I just drove through a deep pothole. What should I look for in the suspension before I take my car in to the shop?
- Radha in Dundas, Ont.
Few of us can escape damaging pot holes that emerge after any form of severe weather, particularly winter. Roads take a pounding each year from excess sun, excess rain and of course, snow and ice.
The issue, of course, is that the sharp edged asphalt chasm that is waiting to chew up anything that comes along, does damage to more than just tires.
So Radha, what should you be looking for? Besides the obvious tire trauma, I have listed the potential trouble spots - and you can take it to your local service bay for reference. Your ability to "pre-inspect" your car will be limited without the use of a vehicle hoist but at least you have an idea of what should be inspected - which will prevent anyone from taking advantage of your wallet.
Check for cuts around the tread and sidewalls - both sidewalls - inner and outer.
Run your hand around the sidewalls and check for a smooth consistent surface. Any bulges, and the tire carcass has been compromised.
Look for obvious gouges in the outer rim - critical with aluminum alloy wheels.
Look for cracks in the clear-coat finish of alloy wheels. These types of cracks are an indication of stress and will start at the outermost diameter of the rim. This may not show up as visible damage to the wheel, so the wheel should be mounted on a balancing machine and tested for trueness with a dial indicator.
Repairs to wheels, unfortunately, can be very expensive. It's often cheaper to purchase a new wheel (or wheels).
This is a part of your car that will have to be checked over on an alignment rack by a qualified technician - who should include the rear wheels also. The tell-tale sign with a suspension problem is a noticeable change in the driving dynamics of your car. This can mean anything from a steady pull to one side, to vibrations, to having to fight the wheel to keep the car in a straight line.
A hard hit pothole, depending on the car, can cause things like the doors to become misaligned. This becomes obvious when opening a door feels different. That "feel" only comes with your familiarity with your car.
Those of us that are car conscious, or just plain car nuts, know our vehicles well enough to know that if something looks wrong or feels wrong, it is wrong. Simple visual observance becomes an automatic "pre-inspection" each time we wash or detail our vehicles.