Pothole in front of Hyundai near Birmingham, AL

We’ve all had that teeth-clacking experience: you’re driving along, and all of a sudden, your car lurches with an expensive-sounding crunch, and you realize you’ve hit a pothole – a big, juicy, "I definitely have rim damage" pothole.

Usually, hitting a pothole doesn’t do any permanent damage to your vehicle. In fact, pothole damage to cars is normally either minimal or nonexistent. However, if a pothole does damage your car, it’s crucial to know the warning signs and exactly what to do so you don’t mess your ride up further—or worse, put yourself in danger.

Pothole class is now in session.

First Thing’s First: Inspect the Vehicle

If you hit a severe pothole and suspect any damage whatsoever, it’s a good idea to pull over immediately and take a quick look for anything glaringly obvious.

The most common pothole damage to the car will be your tire. Hitting a pothole or other large obstacle often tends to result in catastrophic tire failure, meaning the tire will be rendered flat pretty much instantly. Changing a flat tire is never fun, but on the bright side, well, it’s pretty easy to spot.

A slow air leak in the tire is also a possible after hitting a pothole. This can usually be diagnosed by listening for the telltale hissing sound of air escaping. Most modern cars also have tire pressure sensors, and low-pressure warning lights. Pay close attention to these immediately following a pothole collision.

Another common issue is damage to the front or rear bumpers, or the side panels. This damage is also pretty easily spotted. Sometimes, it’s purely cosmetic, but it’s always best practice to bring your vehicle into the shop to make sure plastic parts aren’t hanging down and obstructing anything unseen. If you hear a scraping or grinding noise, it could mean you have an exterior panel that’s rubbing against the tire or pavement.

Sometimes, a run-in with a pothole or curb will result in more serious damage, which should be addressed immediately before the car is driven any further. Common consequences include a bent rim, messed-up wheel alignment, or a dented frame. If you notice the car driving differently after hitting a pothole, park it immediately and call for a tow truck.

What to Do about Pothole Tire Damage

Potholes in Birmingham, AL
If you experience a flat tire due to a pothole, here’s what you need to know.

Will Insurance Cover Tire Damage?

Many people’s first thought is to call their insurance agent when something goes wrong. Unfortunately, in this case, they may not be able to help you out. Tires are considered wear items, and thus aren’t covered by most basic insurance, unless the damage is the direct result of a wreck with another vehicle.

However, some insurers do offer collision coverage, which can offset the costs. Be sure to inspect your policy thoroughly, and talk with your insurance agent before you file a claim, because if the damage doesn’t exceed your deductible, it may be cheaper to just come out of pocket.

Pro tip: if you do intend to file a claim, be sure to get multiple pictures of the pothole and location.

Will My Vehicle Warranty Cover Tire Damage?

This depends on a few factors.

New vehicle factory warranties are usually the best on the market, and almost all new vehicles come with extended coverage of some kind. For instance, all new Hyundai vehicles come with a warranty that covers 5 years and unlimited miles of roadside assistance, meaning all you have to do is call the number listed in your owner’s manual, and a tow truck will be out to drag you to the nearest service center, free of charge. (There’s a reason they call it America’s Best Warranty!)

Pre-owned warranties get a little more complicated and depend on the automaker. If you bought, say, a CPO (Certified Pre-Owned) Hyundai, the free roadside assistance will still apply for the rest of the original factory powertrain warning. Tires may be covered as well, depending on which warranty package you have.

If you bought a used car that didn’t qualify for CPO status because it’s too old, the roadside assistance doesn’t transfer. Used car buyers generally have to sign up for a relatively expensive third-party warranty or a 24/7 roadside assistance service if they want a tow.

No matter what kind of vehicle you buy, it’s always best to thoroughly talk about your warranty options with your dealer.

What if I Know How to Change the Tire Myself?

We say, by all means!

Lots of folks are daunted by the idea of changing a flat tire due to potholes—especially on the side of the road—but it’s actually a relatively simple and quick process.

