Besides the frosty mornings, Christmas songs and office parties, there’s nothing that says “winter” quite like a road pockmarked with potholes.
Not only are they unsightly, potholes are also responsible for causing worn tyres, wheel alignment problems and damaged suspension systems to cars (the latter is your car’s protection against forceful bumps and scrapes, so it’s pretty important you keep this intact). And what’s worse, they’re not goingaway any time soon.
At the start of 2018, the RAC reported the third worst quarter for potholes since records began in 2006(the reason being that extreme winter conditions had caused more frozen fractures underground). So worrisome are our roads, in fact, that the government has pledged that, by 2021, more than £6bn will be spent to rid the UK of their pothole problem.
So, until then, what should you do when you hear the ominous “clunk” of a pothole. Here are some tips.
What to do if you hit a pothole
Despite your natural instincts, you should try not to swerve out of the way of a pothole. This is more likely to cause damage to your car, and worse, a collision with another driver.
Instead, if you do run into a pothole, the first thing you should do is gradually slow down so that you reduce the force of the impact (as a rule of thumb, avoid doing anything abrupt on the roads unless you absolutely have to. Other road-users aren’t to know your intentions, and they could get hurt as a result).
However, if you do hit a pothole and it feels like you’ve made heavy contact (maybe the pothole was deeper than you thought, or your vehicle hit it at an angle) then you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so.
Check for any exterior damage to your tyres and wheel arch. Then, once you get back in the car, pay attention to the way it drives. Is there a vibration running through the car? Is the steering wheel not centring like it used to? Is the car pulling to oneside voluntarily? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you should take your vehicle to a garage or tyre specialist, as there couldbe costly tracking or steering damage which will need fixing immediately.
How to make a claim
Regardless of whether you intend to make a claim or not, you should firstly report the pothole to the relevant local council. They have a duty to keep the roads safe and will need to fix any potholes which are reported to them.
Of course, this also means that, if the pothole is not reported and there is resulting damage, the chances of winning a claim are slim and you could be left with a hefty car repair bill (not ideal in the run-up to Christmas).
If you do choose to make a claim, however, you will need to send the relevant local authority a letter highlighting any details you have regarding the incident (for extra evidence, ask your mechanic to put the reasoning in writing for you).
If the local council has already received reports of the pothole, you should expect to receive either the entire repair cost back or a portion of the cost. For an idea of what to expect, the average pay-out for a pothole claim was £311 in November 2018.