Potholes are an ongoing problem for highways authorities around the world, and for the motorists who use those highways. They can crop up almost overnight, and the present an obstacle that can inflict serious damage to your car, if you don’t spot them in time. Current estimates put the number of potholes in the UK at around 1.7 million – but this number is constantly fluctuating.

What causes potholes?

When rainwater penetrates beneath the road, it can become trapped there. An accumulation of water can freeze and expand, putting stress on the road from underneath, and ultimately causing it to collapse.

Where are the most potholes

Carole Nash is a provider of specialised motor insurance. It’s produced a study of motorists in the UK, some of the findings of which have been interesting. Cornwall council receives the most reports of potholes in the UK, with 210,311. At the other end of the spectrum is Kensington and Chelsea, with just 141.

The study discovered no particular are of the country in which the average motorist can expect a better-kept road. There’s reason to be sceptical of the figures, too, since most councils (70%) define a pothole as a 40mm deep cavity in the road. Moreover, some categories of pothole are prioritised or others. Potholes that are deeper than 4cm or wider than 15cm will be made safe within twenty-eight days of reporting. Those that don’t meet this requirement may be left to worsen for six months or more. Given that polling reports that only one in six motorists report the potholes they encounter, it’s likely that the UK highways agencies have a very incomplete picture of what’s required of them.

What damage can a pothole inflict?

If you go over a sufficiently deep pothole at speed, then all kinds of damage can ensue.

Tyre and Wheel Damage

The edges of the pothole can put significant stress on your tyres, as in some cases it’s like driving straight into a kerb, or even a small wall. The tyres will buckle against the edge of the hole, and significant stress will be put on the wheel. Even in cases where this isn’t enough to put the tyre or wheel out of action instantly, it will drastically shorten the lifespan of both.

Body and Exhaust Scrapes

A sufficiently deep pothole will bring the bottom of the car into contact with the road. The higher the speed, the greater the scraping force. This is a problem that’s particularly pressing for low-riding vehicles, like sports cars, but less so for off-road vehicles.

Suspension Damage

Similarly, the suspension of your car will be forced to absorb a lot of energy, which it might not be able to cope with!

Under some circumstances, you can make a claim to compensate for damage to your vehicle. Make sure that you do so!