Why you should avoid potholes (and respect speed-bumps)

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6 min read

The word “suspension” can mean many things, depending on who you’re speaking to––consequences at school, withholding, relating to your car…In this case, we’re talking about automotive suspension, potholes, speed bumps, and car repairs. Oh how perspective can shift things.

Below, we cover what automotive suspension is, the effect potholes and speed bumps can have on it, how to self-diagnose an issue with your car’s suspension, and how much it costs to have the suspension repaired.

what is automotive suspension?

Automotive suspension creates a smooth ride while driving. A protective collection of shock-absorbing components make up the suspension, including springs––which control the height and load of the suspension––and shocks (also called dampers), which absorb energy from your tires when they touch the road. This is what your car’s main cabin sits on, which is connected to the wheels.

The suspension keeps the vehicle and its cabin insulated against impacts while driving (more on this below). In 2021, Subaru recalled over 408,000 SUVs in the US because of the rear suspension falling off. Case in point: the suspension is a significant part of your car.

how do potholes and speed bumps affect my car’s suspension?

Potholes and speed bumps (also called speed humps) are the two danger areas for your car’s suspension, especially if you’re not mindful when driving over these areas. A pothole (also called a cuckold or kettle) is the product of cracks, water, winter cold, and summer heat. Liquid finds its way underneath pavement due to traffic-induced cracks, utility work, and pavement separations. Once the sub-surface layer is eroded, an air gap forms in the pavement. As soon as a car passes over this gap, the top layer sags and collapses––and a pothole is born! While a typical, 1-2” pothole may not cause a tire to burst or bearing to fuse, higher speeds and deeper potholes spell disaster for some cars’ suspension, as well as other significant parts of your car.

A speed bump is a vertical traffic device that is intended to slow speeds down on low speed roads, usually 3–4 inches high and 12–14 feet wide. Speed bumps are generally safe if taken at low speeds, though going over speed bumps too quickly could lead to consequences like the shock bottoming out, or blowing the nitrogen charge or the gas out of the shock itself.

how can I tell if something is wrong with my car’s suspension?

The first way to tell if something is up with your suspension is by checking the tires. Make sure tires are properly inflated (you can find this information on your car’s door jam sticker) and that they don’t have significant wear. If there’s uneven tire wear, this could mean the suspension isn’t holding the weight of the car evenly. If you hear unusual sounds, feel every bump on the road, notice your vehicle rocking, or notice your car leaning to one side while parked, it’s best to get your suspension checked.

One DIY suspension test is to push down on your car's front and rear end (not at the same time) and release the pressure. If it bounces more than a couple times, chances are the struts or shocks are worn out.

how expensive is it to fix my suspension?

Any car repair is going to be an annoyance and extra item on your to-do list. your bank account. In total, it could run you $5000 (minimum) to replace the suspension since the suspension has various parts that make up the “carriage” of the car, including the struts, bearings, bushings, and subframes.

Shocks and struts cost between $450–$1100 parts for both types of assembly, parts and labor combined. Wheel alignment is recommended after a strut replacement ($150–$900 on its own) and can be up to a $200 add-on.

Wheel bearing replacements for vehicles come in two different styles––for front-wheel bearings, there’s traditional cone or roller and hub style (most common). If you have a van or truck, you’ll need a rear-wheel bearing. Traditional cone or roller (for a four wheel drive) costs about $20 per tire, plus 1–1.5 hours of labor per side ($80–$160). Most vehicles use complete-unit hub bearings, which costs between $80–$300, plus an additional $80–$200 for labor each side.

Bushings (not to be confused with the Control Arm) can be made of stamped steel, cast iron, or aluminum. On average, it costs about $225 to replace a pair of control arm bushings, including labor.

Subframes (also called an Engine Cradle) are easily the most expensive part of the suspension system, since it is the mounting point for the engine, steering, suspension, and other critical components. A new subframe will cost between $150–$400 for parts alone, plus an additional $300–$1,000 in labor to replace it.

Flat tires from running over a pothole or crashing over a speed bump can also happen. If you don’t have a spare on hand, a single tire will set you back around $165 (according to Consumer Reports).

At this point, making an informed decision about whether to pay to replace the suspension or sell your car is reasonable––car parts are not cheap, by any means. If you’re curious as to what your car’s value is, we’ll help you out. From there, Peddle will come pick up your car, hand you money (in the form of cash or check) and be on our way. Change can be a good thing.