Like plants, potholes grow with the rain. During the winter, rainwater puddles on the surface, but gets into the cracks between the tarmac. Underneath the tarmac, it freezes pushing the tarmac out as it expands into ice. This combined with the constant pressure of vehicles driving overtop causes potholes to quickly form.
The most recent RAC pothole index shows that drivers are 1.7 times more likely to break down with pothole-related damage than they were in 2006 when the RAC began tracking.
These holes in the road aren’t just a simple bump, they are a serious issue for car owners. They can grow metres wide, or have drivers swerve to avoid them. Potholes increase the likelihood of a crash, and can cause expensive damage to your vehicle.
You might hit a pothole dead on, or just clip it with the side of a wheel. Two things will typically affect the extent of the damage caused:
- The speed at which you hit the pothole
- The depth of the pothole
We’ll take a closer look at the damages potholes can do to your car.
Increase tyre wear and tear
Tyres are designed for contact with the road, not to be bounced around or scraped against a hole. This means potholes can cause some serious damage like sidewall bulges, tread separation, or even punctures. Tyres dip into potholes, and under the car’s weight, compresses into shape. The hard tarmac can then cut into the rubber, damaging the wall or snapping structural belts within the tyre. Inflating your tyres to the recommended levels can help resist against pothole damage.
Damages wheels through potholes
Large potholes can cause scratches on your rims or even damage to the wheels. The harsh drop of some deep potholes impacts your wheels in a way they aren’t designed to handle. Cars aren’t regularly ‘dropped’ so have little resistance against wheel damage in these situations. Potholes can chip, crack, or bend a wheel. Chips and cracks are usually difficult to notice, as the tyre may cover up any damage. Bent wheels will not roll smoothly, and can impact on the performance of the tyres too. Significant chips, cracks or bends need to be replaced immediately, as it compromises the safety of the vehicle.
Driving through potholes affects your vehicle’s suspension
The suspension is designed to support the vehicle’s weight, absorb rough road driving, and ensure the tyre stays in contact with the road. A ‘drop’ into a pothole can cause suspension problems such as damaged shock absorbers, and broken ball joints. A damaged shock absorber or broken ball joints will cause a vibrating noise, wandering steering. A qualified mechanic will need to inspect the suspension system before individual parts are completely replaced.
The exhaust system can be damaged by potholes
Exhausts run along the length of the vehicle, and mufflers especially hang quite low. A deep pothole can potentially cause the exhaust system to scrape along the ground. Even some speed bumps can damage the exhaust system. The tarmac can cause scratches, dents, or even rip holes into the exhaust pipes, muffler, or catalytic converter. In extreme cases, you may lose power but over time you will usually experience a fall in fuel mileage as exhaust leaks cause the engine to use more fuel. You will want to check for damage, after particularly harsh scrapes. This may mean you have to get a mechanic round to hoist up the car and have a look underneath the car.
The vehicle body can be dented or scratched
Deep potholes can obviously scratch paint, especially around wheel rims and bumpers. They will also kick up dirt and tarmac, which means more cleaning.
Driving through potholes can cause alignment issues
Alignment issues can be quite noticeable when turning, as your steering wheel is off-center, the car pulls back in one direction, or the handling feels loose. Misalignment also causes tyres to wear down faster since one side is overused.
The final verdict on potholes
Don’t ignore a loud scrape or knock from a pothole! You can even claim back on potholes, and get the hole filled. Come to ClickMechanic to get a full quote and receipt for the job, which you can easily use as evidence for a pothole letter to the council.
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash