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High price of pothole damage
Sunday, May 22, 2011 3:05 PM

High price of pothole damage

Potholes have become such a common inconvenience on our roads that many are becoming immune to them, albeit at a higher vehicle maintenance cost.

Tyre balance and wheel alignment have to be done more frequently to check irregular or accelerated tyre wear.

This aspect of vehicle maintenance is becoming more important as tyre prices are increasing progressively due to higher material cost, that of rubber in particular.

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It has not helped any that tyre sizes have become increasingly bigger over the years, even for small displacement cars such as the 1.0-litre models.

And big tyres cost more as they require greater use of materials. Add to that the bigger and wider dimension alloy wheels that are often dented or cracked by hard impacts over potholes.

Or in worse case scenarios, steering assemblies can be damaged by the severe jolts and pounding that they are subjected to when cars are driven quickly over potholes.

We certainly felt the financial pinch recently after sending our 1.0-litre car to a recognised service dealer for repairs to the suspension, tyres and steering assembly.

You would be surprised how apathetic some car owners have become, including a close relative who would seldom slow down when going over speedbumps or who made no effort to avoid potholes.

We’ve also known of peers who would also do likewise with their own vehicles apart from the range of cars that they do impression drives in.

Their rationale is that the vehicle suspension system is designed to soak up the harsh impacts of irregular road surfaces.

We beg to differ: visits to the proving grounds of quite a few major car companies had revealed that the uneven road surface tests are done at very sober speeds, of up to 70kph at best.

 It can be a very jolting experience even at that speed (when we tried this for ourselves) and you can imagine the pounding the suspension system is subjected to.

 If that is done often, the tyre balance runs out quickly as well as the wheel alignment. This is because the impacts re-aligns the respective items.

Although the movement may be miniscule per impact, many impacts lead to significant movements.

The suspension bushes are also subjected to these harsh poundings, and combined with the hot and humid weather, they become hard quicker, losing their resilience to absorb the harshness of the impacts.

You will find the vehicle’s ride being less comfortable and more jolting as the years go by. Similarly, nuts and bolts could loosen or tighten, and either drop off or be very difficult to unscrew when it’s time to change or repair related areas.

To understand the workings of the car suspension system, you look no further than your own legs.

They have tendons, muscles, ligaments, and flesh to cushion the impact and jolt of each step against the bones.

But a misstep can lead to an ankle or muscle sprain, and stretching it more than necessary can tear a muscle.
You need to wear proper shoes to jog or run, or suffer the consequences.

As the suspension system serves as the “legs” of the car, it has shock absorbers, coil springs, linkages, bushes, and anti-roll bars.

They do their respective part in a dynamic way to make the vehicle’s ride comfortable and stable. If one were to drive over potholes or speedbumps in a careless manner, these components would wear quicker, along with the tyre/wheel assembly, and steering system.

If you don’t change the damaged part, the car is not likely to handle in the way it is designed to, especially when driving under full loads and in adverse situations. And that could lead to fatal results.

To save on this aspect of vehicle maintenance is playing with fire. Of course, you could inculcate patience by driving gingerly over potholes, if you can’t avoid them, or speedbumps.

That would reduce the road shock and impact considerably, and the suspension and tyres would last longer to provide predictable and safer motoring.

Being patient saves on vehicle maintenance cost, if not lives. Give that a thought!


 

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