Potholes, those pesky and often unforeseen road hazards, are more than just a nuisance. They can inflict significant damage on vehicles, leading to costly repairs. Understanding these road imperfections and learning how to navigate them is not just a matter of convenience but a crucial skill that can save you from unwanted repair bills and ensure safer travel.

This article will delve into these causes and the dangers they present and provide practical, easy-to-follow tips on how to minimise the risk of car damage upon encountering one. By implementing these tips, you can feel more confident and in control on the road.

What Causes a Pothole

What are Potholes, and What Causes them?

Potholes primarily stem from water creeping into surface cracks, freezing and expanding over time, causing the surface to break apart. Considering what causes a pothole, it’s easy to understand that further deterioration occurs with ongoing weather fluctuations and the continuous passage of vehicles over this compromised area. This process creates a hole or crater, varying in size and depth. Poor road maintenance and drainage issues also contribute to their formation and worsening.

Are Potholes Dangerous?

Potholes can be dangerous. Drivers can unexpectedly hit a deep pothole or swerve to avoid one, leading to loss of control, burst tyres and potential accidents. Cyclists and motorcyclists face even more significant risks, as potholes can cause falls, which can cause severe injuries and fatalities. The RAC pothole index stated that last year (2023), there were ‘29,377 total pothole-related breakdowns.’

Tips To Avoid Car Damage from Potholes

Observe the Road Ahead

When driving, being constantly vigilant about the road ahead is vital. This will enable you to see potential potholes in advance, giving you more time to respond safely.

Slow Down

Reducing your speed when approaching a pothole will minimise your vehicle’s impact and potential damage. It will also allow your car to absorb the shock better, protecting your tyres, rims and suspension system.

Don’t Swerve Suddenly

While your initial instinct would be to swerve to avoid a pothole, sudden movements can lead to loss of control, posing a risk to you and other road users. If you cannot safely navigate a pothole, approach it carefully by checking your surroundings, slowing down and straightening the wheels.

Watch for Puddles

Approach puddles carefully, for they can often conceal a pothole beneath, ultimately disguising their depth. Hitting a covered, sharp-edged pothole can cause significant damage to your tyres, wheels and suspension upon impact. This unpredictability jolt can strain muscles and ligaments, causing long or short-term pain and discomfort.

Maintain Proper Tyre Pressure

If you’re driving over a pothole, ensuring your tyres are correctly inflated can act as a crucial buffer, reducing the impact’s force. Therefore, you must monitor and maintain your tyre pressure regularly. Vigilance with maintenance can also be cost-effective. According to RAC garage 2023 data, ‘anything more serious than a puncture, drivers can expect to pay up to £460 if their car needs to go to a garage after hitting a pothole.’

Practice Driving on Different Terrain

Practising driving on different terrains during driving lessons will equip you with the skills to react appropriately to various road conditions plagued with potholes, from gravel and dirt roads to urban streets. Understanding the dynamics of a vehicle when it encounters uneven surfaces can significantly improve your ability to avoid potential damage from potholes or, when unavoidable, to minimise their impact.

Report a Pothole

In the UK, Individuals can report potholes to their local council. This reporting is essential as it alerts the relevant authorities to a pothole, enabling them to prioritise and schedule repairs, thus preventing potential accidents and vehicle damage. By taking the time to report potholes, you are actively contributing to the improvement of road conditions in your community, enhancing safety for all road users.