An obstacle of the road: Potholes

An obstacle of the road: Potholes

The brutal weather we have experienced this year has seen an explosion of these crater-like failings, sadly these potholes are not only a problem in Winter; financial constraints on those who maintain the road network have undoubtedly led to a backlog in repairs and road users are facing additional evolving and unanticipated hazards.

These hazardous cavities of the road are bad enough when you have four wheels but lethal on just two. As we head into fine weather, motorcycles are being uncovered from their hibernation and riders find that their lines through once familiar bends have changed and road surface damage, sinkage and debris present compromise.

Not only do we have to drive around these failings, all too often we have to react to other road users who swerve to avoid hazards in their path. Drivers now have to be more vigilant and alert.

What is a pothole?

Simply put, it is a structural failure in the road surface due to underlying water weakening the structure of the soil in the ground below the road, largely through freezing action. Traffic passing over this affected area fatigues the road surface further, resulting in the surface finally breaking up and the creation of a pothole.

If you are unlucky and hit one, what should you do?

  • Check for damage: Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, checking for obvious damage to your wheels and tyres. Some damage might not be easily seen, you might feel new vibrations, or your steering wheel may not be centred properly, you might even find that your vehicle is pulling to one side. If you find you experience any of these you need to get your vehicle checked immediately.
  • Take some notes and report the pothole:With most traffic incidents it is important to make a note of what happen at the earliest point, don’t rely on your memory! Include information about its location, the road name and it position and depth.

Returning to the scene to take photos (if it is safe to do so) of the offending pothole will help when you come to report it. Remember to include an object like a shoe to give a sense of scale. All local councils have a function to report potholes through their websites, they will be able to arrange repairs and prevent similar incidents.

3)   Get your vehicle assessed for damage:It is important to get your vehicle road ready again. Specific areas we will look at are the wheels, tyres and suspension, these being the typical damage caused by potholes.

4)   Have repairs made at the earliest opportunity;don’t drive with a compromised vehicle – not only might you fall foul of the law but safety could be compromised.

5)   Look to seek compensation –the authority who is responsible for maintaining that road will consider claims under certain circumstances if supported by suitable, clear evidence.

What damage can be caused to your vehicle after hitting a pothole?

Here is a quick guide to typical pothole damage and how you can recognise:

Tyres: Damage to tyres occurs when the hard edge of the pothole compresses the tyre against the wheel on impact, slicing the rubber or snapping the tyre wires that hold it together. A sidewall bulge is seen where there is separation of the internal structure; it usually presents itself as an egg shape in the sidewall.

The damage might not be immediately obvious and regular checks are recommended; water ingress into the banding can rust over time and fret causing a sudden and total failure. An inspection of the tyres after hitting a pothole will highlight damage and you will need to get it replaced immediately.

Wheels: The unusual and hard edges of the pothole applies forces to the wheels in a way they are not designed to handle. This leads to bends, chips or cracks. A bent wheel will not roll smoothly they might also not be able to form an airtight seal with the tyre, which will lose pressure and need looking at immediately. Chips can be easier to spot and usually easy to deal with but cracks can go unseen and can fail completely, if you are in any doubt get the wheel checked out.

Suspension: Although suspension is designed to withstand impacts, providing a smoother ride, there is still a limit that it can handle. The sudden jarring of a pothole can cause misalignment, broken ball joints and damaged shocks and struts. If you notice any of the following it would be best to get the vehicle looked at:

  • Steering wheel off centre, the car might be pulling to one side
  • Wandering steering, the handling might feel loose
  • Vibrations and clunking sounds
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • The vehicle might be leaning to one side, usually associated with broken ball joints, struts or shocks

 

If you have had a pothole incident or have noticed any of the above then contact Standlake Vehicle Services, we will be able assess your vehicle (four wheels or two) and get you motoring again.