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The ultimate guide to pothole damage

Pothole Damage: The Ultimate & Only Guide You’ll Need

We can’t speak for other towns or cities, but we do know that our beloved Cold Lake and Bonnyville are notorious for pothole damage come springtime. Most of the people who live in either town just love playing the road game of “guess how deep that pothole is.” 

According to the City of Edmonton, in 2019, they filled over 500,000 potholes on Edmonton roads. That is insane and makes driving around potholes nearly unavoidable.

But the truth is, those really deep potholes can cause you big problems. 

Obviously, avoiding pothole damage isn’t always an option. Sometimes potholes come out of nowhere, and you don’t stand a chance at safely dodging them. 

Potholes are especially bad news for lower-riding vehicles. If it’s deep enough, you can end up scraping the front end of your car on the road when you hit the pothole.

According to a CAA study, between 2011 and 2016, 23% of Albertans suffered pothole damage to their vehicles at least twice.

A few bumps shouldn’t hurt your vehicle though, right? While your car is designed to withstand wear and tear and bumpy roads, hitting a pothole going even 40 km/hour can cause severe damage to the vehicle, like a bent wheel rim.

The size of the tire, the depth and width of the pothole, as well as the speed you were going all play a factor in just how much pothole damage your vehicle might endure. 

What Are Potholes?

Potholes are holes that vary in shapes and sizes that open up in roadways.

What are potholes

Source: Summit County Engineer

What Causes Potholes?

Potholes are caused by the freeze & thaw cycles of water in cracks or small openings on the road. The expansion & contraction of groundwater causes them after the water has entered into the ground under the pavement. 

As a result of expansion and contraction during free-thaw of the changing seasons, this causes these imperfections, divots or weakened areas on the road to open up and form into larger holes on the road. 

What Do Potholes Damage?

Pothole damage ranges depending on the depth of the pothole and how fast you hit it. In some cases, you might come out unscathed. Others, it may cost you big time. Here is a list of the most commonly damaged areas:

  • Wheels / Rims
  • Tires
  • Suspension Components
  • Steering Components
  • Wheel Alignment
Pothole damage to wheels, rims and tires

Wheels/Rims & Tires Pothole Damage

Your tires are obviously going to be what physically hits the pothole; therefore, they usually sustain some kind of damage. 

If the tires are not inflated properly, the impact can cause the wheel (or rim) to crack, bend or even break completely. You can tear the sidewall or interior of the tires as well.

If your vehicle has hubcaps, the impact can knock them off, leaving them damaged or broken. 

If you’ve recently hit a large pothole, it would be wise to have your tires looked over by a tire specialist or mechanic shop. You don’t want to run the risk of blowing a tire a few days later.

What Does It Cost To Replace A Wheel & Tire From Pothole Damage?

The average cost of replacing a wheel or rim can be in the range of $400-$1,200, depending on the make and model of the vehicle. The replacement cost of just a tire can also range from $150-$400 on average. 

Let’s just imagine that the average replacement cost of a wheel and tire is about $750 installed and balanced. That’s not including other possible expenses such as alignment ($89-$150) or further potential damage. 

Wheel alignment due to pothole damage

Suspension, Steering & Alignment Pothole Damage

When you hit a large pothole doing a decent speed, you are risking damage to more than just your tires. 

A pothole that’s deep enough can cause serious damage to your suspension, steering and alignment. Your suspension arm or tie rods can be damaged and, in turn, knock your wheels out of alignment. 

The average price of a front-end alignment in Canada ranges from the $89-$150 mark for most vehicles. 

If you’ve noticed that your steering is pulling to one side or that your steering wheel is not straight when the wheels are straight, and you’ve recently hit a pothole, you need to have your alignment, tie rods and suspension arms checked out for damage. 

A broken or damaged tie rod can leave you in a bad situation. If they break while driving, it will leave the tire flopping around with zero control and could result in a serious collision. 

Even if you can’t see any noticeable pothole damage, it’s best to have a professional take a look. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

What Does It Cost To Fix My Steering, Suspension And Alignment?

