Potholes are a course for British drivers. The RAC recently declared many UK roads look like "the surface of the moon" and receive up to 20,000 callouts per year for vehicle damage caused by potholes. The chances are you've encountered a pothole on your travels.
While local authorities work to patch up the potholes and repair the roads – we can assume the problem is here to stay. And, if you are unlucky enough to encounter one unexpectedly you could seriously damage your car.
With this in mind, we've come up 7 Tips for How to Drive Over Potholes and Minimise Vehicle Damage, see below.
1: STEADY SPEED IS KEY
The first tip is critical – steady speed. This means you want to travel over the pothole smoothly and at a constant speed. Do not press the brakes as you hit the pothole, this can cause more damage than good.
When you stand on the brakes, the weight of the vehicle shifts forward and presses down on the front tyres. This is bad news when you hit a pothole and can cause damage to your front suspension and tyres.
If it is safe to do so, reduce your speed before you strike the pothole. Then remove your foot from the brakes, and allow the weight of the car to redistribute. Then travel over the pothole at a smooth and steady speed.
2: REDUCE YOUR SPEED BEFORE IMPACT
If you are travelling on a road you are unfamiliar with you probably see the pothole until you are right on top of it. However, if you have time and it is safe to do so, reduce your speed before you strike the hole.
Before you brake, check your rear mirror to make sure there's no one travelling close to your rear. Reducing speed will give you more time to react and minimise the force at which the car strikes the pothole. This will reduce the stress on your car and reduce damage caused by the impact.
3: AVOID THE BUMP
If you notice a hole in the road before you strike it, and it is safe to do so, you should try and avoid it. The key point here is - “if it is safe to do so”. Swerving on a road is dangerous and should never be performed if it may cause danger to yourself or any other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.
However, if it is safe to do so, and you have noticed the pothole in good time you can take evasive action. Gently change your course of direction so your tyres avoid a direct hit with the pothole.
Avoid suddenly jerking the wheel or performing any action that may steer the car off its course of direction and cause a collision. And, remember, don't slam on the brakes as this can cause more damage than good.
4: FIRMLY GRIP THE WHEEL
When hitting a pothole you run the risk of losing control of the vehicle. The sudden depression in the road surface can cause the vehicle to jolt and the wheels may change direction of travel. This is more likely if you hit the hole at high speed.
Ensure you firmly grip the steering wheel when driving over a pothole and anticipate that the vehicle may briefly lose control. Remain calm and maintain the true direction of travel to ensure your vehicle crosses the pothole safely.
5: APPROACH STRAIGHT-ON
The best way to approach a pothole is straight-on. Don't change the course of the car before you strike the hole. Remain true to the direction of the road and drive straight over the pothole.
Changing direction and entering the pothole at an angle can lead to tyre damage. If you strike the hole from the side it can cause a pinch on the side wall of your tyre. And, a pinch can cause a structural deformity or a bubble.
If this happens, you're going to have to replace your tyre. So, once you see a pothole and have committed to driving across it – drive straight over it. Don't try and perform a manoeuvre that leads to the tyres striking the hole at an angle.
6: TYRE PRESSURE
Tyre pressure plays a critical role when it comes to travelling over potholes. To minimise damage to your tyres you should ensure they are inflated to optimal pressure. Tyres that are under or over-inflated fare badly when they impact a pothole.
Poorly inflated tyres are more likely to suffer damage. So, if you want to protect your wheels – get your tyre pressure checked. You can even do this at home with a simple handheld pressure gauge.
7: GET YOUR SUSPENSION CHECKED
Another tip when it comes to dealing with potholes, especially if you encounter them on a regular basis – is to get your suspension checked. Driving over potholes takes a toll on your vehicle's suspension. And, if you frequently drive over them, your suspension may have borne the brunt.
The best advice is to take your car to a qualified mechanic who can run a qualified eye over your shocks, springs, and struts. This way if there is anything that needs to be tweaked or replaced you can have it seen to before it causes more serious damage.
HOW POTHOLES DAMAGE YOUR CAR
Potholes can cause serious damage to your car. Especially if you drive across them regularly or at high speed. The four components of your car that will suffer the most damage are the tyres, wheels, suspension, and chassis.
The first part of your car to come into contact with a pothole is your tyres. And, tyres are the part of your car most likely to be damaged when you encounter a pothole.
Hitting a pothole at speed or at an angle can cause your tyre to momentarily deform in shape and can cause a pinch. Pinching can happen at any time but is more common if the tyres are not inflated to the optimum pressure.
If this happens, a bubble can form on the side of your tyre. This is bad news and means the tyre needs to be replaced. And, having to replace a good tyre is the last thing you want to do. So, be careful and try to minimise damage by following the tips above.
Next up are the wheels. In general, the wheels of a vehicle can withstand considerable abuse. Especially, OEM out-of-factory wheels. However, over time and regular driving across potholes can result in wheels bending, losing shape, and even cracking.
The problem is more prevalent in after-market wheels as opposed to original equipment manufacturer wheels. And, counterfeit wheels are particularly susceptible to damage.
Other contributing factors to wheel damage from potholes are low-profile tyres and under-inflated tyres. If you are driving on low-profile or tyres inflated below the recommended air pressure the potential damage to the wheel is magnified. The level of protection afforded by the air cushion is reduced in both these situations.
Suspension is the system of springs, shock absorbers, and linkages that connect the wheels of your car to the vehicle chassis. A suspension system is designed to support road holding and ride quality. And, driving across potholes can damage this system – especially the shock absorbers.
Shock absorbers are designed to absorb the impact of a sudden jolt from the wheels and limit the amount of disturbance that passes through to the chassis. They are designed to take a considerable beating but driving over a pothole can really put them to the test.
Potholes can cause damage to the absorbers and prevent them from bouncing back to their original shape after the impact. The shock of striking the hole can cause metal fatigue in the springs. If your shock absorbers become worn out they will need to be replaced.
Driving over bad roads and potholes can cause damage to your car chassis. A chassis is the load-bearing part of the car’s frame. It is the horizontal support that holds and connects all the vital parts and body of the car.
When you travel over a pothole the shock of the impact travels through the wheels, suspension, and then hits the chassis. This causes a sudden shock wave to pass through the frame and can cause metal fatigue over time.
A damaged chassis is a serious safety concern and can lead to instability and compromised handling of the vehicle. If you suspect you may have a damaged chassis you should seek the advice of a qualified mechanic.
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