettling thud and feel the jolt when your car encounters a pothole, a wave of concern washes over you. You’re left wondering: Did that impact affect my car’s suspension? Potholes can be unforgiving, and their consequences can linger long after the initial encounter.

Your car’s suspension is its first line of defence against these road hazards, and understanding how to inspect it for damage is crucial to ensure your vehicle’s safety and performance. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to inspect your car’s suspension after encountering a pothole:

Park on a level surface

Find a flat and level surface to park your car. Parking on a level surface ensures that your car is stable and that you can accurately assess any visible issues with the suspension.

Visually inspect the tires

Begin by inspecting your tires for any visible signs of damage. Check the sidewalls and tread for any signs of damage, such as bulges, cuts, or punctures. These can be indications of a direct impact from the pothole.

Check for uneven tire wear

Examine the tread pattern on all four tires. Carefully examine the tire treads on all four wheels. Uneven wear patterns, like excessive wear on the inside or outside edges, can signal alignment problems, often resulting from pothole damage.

Test the shock absorbers and struts

To check the condition of your shock absorbers and struts, do a bounce test. For this test, stand near one corner of your vehicle and press down firmly on the fender or bumper. Release the pressure and observe how the car responds. It should bounce back up and settle quickly, with no further bouncing. If the car continues to bounce or exhibits excessive bouncing, this suggests that the shock absorbers or struts are worn and need replacement.

Listen for unusual noises

While performing the bounce test, pay attention to any sounds coming from the suspension. Squeaking, clunking, or knocking noises can indicate problems with suspension components like bushings, ball joints, or control arms.

Inspect the undercarriage and check for fluid leaks

Crawl under the car when it’s safe to do so and visually inspect the undercarriage components. Look for any signs of physical damage, such as bent control arms, damaged sway bars, or loose fasteners. Even minor damage can affect the suspension’s performance. Also, while inspecting the undercarriage, keep an eye out for any fluid leaks. Damp or oily spots near the shock absorbers or struts may indicate a leak, which can lead to reduced suspension performance.

Inspect wheel alignment

Stand in front of your car and observe the position of the wheels. Misaligned wheels may appear to tilt inward or outward. Alignment issues are common after hitting potholes, resulting in uneven tire wear and handling problems.

Take a test drive

Go for a short drive on a smooth, straight road to evaluate how the car handles. Pay attention to any abnormal sensations, such as vibrations in the steering wheel, pulling to one side, or difficulty maintaining a straight line. These can be signs of alignment or suspension problems.

Get a professional inspection

If you’re still unsure about the condition of your suspension or if you’ve noticed any issues during your inspection or test drive, we highly recommend you have your car inspected by a qualified mechanic. They have the expertise and equipment to diagnose and address suspension problems accurately.

Remember that pothole damage may not always be immediately apparent, and suspension issues can worsen over time if left unattended. Timely inspection and maintenance can help prevent further damage, ensure your car’s safe and comfortable operation, and thus, help your car to last longer in Canada.

Protect your vehicle with confidence!

While encountering these road hazards can be an unfortunate part of the journey, being informed about possible damages to your vehicle and your insurance options empowers you to make the right decisions in the event of an unexpected encounter with a pothole. Contact BrokerLink today to discuss your car insurance coverage to ensure you have the right coverage for your unique needs.

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