It happens to everyone: you're driving down the road when one of your tires hits a deep, sharp pothole. Aside from the jarring impact setting your teeth on edge, there's a real potential for damage to your vehicle. Even if your car seems to be driving fine after the incident, your tires may be far from okay. Knowing the signs of potential damage can save you from a much more severe problem in the future.
The Basics: How Potholes Can Damage Tires
The design of your car's tires helps them to withstand the many trials of daily driving. Even the best of road surfaces are far from perfectly smooth, and everything from extreme temperatures to sudden bumps can wear out your rubber. In most cases, your tires can weather these threats and come out on the other side no worse for wear.
Unfortunately, some road conditions can be worse than others. When your tire drops into a deep pothole, it can potentially suffer damage in several ways. If there's too little air in your tires, the sidewalls may flex suddenly, damaging the structure of the tires. Overinflated tires may also puncture or crack more quickly when they bottom out in the hole.
You may think that your tires are undamaged if the pothole did not bend your wheel, but this is not always the case. Depending on the condition of your tires, an impact may cause structural damage to the tire without affecting the wheel. Some wheel damage can also be too subtle to notice with the naked eye, giving a false impression that you weathered the storm.
Recognizing Signs of Trouble
If you hit an exceptionally deep or severe pothole, you should pull over as soon as possible to check for damage. For less significant potholes, you can check once you reach your destination. Look for visible cracks or punctures, but don't stop there. You will also want to carefully examine your tire's sidewall for signs that the rubber has been scratched or torn off.
Bubbles are probably the most severe issue that you will face. If you notice a bubble on your tire's sidewall, it indicates damage to the internal structure of the tire. Never drive on a tire exhibiting signs of bubbling. Once the damage has reached this stage, you will need to have your vehicle towed to a shop and potentially replace the tire.
Fixing the Damage
In many cases, you may be able to repair tire damage from potholes. If your tire has a small puncture, most shops will be able to install a patch that will return your tire to like-new condition. Whatever the case, always rely on an experienced tire shop to evaluate the damage so that you can be sure your tire repair can go the distance.