Why Potholes Are Tire Killers: Tips for Avoiding Damage

Canada's diverse climate presents unique challenges for drivers. From harsh winter conditions to unpredictable spring thaws, our roads take a beating.  One of the most common and damaging road hazards Canadian drivers encounter are potholes. These sudden depressions in the pavement can wreak havoc on your tires, potentially leading to flats, blowouts, and the need for costly tire repairs. This comprehensive guide will delve into the destructive nature of potholes and equip you with valuable tips to minimize the risk of pothole-induced tire damage.

Understanding Pothole Damage

Potholes are formed when water seeps beneath the pavement surface, freezes and expands, and then thaws, causing the asphalt to crack and crumble.

Over time, these cracks grow into larger depressions, creating the dreaded pothole. 

Here's how potholes damage your tires:

  •  Impact Force:  Hitting a pothole at speed can be akin to slamming your tire onto a curb. This sudden impact can cause punctures, especially if the pothole contains debris.  The force can also cause internal damage to the tire's structure, even if there's no visible external puncture.
  • Sidewall Stress:  Potholes often have sharp edges that can snag the sidewall of your tire.  The sidewall is a critical component responsible for maintaining tire integrity and shape.  Even a minor scrape against a pothole edge can weaken the sidewall, increasing the risk of a blowout at high speeds.
  • Broken Belts:  The internal structure of a tire consists of layers of steel belts that provide strength and stability.  The severe impact from hitting a pothole can damage or break these belts, compromising the tire's ability to hold air pressure and maintain its shape.

The Cost of Pothole Damage 

The consequences of pothole damage can be significant:

  • potholes
    Safety Risk:  A damaged tire can compromise handling and increase the risk of a blowout, especially at highway speeds.  This can lead to accidents and serious injuries.
  • Tire Repair or Replacement:  Depending on the severity of the damage, you may need a tire repair or a complete tire replacement. 
    Tire repairs can range from a few dollars to patch a small puncture to a significantly higher cost for a more complex repair.
  • Alignment Issues:  The impact from a pothole can sometimes misalign your wheels, leading to uneven tire wear and reduced fuel efficiency.  Addressing misalignment requires additional service costs.

Essential Tips to Avoid Pothole Damage

While potholes are a common occurrence on Canadian roads, there are proactive steps you can take to minimize the risk of damage to your tires:

Maintain Proper Tire Pressure 

Proper inflation pressure is crucial for optimal tire performance and minimizing the impact of potholes.  Underinflated tires are more susceptible to damage from road hazards like potholes.  Consult your owner's manual for the recommended tire pressure for your specific vehicle and driving conditions.  Make a habit of checking your tire pressure regularly, ideally once a week and before long journeys.

Stay Alert and Maintain a Safe Distance

Vigilance is key.  Scan the road ahead for potholes and other hazards.  Maintain a safe following distance from the car in front of you, which allows you more reaction time to avoid potholes they may encounter.

Reduce Speed

The faster you hit a pothole, the greater the impact force on your tires.  Adjust your speed based on road conditions.  If you see a pothole ahead, slow down significantly before attempting to maneuver around it.

Maneuvering Around Potholes Safely

If you cannot avoid a pothole altogether, here are some tips to minimize the risk of damage:

  • Brake Gently:  Slamming on the brakes right before hitting a pothole can actually worsen the impact.  Instead, apply gentle and controlled braking as you approach the pothole.
  • Hold the Steering Wheel Firmly:  Maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel as you navigate around the pothole.  This helps maintain control of the vehicle and prevents potential swerving.
  • Aim for the Center:  If possible, try to aim for the center of the pothole where the impact is typically less severe than hitting a sharp edge.
potholes with water on dirt road

What to Do After Hitting a Pothole

  •  Inspect Your Tires:  Visually inspect all four tires for any signs of damage, such as bulges, cracks, or punctures.  Look for any signs of leaking air from the valve stem or around the sidewall.
  • Listen for Unusual Sounds:  Pay attention to any abnormal noises coming from your tires while driving.  A vibration or thumping sound can indicate internal damage or a broken belt.
  • Monitor Tire Pressure:  Check your tire pressure after hitting a pothole.  Even a minor impact can cause a slight pressure loss.  Reinflate the tire(s) to the recommended pressure if necessary.
  • Schedule a Tire Service Appointment:  If you suspect any damage to your tires, even if it's not immediately apparent, it's crucial to schedule a tire service appointment with a qualified professional. 
    They can thoroughly inspect the tires for internal damage that may not be visible during a casual inspection.  Early detection of pothole-induced damage can prevent a potential blowout and the need for a more expensive tire repair or replacement down the road.

The Importance of Proactive Maintenance

While avoiding potholes altogether is not always possible on Canadian roads, prioritizing proactive maintenance goes a long way in minimizing the risk of pothole damage and safeguarding your investment in tires.  Here are some additional tips:

  • Regular Tire Inspections:  Incorporate regular tire inspections into your vehicle maintenance routine. Look for any signs of wear and tear, uneven tread wear patterns, or foreign objects lodged in the tread. Early detection of potential issues allows for timely repairs or replacements, preventing further damage and potential hazards. For those in need of professional assistance, consider scheduling tires change in Calgary to ensure your vehicle remains safe and roadworthy..
  • potholed dirt road
    Tire Rotation: Regular tire rotation is essential for ensuring even wear across all four tires.  This is especially important after hitting a pothole, as the impact can cause uneven stress on the tires.  Consult your owner's manual or a tire service professional for the recommended rotation schedule for your vehicle.
  • Choose the Right Tires:  For drivers in regions with harsh winters, consider investing in dedicated winter tires.  Winter tires are formulated with softer rubber compounds that maintain flexibility in cold temperatures, providing superior traction on snowy and icy roads.  They are also typically more resistant to pothole damage compared to all-season tires.


Potholes pose a constant threat to Canadian drivers' tires.  By understanding the damaging effects of potholes, adopting preventative measures, and reacting appropriately after encountering one, you can minimize the risk of tire damage and ensure your tires perform safely and efficiently for longer. 

Remember, prioritizing regular tire maintenance and partnering with a qualified tire service provider are crucial aspects of responsible car ownership in Canada.  With these strategies in place, you can navigate the roads with confidence, knowing your tires are up to the challenge, no matter the condition of the pavement.

Author - Aleksandra Djurdjevic
Aleksandra Djurdjevic          

Senior Content Creator

Aleksandra Djurdjevic is a senior writer and editor, covering motorcycle adventures, biker tips and tricks and general exploring on two wheels. She has previously worked as ESL teacher for English Tochka. Aleksandra graduated from the Comparative Literature department at the Faculty of Philosophy in Serbia. Aleksandra’s love for the biking and adventure, getting out on the open road, year after year across the planet helps her continue to be a top expert at RMJ.


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