The cost to fix steering, suspension and alignment components varies by vehicle. Here’s a list of the most common issues after experiencing more severe pot-hole damage:

  • Alignment: $89-$150 parts & labour
  • Tie Rods: $175-$400 parts & labour + alignment
  • Ball Joints: $200-$400 parts & labour + alignment
  • Control Arm: $600-$900 parts & labour + alignment

Tips To Help Eliminate Pothole Damage

  • Always keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. This allows you extra time to notice potholes on the road. If you’re following too closely, you may not see it until you’ve hit it. 
  • Swerving isn’t always the safest. If you’re on a busy road and the pothole is not in the middle of your lane (where it’s easy to drive over it), be extremely careful when avoiding it. You could potentially swerve into oncoming traffic, a vehicle beside you or the curb. 
  • Slow down: If you know the road you’re taking is particularly rough in certain areas, slow down and keep an extra close eye on the road in front of you.
  • Always keep your tires properly inflated. This will help them absorb more of the impact and lessen possible damage to the tires, wheels or other components.
  • Avoid the puddles at all costs if you can. There is no way to know how deep the pothole is underneath the muddy water. While it can be fun to drive through a puddle now and then, you could be asking for trouble.
  • Foot-off-gas & do no brake: In the event that you can’t avoid the pothole, take your foot off the gas (do NOT brake) and hold the steering wheel as tight as you can. This will lessen any possible pothole damage. 
  • Call the city and report any large potholes you encounter. 

How To Tell If A Pothole Damaged My Car

If you’re not a mechanic, then spotting pothole damage may not always be easy or something you can notice right away. 

Here are some common signs and symptoms to watch out for if you’ve hit a pothole: 

  • You feel any kind of pull (to the right or left) in your steering.
  • When the wheels on the vehicle are straight, the steering wheel inside the car is not.
    • You can use the car make logo in the middle of the steering wheel to verify. If the wheels are straight and that logo is not, your alignment is out and needs to be fixed.
  • Look for any bulging or cracking in the sidewalls of the tires.
  • Visible damage to the wheel/rim (i.e. dents, bends, or a completely broken rim).
  • Any vibrations in the pedals, floor or steering wheel while driving.
  • Look for any lights on the dashboard (in worst-case scenarios).

Pothole Damage Compensation & Reimbursement

In most cases, you’ll want to report the incident to your insurance company. If insurance deems the municipality liable, they will go through the proper channels for reimbursement. 

We would highly recommend stopping by either CSN JD Collision location or requesting a quote online for an assessment. 

Does Auto Insurance Cover Pothole Damage?

Most insurance companies will offer some sort of road hazards insurance. This will typically cover more than just potholes damage itself. This may also cover things such as fallen branches on roadways, discarded items on the road, etc. 

How Much Coverage Do You Have For Pothole Damage & Road Hazards? 

Be sure to check with your insurance provider and ask them about your policy’s coverage relating to potholes and road hazards. Most insurance providers will have coverage with a payable deductible. 

You’ll want to get a quote and determine if the damage outweighs the deductible costs.

Will the city pay for pothole damage

Will The City Pay For Pothole Damage?

Depending on the city you live in, it may be possible to file a claim for pothole damage and be reimbursed. For most cities, cases are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and aren’t guaranteed, but it’s much better than not asking at all. 

Something to take into consideration, in the Province of Alberta Municipal Government Act, section 532 (9) states:

“A person who brings an action under this section must notify the municipality of the event that gives rise to the action within 30 days of the occurrence of the event.” 

So if you do decide to bring action forward or make a formal request to your municipality, make sure to do so within 30 days of the incident. 

Here is some information we found around Pothole Damage Claims: 

Bottom-line is that most municipalities will require you to go through your insurance provider first, and there is no guarantee they’ll payout. 

It’s always best to start by getting an estimate first from an auto body shop or mechanic, then calling your insurance company and letting them know as soon as possible, and they can provide you with the next steps. 

If your vehicle is disabled from the pothole damage, be sure to call a tow-truck and your insurance company immediately. Don’t try to limp it back home or to the nearest shop. 

Can You Sue The City For Pothole Damage?

You can try, but it’s extremely difficult and unlikely to result in your favour. Your best bet is to call your insurance provider to file a claim. 

In a recent article, Canadian Underwriter talks about potholes and city liability. This is a worthy read if you are thinking about trying to pursue your city for pothole damages (property damage) and the reasons why it’s hard to go after a city for compensation of pothole damages.

Where Can I Report Potholes?

This varies depending on the municipality/city and the province of where you’re located. Most municipalities may not have online forms. The best method for the smaller towns and cities is to reach out and let their Public Works, Municipal Works or Transportation departments know. 

Here is a list we compiled with links to reporting potholes in their respective municipalities:

Are You Ready To Take On Potholes Now?

Even with a bit of pothole damage knowledge under your belt now, it’s not always going to be easy to avoid them. 

In the wet, spring conditions, you never know what kind of road damage you’ll find driving around town. While our city crews do their best to maintain the roads, potholes still get missed or come out of nowhere. 
If you are amongst the unlucky ones who have experienced this and need your bumper fixed up, CSN JD Collision in Bonnyville and Cold Lake is here to straighten it out.