It’s probably more than you think
Potholes are a natural occurrence on all but the best-maintained roads, so if you drive any sort of road vehicle, it's best to be informed about the kind of damage they can do and what to do to avoid and minimize it.
It ranges from sudden damage of the catastrophic variety, when, say, you hit a huge pothole at speed and you lose a wheel, or you lose steering and veer into a tree, to damage over time – driving for months/years over rutted roads.
The first kind of damage is really rather self-explanatory – the force of the wheel's impact with the pothole is sent through the suspension and the weakest link bends or breaks. Expect bent rims, tie rod ends and even wishbones to give in here, although there is also a chance your shock absorber might come loose from its top mount – but only if it's been worn over time.
This brings us to the second kind of damage, the kind which doesn't have an immediate impact, but it only leads you into a false sense of security. Driving a car for months and years over poorly surfaced roads can, for instance, one day leave you without proper steering as it wears out your steering box.
Manufacturers are slowly bringing out pieces of tech to pothole-proof their cars with active systems, but they've only been at it in recent years, so they aren't really prevalent. Ford, for instance, offers such a system which tightens up a specific wheel's suspension when front mounted sensors detect an imminent pothole, while Jaguar-Land Rover wants to implement a system to "to detect, predict and share data on potholes."
Audi's recent new A8 flagship sedan has active suspension which raises the entire vehicle when it detects any kind of protrusion or hole in the road surface ahead. It promises an unparalleled smooth ride, but the car still bears most of the brunt of the pothole, wheras Ford's system theoretically improves the lognevity of suspension components.
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