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Pothole Dangers

Potholes are not just a nuisance, they are a real danger. They can do a lot of damage to tyres, steering and suspension, not to mention the risk of causing an accident by making your vehicle swerve suddenly, as they often do - or just cause you to swerve to try to avoid them, which can easily cause a collision in itself!
After hitting a pothole, tyres and vehicles may be damaged. While this damage might sometimes be obvious, at other times it might not be and the owner may not realise it, meaning the vehicle is continued to be used, while actually it is unsafe to be on the road. Tyres are especially prone to hidden damage. While bulges, cuts and scrapes on the outer wall or tread might be fairly easily seen, the inner wall is very difficult to inspect, plus steel belts inside the tyre can be bent, broken, or stressed, without showing on the surface - making them unreliable, performance and safety wise - possibly affecting steering, grip and braking, or making them more likely to blow out at higher speeds.
Wheels and steering components may also get damaged, making a vehicle unpredictable and difficult to control, or keep in a straight line - especially under heavy braking. Wheels can get buckled - especially steel wheels - and alloy wheels can get scraped, cracked, completely broken, or simply stressed, possibly without you realising it. Wheels and tyres need to be carefully checked on both sides (the usual, visible, 'outer' wall and the usually hidden 'inner' wall) and on the tread for cuts, bulges, scrapes and other damage. If your steering feels even slightly different after hiting a pothole, pulling more to one side than the other, or just not going straight, this is a sign that one or more of your steering or suspension components may be damaged. This needs to be checked out urgently and replaced or adjusted if necessary. Typical Tyre Damage
After hitting a pothole, always check your car over visually, especially the tyres and wheels, and get any damage fixed straight away. Tyres need to be checked both visually (using a torch and mirror for the inner walls) and by feel - run your hand over the whole surface for any non-obvious damage, remembering to rotate the wheels, so as to be able to check the part that's currently on the road.
Always check your vehicle out properly if you hit a pothole, especially if it was a big one. If you're at all not sure how to do it, or whether any damage needs fixing, get it checked over by a professional - there are plenty of tyre and brake specialists that offer free checks, so why not take advantage of these, as a starting point at least (you might want to get two or three opinions and quotes before paying to get the work done though!)
If one of your wheels or tyres is damaged, swap over to your spare wheel, even if the tyre is not obviously deflated, as it might just lose presure or fail in another way when you are driving fast, or at some other critical time, like in a tight corner, or when having to brake hard or swerve to miss another vehicle or a pedestrian - or yet another porhole! 'Sods law' states that when one thing goes wrong, another is likely to follow soon or straght after! Well, that's how it seems to work for me and a lot of other people too, so don't take any chances - the last hing you want on top of pothole damage is an accident!
If you only have a space-saver spare wheel/tyre (one that's slimmer than your other ones), keep your speed under 50mph until you can change back (which should be as soon as possible and within 50 miles maximum), as these tyres are designed to be 'get you home' only tyres and are not designed for, or safe at, high speed - especially as it will not match your other standard-sized tyres. Mis-matched tyres have a big effect on steering, handling and grip, so if you have to use a space-saver, don't leave it on any longer than absolutely necessary - get your damaged tyre(s) repaired or replaced and quickly swapped back - make sure
of your tyres are checked and any damaged ones replaced or repaired.
Of course, if you have two or more damaged wheels or tyres or other damage, or if you're on a bicycle or motorbike, you don't have a lot of options, other than getting help from family or friends, or recovered, so having breakdown cover is more important nowadays than it ever was before. Even if you class yourelf as a competent mechanic, with the number of potholes on the roads nowadays, plus the ever-increasing amount of traffic, it is a very good idea to take out a breakdown policy, even if you've never needed one before. Cars
generally more reliable now, but if and when they do go wrong, they can be a lot more difficult to fix, so our recommendation is to have a basic recovery service at the very least - perhaps one that you get with some bank accounts might be worth investigating.
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Remember, freezing winter weather is what usually starts potholes, and while winters might not be so cold now as they once were, frosts are usually what starts the damage. So, be extra careful when driving in winter, and even more so as it progresses into spring, which is when potholes can often get a lot bigger and deeper - especially on major roads that often have giant articulated lorries pounding them day and night, as well as the usual traffic! Many potholes develop along the edge of the road, especially if there is no proper kerb, so keep an eye out there, but that doesn't mean they are not all over the road, so keep scanning all of the road for potential potholes.
So, take care and keep your eyes on the road, the traffic and on the lookout for all the usual risks; pedestians, cyclists, dogs, horses, etc., - and good luck. If you do hit a pothole and sustain damage, please do let us know and send us photos of both the pothole and the damage. In the meantime, drive carefully and keep safe!
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This page was last updated on: 14 May 2024
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