Pothole damage: what it is, and how to avoid it

Wednesday 14th July 2021

What is a pothole?

Potholes are holes located in the road which can vary in both size and shape and are typically caused by the weight of vehicles combined with the effects of the elements, such as rain, snow and ice. A pothole is caused by the weight of cars passing over the weak spot in the road. This leads to a weakened road surface which causes the material to break down and crack.

In the winter months, this is intensified by the impact of snow, ice and rain – with water filling the cracks, freezing and then expanding, causing chunks of the surface material to break away – forming a pothole.

What do potholes do to your car?

Although sometimes driving over potholes can be unavoidable, or you might not see it until it’s too late, potholes can sometimes cause serious damage to your vehicle:

  • Tyre damage – this is the most common damage potholes can cause, with issues such as sidewall bulges, punctures or tyre tread separation. In some instances, potholes can also lead to tyres bursting.
  • Wheel damage – your wheels can also sometimes take a hit, with the wheel rims susceptible to scrapes, or the wheel could bend or become distorted. This could also have an impact on your wheel alignment – which could lead to further problems.
  • Misaligned suspension – similarly, a knock to your vehicle from a pothole can also affect the alignment of your suspension. If this happens, this could affect your braking efficiency, road holding and shorten the life of your tyres.
  • Scrapes to the undercarriage and exhaust – if your vehicle sits low to the ground (for example, sports cars), you can also sometimes incur pothole damage to the body of your vehicle, or the exhaust. A deep pothole could scrape the exhaust pipe running underneath your car, denting the exhaust pipe or creating a hole. Learn more about how to tell if you need a new exhaust.

What to do if you hit a pothole

If you’re driving along the road and suddenly you feel the familiar ‘bump’ or ‘jolt’ of a pothole under your vehicle, it’s helpful to follow the following steps:

  • Pull over as soon as possible
  • Inspect your vehicle for any visible damage to your wheels, tyres or the bodywork
  • Once you’ve done this, get back into your vehicle and check for any vibrations while you’re driving
  • Also check whether your vehicle is pulling to one side, or if your steering wheel is not operating properly
  • If you find any pothole damage, take a note of where the pothole is – as you may be able to report it to your local council to claim against the damage (more on this later!)

How to avoid scraping your car on potholes

There are things you can do to prevent pothole damage – some of these include:

  • Tyre pressure – having correctly inflated tyres is incredibly important when it comes to avoiding pothole tyre damage. If they are inflated to the correct pressure, there is a higher chance of the tyre rolling over any potholes without suffering any damage.
  • Driving habits – being mindful of your driving habits is also a good way to avoid damaging your car on potholes. Speeding can especially have an effect on the damage potholes can cause to your vehicle, so by taking things a little slower and smoother, you might be able to save yourself damage – and extra costs!

Can you claim for tyre damage from potholes?

Although the damage caused by potholes might not be worth claiming on your car insurance, you might be able to get compensation from your local council.

  • Step 1: first, check for any damage – explained in the section above on what to do if you hit a pothole.
  • Step 2: if you’ve found pothole damage, take some notes of the damage caused and the exact location and details such as size and position of the pothole in the road. Its also advised you take photos of the damage and the pothole if it’s safe to do so. You could even include an item, such as a shoe, to give perspective of scale.
  • Step 3: you can then report the pothole using the GOV.uk site. This is important as it will make your local roads safer to other road users.

If your vehicle has suffered any pothole damage, book in for your repairs at your local Formula One Autocentres. We have a range of new tyres to buy, free suspension checks and free exhaust checks.

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