It’s well known to drivers that a rough road surface can damage the car in numerous ways. The uneven surface can cause uneven abrasion and tear to car tyres, while large bumps and dips can play havoc with the suspension system.

However, few road conditions can be as damaging as potholes. These holes can come in a variety of sizes and depths, but are unfortunately encountered throughout many UK roads. As such, it is something all drivers should be aware of.

Not only should you understand the potential damage such holes can cause to your car, you should also realise you can actively claim back against the damage caused this way. This is something worth remembering throughout the year. While the strong seasonal heat can crack tarmac and damage your summer tyres, so too can water seep in during the winter, freezing over night and cracking the road as well, presenting a threat to your winter tyres.

The Damage To Your Suspension System

When your car is driving on a normal surface, such changes in terrain are slow and gradual. Even speed bumps have a low curve, ensuring that there is on sudden pressure applied to the suspension. Struts - and even shock absorbers - have a limit to how much stress they can handle at one time.

car-suspension

Car suspension systems.

A significantly deep pothole, then, can often go above this limit. Not only will this cause damage, this can cause misalignment as well. Such a problem might not be apparent at first, but it will ultimately influence the quality of your driving experience.
 
This is because potholes are small enough to influence only one or two corners or a car at most. As such, the struts and absorbers on these corners (or side of the car) suffer a greater amount of pressure.

The Damage To Your Car Tyres

Because your car tyres are in between the road surface and the vehicle, this puts them in an awaked position when encountering potholes. This dip in the road causes the tyre to fall in. Doing so can cause extensive tyre damage and scraping along the sides, even damaging the sidewall.

Other issues may include a drop in tyre pressure and a lack of balance between your wheels as a result. Also, potholes often tend to contain loose debris or stones, which can cause tyre punctures or become stuck in the tread blocks.

damaged-tyre-by-pothole

Potholes can help cause punctures, deformations and other forms of tyre damage.

Furthermore, on other hand, a sudden drop, combined with a poor or weak suspension system, can cause the vehicle to then push onto the tyre, causing further stress and potential tyre deformation. Even if your car’s equipped models have the right tyre load index, this sudden shock is hardly beneficial.

Other Forms Of Damage

Of course, potholes and uneven surfaces can cause damage to other areas, too, although your tyres and suspension are usually the areas that suffer the most.
 
We already mentioned the pressure applied to both the wheels and suspension. If the car shakes violently enough, you can also damage your car rims in a similar fashion, bending them out of shape, in addition to loose stones being thrown in the air. Depending on whether you have steel rims or alloy rims, the damage could chip through protective layers or scratch the metal surface itself.

car-wheel

Potholes and uneven surfaces can also damage your rims and other car parts.

Likewise, the undercarriage is already exposed to the road surface and a pothole can reduce the already limited gap that exists. A particularly sharp drop from a pothole, then, can cause the undercarriage to come into contact with the road. This can often damage various parts of the undercarriage, leading to leaking fluids and a build of rust in exposed areas.
 
Similarly, the exhaust may also be damaged, both by knocks and bumps, as well loose debris hitting the exhaust pipe.

What Can You Do About Potholes?

Fortunately, in the UK at least, you are not responsible for damage caused to your car by potholes. Roads are maintained by various councils, so they have a duty to provide a smooth, safe road surface.

Yet, many drivers are not aware of how to claim against potholes, or even that they have the option to. To prove the pothole was the cause of the damage, you will need proof of various things, including:
 

  • Evidence of the pothole in question. Photographic proof is ideal for this and most drivers have a cameraphone, at the very least, that can take sufficiently detailed images.
  • A report of the damage done to your vehicle. This needs to be done by a professional, such as a garage or independant mechanic, detailing the damage suffered to your vehicle.
  • While not necessary, proof that the vehicle was not in this state beforehand can also go along way to proving your case. Evidence for this can include previous servicing and test results, as well as receipts from every time you repaired the car, fixed the tyre pressure or anything else that shows you were maintaining the car at a high level of standard.
  • It should also be noted that the smallest holes and dents might not be counted as a pothole. In the UK at least, the minimum pothole depth is 40mm.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a local council will have to cover your costs every time. If they have followed the national code for road maintenance and have inspected the road on regular intervals, then there isn’t much of a case for neglect of duties.

Preventative Measures

Ultimately, no matter how much we despite them, potholes are not going to disappear. While many councils take great effort to remove them, there are some situations where such efforts are not being undertaken. This is true for more remote roads, for instance, with less traffic or less importance for the respective council to repair.

potholes-on-the-road

More remote roads will often be in a worse condition.

In an ideal world, the best course of action is to bypass or otherwise avoid potholes. If you see them coming, you may be able to drive around them or, if traffic permits, slow down to lessen the shock. When on busy roads, try to maintain a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front, as this gives you time to notice potholes and other factors.

You should be extra careful when driving in the rain or in other wet conditions. With enough rainfall, water can completely fill up a pothole, making it almost impossible to gauge the depth of any given example. In addition to the likes of aquaplaning and reduced braking, this is another reason to drive more slowly during these weather conditions.

Furthermore, when you can’t avoid the holes, the having the correct tyre pressure is vital. Too little and your tyres will not absorb much of the energy or force. Too much, on the other hand, puts strain on the tyre itself. Using the recommend levels, however, will help prevent as much damage as possible to your rims.