4 pothole safety tips all drivers should know

Kwik Fit | Thursday 5th April 2018 10:45am

damaged road with potholes

Whether you donít spot them in time or thereís simply no way to drive around them, sometimes potholes canít be avoided. Itís a common road hazard that many drivers come across almost everyday, especially during the winter. In a recent study we carried out into the state of the UKís pothole problem, we found that 70% of drivers have hit at least one pothole a week over the past year, with 25% saying they hit one every single day*.

Negotiating your way around the many potholes in the road has clearly become a daily occurrence. However, these road imperfections could be more damaging than you think. Not only can driving over potholes damage your tyres, but it can also cause problems with your carís steering, suspension and wheel alignment, and it can even cause fluid leaks - all of which can be costly to repair.

With this in mind, here are four pothole safety tips all drivers should know.

1. Make sure your tyres are in good condition

One way to reduce the risk of damage to your car from potholes is to make sure your tyres are in good condition. Perhaps most importantly, they need to have the correct pressure. Properly inflated tyres give extra protection against impacts and can help to minimise any damage. Itís worth bearing in mind that tyres with too much or too little air generally fare worse when confronted with uneven road surfaces. To find out what the recommended pressure for your tyres is, check behind the driverís door, under the fuel cap or in the ownerís manual. You should also look out for any bulges or excessive wear in the sidewall, as tyres with these problems wonít hold up well either.

Potholes and our tyre choices

In our research we found that the impact of potholes has led drivers to change their tyre purchasing habits. 5% of drivers in our survey said that they now buy cheaper tyres as the poor quality of road surfaces means tyres become damaged before the tread wears out. Conversely, 4%, which equates to around 1.5 million drivers, do precisely the opposite and now buy more expensive premium tyres which are better at coping with the poor road conditions*.

As well as keeping tabs on your tyres, itís important to make sure your car is serviced regularly, and if you suspect any problems with your steering or suspension, get your vehicle looked at by an expert. Check that your lights are working properly too, and make sure your windscreen wipers are functioning well and your windscreen washer fluid is always topped up. If you keep your car in good condition, it can help you to avoid potholes in the first place, as well as cushioning the impact if itís unavoidable. Remember, a well maintained car can help you to steer clear of all sorts of other hazards as well, not just potholes.

2. Practice good driving habits

Practicing safe and responsible driving should be done at all times, but there are a few habits that are particularly helpful for avoiding potholes. While the simplest solution is to drive around them, this isnít always possible, especially in the dark or when theyíre not clearly visible. As long as itís safe to do so, one way to lessen the damage is to slow down if you see a pothole ahead. The slower youíre driving, the less impact thereíll be on your tyres and suspension.

You should also try to maintain enough space between you and the vehicle in front at all times. This will allow you to clearly see the road ahead and keep an eye out for any rough surfaces. Where possible and safe, drive around puddles too as there could be holes hidden beneath patches of water. This road damage is often caused by water that seeps through cracks, so thereís a significant chance that youíll find cavities lurking underneath puddles. 

It's also sensible to avoid roads that are known for being in poor condition. If possible, try to take a different route, particularly if you know that a road has a lot of uneven surfaces. Even though the journey might take you longer, it could save you from having to fork out for costly repairs and more importantly, reduce the risk of an accident.

3. Keep a firm hold on the steering wheel

When driving over a pothole, make sure you keep a firm grip on the steering wheel to remain in control of the car. The dip in the road can cause your vehicle to change direction suddenly, which can be dangerous for yourself and other road users. Straightening your wheels will also mean you hit the road defect head on, which is better than making contact at an angle as this can cause more damage to your wheels. Braking directly over the hole is not recommended. If you havenít managed to slow down beforehand, try to continue at the same speed over it rather than braking.

Itís also important not to swerve at the last minute. Even though this may be your natural reaction to avoid inflicting damage on your car, it can be dangerous if you veer into another lane. Making sudden turns also means that youíre more likely to hit the hole at an angle.

If you think that a wheel, tyre or another part of your car has been damaged after making contact with a cavity, slow down and pull over in a safe place to inspect your vehicle. It may be that you have a flat or punctured tyre, or another problem, and need to call for assistance.

4. Know the common signs of pothole damage

Some of the most obvious signs of pothole damage are punctures, bulges in the tyre sidewall or dents in the wheel rim. Other common indicators include fluid leaks, wear underneath the car or an unusual noise coming from the exhaust. Your car may also start to pull to one side, or there might be uneven wear on your tyres. Both of these issues could signal a problem with the wheel alignment. You may also feel as though the car is bouncing slightly, which could mean that something is wrong with the suspension. 

If you notice any of these issues, take your car to a professional to get it checked out as soon as possible. It may be that you need your tyres replacing, rebalancing or realigning. Bear in mind that the sooner these problems are dealt with, the less chance there is of them developing into more serious and expensive problems in the future.

By properly maintaining your vehicle and practicing safe driving habits, you stand a much better chance of minimising the damage caused by potholes or avoiding them altogether. If you come across a cavity in the road that is particularly large or deep, it may also be worth reporting it to your local council so it does not pose a risk to other motorists in the future.

* Research carried out by Walnut on behalf of Kwik Fit among a nationally representative sample of 2049 GB adults, 28 Feb Ė 2 March 2018

Tags : Tips

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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