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Do Speed Bumps and Rumble Strips Damage Cars?

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As a driver, it’s a scary feeling when your car jolts, bumps, shakes, or scrapes unexpectedly. And every time your car is affected by a “bump” in the road, your reaction is probably to cringe and wonder, “I hope that didn’t damage my car…” But could it?

Speed bumps and rumble strips are the two forms of “traffic calming devices” you’ll most commonly encounter on the road, and both of these methods have stirred controversy over their effects–if they’re causing more harm to vehicles than good to driving behaviors.

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speed bump hump speed deterrent strip

Do speed bumps damage your car?
Photo: atomicity via CC

What Are Speed Bumps?

First of all, although the terms are often used interchangeably, there’s a difference between speed bumps and speed humps (and not in maturity level, as you snicker). Speed humps are wider than bumps, inclining at a lower angle, and are half the height. Thus, they cause drivers to slow down rather than stopping completely like speed bumps do.

Speed bumps are raised 3-4 inches above the road and are intended to reduce driving speeds to under 5 mph. They’re often installed in areas with high pedestrian traffic, such as residential communities and parking lots. Speed bumps compel drivers to come to a near-stop, creeping over to avoid damaging the bumper, undercarriage, and possibly steering rack. Taken too fast, and a speed bump will scrape or ding the underside, damaging the sump and leaking oil.

A couple concerns have been raised over speed bumps:

  • Damage caused to emergency vehicles when crossed at high speeds
  • Low-riding vehicles scraping the bump, even at low speeds
  • Lowering fuel efficiency and increasing emissions.
  • Interrupting the steady flow of traffic

However, due to extensive studies done by transportation organizations, the benefits outweigh any damages.


rumble strip median yellow lines

Do rumble strips damage your car?
Photo: Zaheer Mohiuddin via CC

What Are Rumble Strips?

Rumble strips, commonly referred to as audio tactile profiled markings, have a different purpose than speed bumps. These grooved strips of pavement are designed to alert distracted drivers rather than affect the speed of a vehicle. They catch attention through tactile vibrations and audible rumbling as the wheels of the car come in contact with rapid, inch-deep groves in the road.

These have been proven to be very effective in alerting drowsy or distracted drivers while causing very minimal damage. Rumble strips could technically tear up your tires and suspension if you drive hundreds of miles on them regularly, but most segments last less than a mile in construction areas or exit ramps. Thus, it’s no worse than  wear and tear endured by your car on a daily basis.


speed bump slow car yellow traffic calmer

The benefits outweigh the damage
Photo: Brian via CC

Do They Damage My Car?

In both cases, most experts say that crossing rumble strips or speed bumps the way you’re supposed to and infrequently will not damage your car–it feels a lot worse than it actually is. Groups like the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and Transport and Road Research Laboratory (TRRL) in the UK have established guidelines on the most ideal design of traffic calming devices which many places follow.

Most damage that could be sustained by your car would  be primarily influenced by preexisting body wear (such as weak suspension, bad alignment, or cracking tires) or hitting objects too fast. For a city to be liable for damage done by a traffic calming device, it would have to be proved that the device was improperly constructed or hazardously designed. If you cross these obstacles on a frequent basis, however, long-term damage to your car’s alignment, shocks, struts, and joints could be caused over time, so avoid these areas if possible during daily commutes.

Bottom line: rumble strips and speed bumps do reduce accidents and speeding, and are cheaper for you than getting ticketed.


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Sources: TSTC, US FHWA, Iowa State University CTRE, The Car Doctor, Marina Auto Body