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The perils of potholes and other tire hazards

By Mason White 10:49 AM August 14, 2014
Pothole illustration 

By: Devansh Dutt
There’s nothing quite like the sickening feeling you get in your stomach when you drive over a pothole.

That loud “clunk” sound your poor car makes is enough to cause even the calmest of drivers to feel rather ill.

As Consumer Reports notes, cold winters can create some huge potholes that cause a lot of strain and even damage to our cars’ tires and wheels.

How potholes can affect tires

When you drive over a pothole, it can wreak havoc on your tires in a variety of ways. Since many modern cars come equipped with high performance tires, their short sidewalls are easily affected by potholes.

In many cases, hitting a pothole can cause the tires to lose air instantly and require replacement sooner rather than later. At the very least, if you hit a doozy of a pothole while you are out and about, pull over as soon as you can and do a thorough visual inspection of your tires.

If it looks like the sidewalls have been cut or they are blistered in any way, you will have to replace the damaged tires. You can either head to your local tire company, or shop online for the kind of tires your vehicle needs through a reputable company like

Additional road hazards that impact tire life

Unfortunately, potholes are not the only road hazard that can severely damage your tires. Things like construction debris, broken glass, nails and other sharp objects can certainly cause your tires to fail. As is the case with potholes, if you run over some debris on the road, check all four tires as soon as possible, and if needed, repair any that are damaged beyond repair.

Tips on when to replace tires

Of course, even tires that manage to escape the perils of potholes and other road hazards will still need to be replaced from time to time. Fortunately, our tires are pretty good at giving us visual clues that indicate when it’s time to get new ones.

As CNBC notes, regularly check the wear bars on your tires. These run perpendicular to the thread and are hard to spot when the tires are in good shape. As the tires start to wear down, these bars will become easier to see, and once they are on the same level as the treads, it’s time to buy some new tires.

Another classic way to determine if your tires have worn out is to take a penny and stick it into the treads. If you cannot see the top of Honest Abe’s head, then your treads are probably still fine. If you can see any space above President Lincoln’s noggin, then the tires have worn down to a point that they are no longer safe.

A general timeline for tires

Even if you do not drive that often, tires are not designed to last forever. As Popular Mechanics notes, the materials that are used to make tires naturally start to degrade over the years.

Technically referred to as dry rot, a loss or breakdown of oils and other chemicals in the tires will cause the rubber to crack and become less flexible. In addition, harsh weather can cause tires to splinter or crack, even if the vehicle spends most of its time just sitting in your driveway.

In general, even if your tires are not showing obvious signs of wear and they have not been damaged in any way, they should still be replaced every six years.