Metro Vancouver’s unusually cold and snowy winter has not done any favours to the city’s streets. Throughout the Lower Mainland, the roads are damaged with potholes and cracked pavement, leaving crews busy picking up the pieces and drivers repairing their vehicles.

The Ministry of Transportation says there has been a 33 percent increase in potholes over last year, creating quite an obstacle course and hazard to your car. Potholes can bend the rims and damage tires, and affect alignment and suspension, all which can impact vehicle safety in various ways.

  • Tires & rims - Even wheels with minor bending can lead to poor seals between the rim and the tire, potentially causing leaks and flat tires. Wheel damage can also cause vehicle shaking as well as reduced handling, steering and poor braking performance.
  • Alignment - Hitting a pothole can cause your wheels to become misaligned and no longer square to the vehicle. Misalignment can cause poor steering, irregular tire wear and vibrations that can lead to driver fatigue.
  • Suspension - Repetitive minor pothole impacts, or single dramatic ones, can cause suspension issues, reducing the ability to steer, absorb and dampen shock, maintain road contact and support the vehicle’s weight, according to a recent pot hole survey by Kal Tire.

All it takes is few potholes to put those components over the edge. According to the Kal Tire survey, 77 percent of Metro Vancouver motorists surveyed say they've hit a pothole this year, and about 40 percent had damage.

"The kinds of things you’re looking for are did that impact cause immediate damage? If I blew a tire, I may have more damage than just the tire and rim, if the vehicle is making noise or the steering wheel is choppy or shimmying in their hands they know they've bent a rim," said Bill Gardener, Kal Tire spokesperson.

When you’re changing out your winter tires it’s a good time to inspect for pothole damage. And when you're on the road, do your best to avoid them, or at least try to slow down before impact. Also, don’t forget to keep your tire pressure up.

“The number one factor for motorists is that if they’re driving on under inflated tires they’re vulnerable to damage to any kind of rough or potholes, so that’s their number line of defense is having the correct tire pressure,” advised Gardner.

You can also help by reporting problem potholes to your city or town.

If your vehicle is damaged by a pothole you may be able to claim with ICBC depending on what type of coverage you have. If ICBC feels a municipality is liable they will contact the appropriate city and file a claim.

If you don’t have collision coverage on your insurance policy, you can file a claim against a town or city yourself. ICBC says the claim notification process is described on most city websites.