All drivers in the UK are aware of the growing problem of frustrating potholes and the damage they can cause to vehicles. Since dealing with potholes is, annoyingly, an inevitable part of driving, it is important that all drivers remain informed on several points. Thankfully, our handy guide is here to answer your questions, including ‘how do potholes damage cars?, ‘how to claim for pothole damage?’ and more!

How Do Potholes Damage Cars? Our Full Guide

Pothole damage is a risk all drivers take when on the roads. Not only can it be unsightly, but pothole damage can also affect both the functionality and safety of your car. Fortunately, you do not have to put up with it!

At Vehicle Crash Repairs, we’ve spent more than ten years providing reputable car body repairs in Milton Keynes, so we understand first-hand the problems potholes can cause. In this article, we’ll discuss not only how to spot damage but also how to avoid potholes as much as possible.

Car approaching pothole

How Are Potholes Formed?

Potholes can vary in size and shape and are primarily 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. This can cause fractures to form on roads and pavements, which are exasperated as more rainwater fills them before freezing and expanding again. Eventually, a pothole will form. If not filled in, the pothole will continue to grow and begin to crack and bend the surrounding pavement.

What Causes Potholes?

Roads in constant use will inevitably 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, after a few cracks are developed on the asphalt, it will eventually become a weak spot. This gradual degradation can also initiate the formation of a deep hole in the ground, also known as a pothole.

Usually, the pavement structure is at fault for any weak spots and potholes. Although the initial construction may have been poor, it is likely that the original material (especially if it was laid many years ago) can simply no longer withstand traffic. Problems with the drainage below can also weaken the surface and cause potholes.

Driving near pothole

What Happens If You Hit A Pothole?

The majority of potholes look relatively harmless to the unassuming eye, causing many to wonder, ‘Can a pothole really damage your car?’ Unfortunately, the answer is yes. If you have hit a pothole with your vehicle, these are the steps you should take:

  • Pull over in a safe location and ensure that all of your passengers are unhurt
  • Assess the damage to your vehicle
  • Collect evidence of the event to report it (we explain this in more detail below!)
  • Arrange for any necessary vehicle repairs to be completed

It is important that all repairs are carried out by a properly trained team. At Vehicle Crash Repairs, our skilled technicians are highly experienced in completing a range of services, such as dented panel repairs in Milton Keynes. Please feel free to get in touch with us to find out more!

Car approaching potholes

How To Tell If A Pothole Has Damaged Your Car

There are many different ways a pothole can damage your car, whether cosmetic or internal, which although usually visible or noticeable, can be difficult to identify. If you conduct thorough checks, you should be able to notice them as quickly as possible and get them repaired. Things to look out for include:

Loss Of Control

If you have noticed a loss of control of your car’s steering after hitting a pothole, it clearly indicates that something is incorrect. Look out for swaying when making turns or bouncing excessively on the road, as this tends to suggest the steering and suspension of your car have been damaged, which are two critical things to being safe on the road, so ensure to get this repaired and checked right away.

Tyre Damage

When hitting potholes, your tyres are the most vulnerable part of your car. Typical damage that can be done is sidewall bulges, tread separation or puncture, which can do damage and prohibit your vehicle from being as safe as possible whilst driving on the roads. A sidewall bulge happens when the impact from hitting a pothole separates the usually airtight liner of the tyre from the tyre sidewall, allowing air to seep into the body of the tyre and creating a bubble that could blow out at any given moment. Tread separation is similar in that it occurs when the tyre is compressed against the wheel after hitting the pothole’s hard edge, which slices your tyres. You can also even dent your rims as they are usually made of aluminium, easily dented from the brutal impact of hitting a pothole.

Pothole in road

Cosmetic Damage

Common damage that can be made when hitting a pothole is some cosmetic damage, such as dents, scrapes and scratches. Some of these can be serious, however, such as scrapes along the undercarriage of your car that cause rust and leaks or holes being ripped into your exhaust pipes or muffler. This will result in a ton of noise coming from your vehicle, a loss of power and perhaps even your exhaust releasing harmful pollution, which can be damaging to your health! Our professionals in car body repairs in Milton Keynes are always happy to help in fixing any damage and problems you may have with your car if you have hit a pothole or have noticed issues with your vehicle.

Wheel Alignment

If you notice your car is not driving straight and is instead pulling in one direction, there could be a problem with your alignment, which can reduce the lifespan of your tyres and lessens the safety of your vehicle. Make sure to bring it to our professionals as soon as possible to ensure your car remains safe for use.

repairing car body

How To Report Potholes

It can be extremely frustrating when your car sustains damage from a pothole, which may prompt you to want to take action. We recommend reporting the pothole that caused the damage in order to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future.

Thousands of people drive over potholes daily and never report them to authorities. This means that although we all moan about the potential danger and expenses caused by potholes, as well as their unsightly appearances, we, as drivers, can do more to ensure that they get fixed.

FixMyStreet works towards helping you report problems such as potholes. You are given the option to report a number of issues, 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 by, nor reported to, councils simply because the road is not used enough, which means that you can help by reporting any problems you spot.

Local councils do have a duty of care to carry out regular maintenance and inspections of roads but 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 it so that the council know to keep an eye out.

Repairing Potholes

How To Avoid Pothole Damage To Your Car

No vehicle owner wants to have to pay out for repairs or replacements on components that could have easily avoided 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

It is imperative to maintain the air pressure of your tyres and also to have sufficient tread. The tread depth of your tyres must meet the legal minimum 1.6mm threshold. However, as a safety precaution, you may want to consider maintaining a tread depth of 3mm during the colder months. Tyre pressure can be tested by using a tyre pressure gauge, and you can locate the pressure recommended for your vehicle in your handbook.

Ensuring that you maintain both sufficient tyre pressure and tread depth will give you enough grip on the road, reducing the risk of skidding over frozen-over potholes.

Slow Down When Approaching Potholes

If you believe that a pothole is unavoidable, then ensure that you slow your vehicle down well in advance before you reach it. 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 potentially cracks.

Scratched Alloys

Repair Any Scratches Sustained

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.

If you are in need of custom body work in Milton Keynes, please feel free to contact Vehicle Crash Repairs for a free quotation!

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 and is often the main vehicle component that becomes damaged due to potholes. To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to see whether you have suspension damage which is why we recommend that you take your car to be serviced annually.

Car Suspension

How To Claim For Pothole Damage

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 road signs; this will help authorities identify the location of the pothole. Try 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 a successful claim, aim to make it as quickly as possible. The fastest way to make a claim is to fill in the form provided on your local council’s website and submit it, along with any evidence you are able to upload. 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!

Car wheel by pothole

Managing Pothole Damage

Potholes are a growing issue in the UK and cause a significant amount of damage to vehicles each year. Unfortunately, we can witness freezing temperatures and warm sunshine all in one day, making our roads especially prone to potholes. If you think your car has sustained damage, you should always have it assessed, as underlying issues with car parts or the car body are not always visible. Please do not put the lives of yourself and others at risk by ignoring signs of damage. If you hear rattling, vibrations or screeching, take your vehicle to be looked at – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

We hope that our article has been useful in explaining all the information you need to know about potholes. If you are interested in our repair services, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team. As highly trained, skilled technicians, we can guarantee that your car will be virtually good-as-new following our services. If your car has sustained alloy wheel damage as a result of potholes, why not check out our previous article for tips on getting it fixed?

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