Holy Smokes, what was that? We’ve all been there on a dimly lit or rainy night. It’s impossible to ignore that signature bang and sickening crunch when you’ve hit a pothole. Potholes can be a real nuisance and can lead to significant car tyre and wheel damage. With an estimated 1 in 10 mechanical failures caused by potholes, they are no laughing matter. The good news is there are initiatives to reduce them being implemented. In this article, we’ll take a good look at (or into) potholes and minimizing your risk.
Potholes have many causes. Poor road maintenance isn’t the only reason. With increasing volumes of traffic on UK roads every day they are an unavoidable fact.
A pothole begins life as an imperfection on the surface of the road. Over time hundreds of thousands of wheel transits start to loosen and worsen this imperfection. It gets bigger, and then the surface surrounding the pothole also beings to lose integrity.
It’s a vicious cycle.
When you add cold weather into the mix, you create even worse conditions.
Water comes to rest in holes and cracks in the road. When it freezes, water expands. This expansion is enough to gradually push apart even the finest of cracks. Salting the roads is not a solution when it comes to potholes. As salt actually degrades the road surface further.
Well, if you are anything like us, there’s a good chance that you stop and check your alloys. Vanity aside (they were ‘diamond cut!), it is always worth performing a tyre inspection if you’ve had a particularly nasty encounter with a pothole.
Depending on its depth, when a tyre enters a pothole, it is no longer in contact with the road. The forward side of the tyre can make contact with the ‘lip’ of the pothole. Even at low speed, it can be like striking your wheel with a sharp iron girder.
If it is a deep pothole, it is possible to damage both the shoulder and the sidewall of your tyres, not to mention the alloys as well.
The good news is that there are plans underfoot to reduce the number of potholes on UK roads. However, don’t expect anything to happen soon. The budget announced to fix poor road conditions is so high because there are an estimated 10 million potholes on UK roads. Some of which haven’t been repaired in over 100 years!
While you’ll often have observed UK roads being repaired, most of the time, the ‘fill and stamp’ approach is only a temporary fix. The imperfection in the road surface still exists and will degrade again over time.
The only solution is to resurface the road. There we see a paradox. The smoothest roads should be those that people use most often. Yet to resurface a road requires it to be closed. We doubt many would appreciate a half-hour addition to their daily commute while a road is being resurfaced.
So while they will eventually be fixed, here’s how to avoid damaging your tyres on potholes:
This is the most obvious solution, but it is 100% effective. If you see anything that may look like a pothole, avoid it. Sometimes potholes can be deeper than they look and have an especially nasty ‘lip.’
If you can’t avoid potholes, your best bet is to drive slower if you suspect you are about to go over one. By driving slower, the force of the pothole is lessened. Less force equals less tyre damage
A flat tyre doesn’t provide any protection to your wheel rims, especially from potholes. Further to this, a flatter tyre is much less efficient, so you’ll be saving money too. You’ll be able to find the correct tyre pressure in your car’s handbook, and it is also printed on the sidewall of each tyre.
Ok, so the worst has happened, and you’ve had a nasty bang with a pothole. The first thing to do is stop safely nearby. This is for two reasons…
Stopping allows you to:
Potholes are one of the main causes of cuts and abrasions in tyres. If there are cuts or bulges in your tyre, it is far better to avoid driving on it and risking a blowout.
Why is this important? Well, believe it or not, you might be able to claim money back from the local council for damage to your vehicle caused by potholes.
You must document all evidence, as local county councils have been known to sneak a quick repair in during quiet times if they have had many complaints and want to avoid paying out when a pothole has been reported.
There are numerous websites about how to make a claim if you’ve hit a pothole.
You must report a pothole to your local county council. Most have an email address or online portal to submit information. When reporting a pothole to your local council, be sure to make notes of all relevant information. Be sure to include in your report pictures and how they can find it. It might even be worthwhile to mark it on an online map.
Depending on the damage you have incurred, it might be time to temporarily repair your wheel before taking it to get looked at. Take a look at our guide here on punctures to see if you can still drive on your tyre.
Alternatively, if you aren’t sure, seek the advice of a breakdown organization.
New tyres don’t have to be expensive, and they might allow you to replace something due for renewal anyway.
Nobody likes hitting potholes, and it is almost inevitable that we will all come into contact with one at one time or another. Whilst it is good news that the government has allocated a budget to deal with the problem on UK roads, potholes will be around for some time to come, so it makes sense to be aware of your options if you do happen to get the wrong side of one.
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