Pothole Damage and Your Wheel Alignment

Lyle Ellerbee

Potholes are just one of the many regular hazards people deal with as they drive their daily routes. Most will try to avoid potholes as much as possible, but will eventually end up hitting a large hole that is simply unavoidable. While some only try to avoid potholes because of the jarring bump that occurs, others realize the serious issues that can come from hitting a pothole. It is important to understand pothole damage and your wheel alignment, as potholes can cause serious problems that will require repairs.

The Problem with Potholes

Potholes are an incredible nuisance and annoyance, but can actually do some serious damage to your vehicle. The problems are all caused by the way the pothole forces your vehicle to move, as only one of the four tires of your vehicle is going to dip into the pothole at any given time. While your car wants to completely shift to the side that the pothole has been hit, the front (or back) tire that is not in the pothole stops it from doing so. This means that the parts that focus on the alignment of the tire that goes into the pothole will bend and shift to compensate.

This shift and bend can cause a myriad of problems for your vehicle, all of them stemming from the wheel alignment of your vehicle. When your tires and the various parts that keep them aligned move, they become off and misaligned. A small wheel alignment issue may not be noticeable for a long time; save for the shaking that you will feel as you drive. Eventually, serious issues will rise from that initial misalignment.


If the pothole damage that your vehicle sustains manages to damage or shift the caster, your wheel alignment will be off in terms of steering. If you feel your vehicle pull from one side to the other as you drive, the casters are off. This can make driving and steering somewhat difficult, as you must constantly correct for the way that your vehicle shifts on the road.


Issues with wheel alignment can cause uneven wear and tear on your tires, as the jolt of a pothole can mess with the cambers of the alignment system. When the camber is damaged, the wheel will tilt to one side or the other. The uneven wearing of the tires results, and the suspension of your vehicle will suffer.


The toe is the third part of the wheel alignment system of your vehicle. When you hit a pothole, the toe of your vehicle can turned in (positive toe) or turned out (negative toe). This can cause the same uneven tire wear as camber issues, and can also cause the steering issues caused when the caster is off.

The initial issues caused by pothole damage and your wheel alignments are small – you’ll notice a shift in driving and steering and may notice some shaking. The tire wear and the suspension wear take time to surface, but will result in the need for part replacement.

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