It’s always best to make sure you’re driving with all you need to change a tire if the need arises. The short list includes:

  • Spare tire or donut
  • Jack stand and handle
  • Tire iron
For a brief tutorial, check this out:

Looks pretty easy, right? It is! Be aware, though, there are limitations on how long you can drive with a donut or spare tire.

Basically, conventional wisdom dictates a rule of 50-50:

  • Don’t exceed 50 miles per hour
  • Don’t drive more than 50 miles
If this isn’t doable for you, or you’re simply not comfortable performing a tire change, we always recommend calling a tow to your local service center for a tire replacement near you.

What if a Pothole Bent My Rim?

Sometimes, the tire isn’t the only casualty of a bump in the road. If the impact is sufficient enough, it can actually bend or even crack the wheel itself.

Some folks say that you can drive on a slightly bent rim. Anecdotally, we’re sure some of us know some lucky driver who’s had pothole rime damage and never seemed to have a problem with losing air. However, we really can’t stress it enough: driving on a bent rim is a bad idea. It should be replaced as soon as possible.

The edge of the rim, where the wheel meets the tire, acts as a seal to keep the air inside. If that lip is bent, it’s likely the structural integrity is out of whack, which can lead to a ton of other issues down the line. It may seem like a minor issue, but a new rim is often well worth the cost, because the next bump in the road might do even more damage to your alignment or undercarriage, leading to an even more expensive bill.

What About Pothole Damage to Car Suspension Systems?

Pothole Warning Sign in Birmingham, AL

If you hit a pothole and immediately notice a change in the way your car drives, a bent rim is one of many potential culprits. If the pothole is bad enough, it can also cause damage to any number of suspension components, or, for that matter, anything on the underside of the vehicle.

Signs of suspension or steering damage include:

  • Shaky, bumpy ride
  • Steering wheel pulls left or right
  • Cranking, grinding, or knocking noises

If you experience any of the above in the aftermath of hitting a pothole, pull over immediately.

The process here is much the same for a blown tire or cracked rim. Take it to the nearest service station to have it inspected. Towing is highly recommended to prevent further damage.

Insurance is more likely to pay out in the case of a broken strut or messed up suspension, but be sure to document the scene. Take extensive photos of the pothole, and any visible damage to the vehicle.

Likewise, non-wear components are more likely to be covered under warranty in the case of road damage. Again, it’s always best to take photos and videos of the scene.

You may be noticing a theme here: if you expect to be reimbursed in any way, photos and videos are your best friend. This is important for another reason…

Will the City Pay for Pothole Damage?

Generally speaking, municipal roadways are the job of the city to maintain, whereas interstates fall to the larger state government. Different states have different policies, so the level of difficulty in getting your local government to cover your damages varies wildly.

It is not unheard of for drivers to receive a check for pothole wheel damage—just last month, one Birmingham man was awarded after hitting a massive pothole. The downside? It took him three years and two separate lawsuits.

How to Avoid Potholes and Pothole Damage

What’s even better than getting your pothole damage taken care of quickly and cheaply? Not having to worry about it at all, of course! Sometimes things simply can’t be avoided, but there are plenty of precautions you can take to ensure that you never have to deal with a major headache on the side of the road:
  • Make sure your tire pressure is at the right level so they’re able to properly absorb potential impact
  • Follow a safe distance behind the car in front of you to give yourself ample time to avoid road hazards when they pop up
  • Drive slowly and cautiously in inclement weather such as rain, as potholes can be especially hard to see when they’re filled with water
  • If a pothole is unavoidable, hitting the pothole at low speed is the best way to come out unscathed

Pothole Flat Tire Repair & Replacement at Jim Burke Hyundai

Flat Tire from Pothole in Birmingham, AL

It happens to even the best drivers—sometimes, it’s just the luck of the draw. Fret not, because our auto dealership in Birmingham has got you covered.

If you’re in need of tire replacement near Birmingham, know that we can offer excellent prices on the best tires for potholes. Give our Hyundai repair shop a call at (205) 502-2792, and don't forget to browse our parts specials. While you’re at it, ask us about how you can benefit from Hyundai’s industry-leading complementary maintenance program.

Categories: Service, Parts