With this year’s milder, largely snow and ice-free winter, you would be forgiven for thinking that the problem of potholes may have reduced. According to the RAC, though, its patrols dealt with more than 2,000 breakdowns likely to have been caused by potholes during the last three months of 2019, an increase of 300 breakdowns over the same time in 2018. RAC patrols attend on average a pothole-related breakdown very hour.
Even the March 2020 budget gave little hope to local authorities, who fear that there isn’t enough financial allocation to cover all road repairs, leaving more than 2 million potholes a year unrepaired.
Of all the breakdowns experienced by RAC members in 2019, around 9,200 were caused by faults attributed to potholes including problems with suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers. If you are running a company, this results in a considerable time that your vehicles are off the road, and this could result in higher Insurance premiums should you make a claim on your motor trade insurance or van insurance.
Given that even the most careful driver will experience some degree of potholes in their journey, what can you do to limit the damage and what checks are advisable to ensure your vehicle is still safe to drive if you hit a bad pothole?
Tyres and wheels
As tyres are the most important cushion between your vehicle and the road, they also carry the brunt of pothole damage. To prevent as much damage as possible, make sure your tyres have enough tread and are properly inflated.
If you drive over a particularly bad pothole, you should stop and check your tyres and wheels for damage. If the tyre has hit a deep pothole, it may become punctured or split and could lead to a blowout. You should also check for any change in the vehicles handling capabilities.
Deep potholes may cause your wheel rim to hit the road and bend out of shape, which could also lead to a blowout. When a wheel rim becomes bent out of shape or cracked, it may not be able to form an airtight seal and any further bumps or bad road conditions could lead to total failure of the tyre, endangering not only your own safety but the safety of other drivers too.
Make a visual inspection of your wheel rims if you suspect damage after a pothole strike and take it to an expert for technical advice.
Steering and Suspension
The force of hitting a pothole can damage the steering assembly, leading to misalignment in both the steering component and possibly the engine. Your car could also handle differently due to suspension damage. This may have been caused by broken ball joints as well as misalignment and damaged shock absorbers or struts. Signs of suspension problems include loose handling or steering pull, excessive vibration, as well as uneven tyre wear.
If you drive a lowered vehicle, your exhaust is particularly prone to knocks and, if the pothole is deep enough, there is likely to be damage. If your exhaust develops a hole, your vehicle could undergo a loss of power. Even worse, a damaged exhaust system can harm your engine as well as causing it to emit carbon monoxide, which is unsafe for you, your passengers and pedestrians.
Internal Impact Injuries
In addition to your vehicle, any sudden jolts can have significant impact injuries to everyone within your vehicle. Look out for whiplash, neck and spinal cord trauma, concussion or any broken bones.
In part two of our blogs on potholes, we will take a closer look at what you need to do to make a claim, how to obtain proof, contacting your local council and whether it is worth claiming on your motor trade insurance policy.