All drivers are aware of the growing problem of road potholes and the continuous damage that they do on our vehicles. Potholes are undoubtably an annoyance that are simply unavoidable, but luckily, there are a few things we can do to keep damage to a minimum.
How Are Road Potholes Formed?
Roads that are in constant use go through their fair share of wear and tear. If there is a vast amount of heavy traffic continuously travelling over a particular section of the road, it will gradually become a weak spot. This means that, over time, the weak spot and all surrounding areas will decline and causes small fragments of material to become displaced; this is when potholes begin to form.
Potholes can vary in size and shape, and are mainly caused by the expansion and contraction of water in the ground. When there has been a significant amount of rain on the road and it freezes overnight, it begins to expand. When the water grows in size due to the constant freezing and melting, it can change roads and pavements drastically. If not filled in immediately after expansion, the pothole will continue to grow and begin to crack and bend the surrounding pavement.
How Can I Prevent Damage To My Car?
No vehicle owner wants to have to pay out for repairs or replacements on components that could have easily avoided excess damage. Although you cannot exclude all pothole-related potential damage, there are a few maintenance tasks and driving tips you can follow to keep the impact of potholes at a minimum.
Regular Tyre Maintenance
Tyres are the key part of the vehicle that comes between the main body and the road. Therefore it is imperative for your tyres to have enough air pressure in them and also to have sufficient tread. The legal minimum tread depth your tyres must meet the 1.6mm threshold. However, for extra safety precautions, you may want to consider a tread depth of 3mm during the colder months. Tyre pressure can quickly be tested by using a tyre pressure gauge, and you can locate the adequate pressure required for your vehicle in your handbook.
Ensuring that you meet both the sufficient tyre pressure and tread allows you to have enough grip on the road, as well as keeping you safe from sliding on potential frozen potholes.
Slow Down When Approaching Potholes
If you believe that a pothole is unavoidable, then ensure that you slow your vehicle down in advance before you reach the damaged area. For example, when driving on a busy dual carriageway, in most cases, you will have no choice but to go through the pothole as swerving would be too dangerous.
If you hit a pothole at high speeds, you run the risk of damaging multiple parts of your vehicle including the suspension, tyres and other internal components. Potholes can also damage the rims and wheel alignment of your vehicle. If your car does go over a pothole at high speed, it can take a huge amount of impact on the rims causing bending and potential cracks.
Repair Any Scratches
The body of a vehicle itself is capable of withstanding a fair amount of impact when it comes to driving over cracks and holes in the road, although you are likely to experience scratches and scrapes to the paintwork. Unfortunately, scratches cause the outer protective layer of paint to expose the underneath metal, which once in contact with moisture, will begin to rust.
Keep An Eye Out For Exhaust Damage
Exhaust pipes can take a harsh hit as they run underneath the underside of the vehicle. When a car goes over a pothole, the underneath of the carriage can hit the road causing damage to not only the exhaust, but also the muffler and catalytic converter. If these components of your vehicle become damaged, then you will start to hear loud noises coming from the vehicle as you drive.
Fix Your Suspension
The suspension of a vehicle is a system of elements that connect the car to its wheels and allow them to turn. It supports the way in which a vehicle handles the road and the driving quality, which means that it is often the main vehicle part that becomes damaged due to potholes.
Sudden jarring from potholes can cause damage shock and misalignment of the suspension. If this does happen, your steering may become uncentered, which is both dangerous and hard to manage. Misalignment of the steering wheel can inturn cause damage to other areas of your car; the wear and tear on your tyres will increase, which wouldn’t necessarily happen if your steering wheel was straight. To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to see whether you have suspension damage which is why we recommend you take your car for an annual service at Ben and Lenny’s.
How Do I Report Potholes?
Thousands of people drive over potholes daily and never report them to authorities. This means that although we all moan about the damage that potholes have on our vehicle, we as drivers, have become the main culprits of allowing them to remain unfixed.
FixMyStreet works towards helping you report a problem, and it doesn’t just have to be potholes. You are given the opportunity to report a number of problems including street lighting and broken pavement slabs; allowing you to voice changes you would like your local council to implement. In many cases, potholes are not noticed nor reported simply because the road is not used enough, which means that there is no harm in reporting the problem.
Local councils do have a duty of care to carry out regular maintenance and inspections of roads, however, often fail to fix potholes immediately. Potholes are graded by severity by the council, which influences which roads they repair first and how quickly they implement a plan of action. The highest risk potholes are those that have caused a large, deep hole in the road and are likely to result in fatal consequences; these have to be made safe within 2 hours. Potholes that are 30mm to 40mm in depth and 150mm in diameter will be fixed in 5 to 20 working days, again depending on the level of risk associated. Any potholes that are less than 30mm in depth and less than 40mm in diameter are seen as ‘unpleasing to the eye’, but, unfortunately, are unlikely to be fixed because they are not seen as a safety issue. If you notice that a pothole that was once not a safety hazard is beginning to increase in size and depth, you are free to re-report the same road, so the council know to keep an eye out.
How Can I Make A Pothole Claim?
If you experience severe damage to your vehicle caused by a pothole, you are within your right to make a claim against your local council for compensation. In most cases, pothole-related damage is noticeable immediately after driving over it.
To make a claim, you will first need to gather as much evidence as possible. If it is safe to do so and there is no oncoming traffic, pull over and take photo evidence. Photos must include close-ups of the pothole itself and its positioning, along with your vehicle and any surrounding roads signs, this will help authorities to spot the location of the pothole. Try also to take as many notes as you can; this can even be simple points noted down on your phone. Record the time and date that the incident happened and the weather condition.
To increase the likelihood of success, aim to make a claim as quickly as possible. The fastest way to make a claim is to fill in the form requested by the authority and then send it back along with all of your evidence.
For a full, in-depth guide on how to make a claim against authorities for pothole damage, take a look at this incredibly helpful Money Saving Expert article!
Avoid Pothole Damage!
Potholes are a growing issue in the UK and cause a significant amount of damage to vehicles. In 2016, 1,031,787 potholes were reported, so you can only imagine how many there are now. Unfortunately here in the UK we experience adverse weather conditions daily and can witness freezing and sunshine all in one day. Our weather has a serious impact on the increase of potholes and how fast they can form. The constant freezing and melting of water on roads allow them to expand and worsen the damage caused.
If you think potholes are damaging your car, do not leave it. You never know if there are underlying issues with car parts or even car body. Over the years we have noticed an increase in the number of young drivers that put their lives at risk on the roads because they have a fault with their vehicle that hasn’t been looked at or fixed. If you hear rattling, vibrations or screeching, take it to your local garage – you would rather be safe than sorry. As the suspension is one of the main parts of the car to receive the most damage from potholes, you should have your vehicle serviced regularly. Not only is a damaged suspension dangerous but it can also ruin the drive of your car, making bumps in the road more noticeable.
We hope that our article has been useful in explaining all the information you need to know about potholes. If so, why not share on social media?