In this two-part post, we’ll look at everyone’s favourite road defect — the pothole. In this section, we look at the extent of the extent of the problem in the UK and the damage potholes can inflict on your vehicle.
We’ve all experienced it: that heart-stopping moment when you hit a pothole the size of Belgium. An almighty crash, your fillings suddenly come loose and you wonder how the car can still be in one piece.
As a busy mobile tyre service, our drivers are on the road more than most, and they get to see the pothole problem firsthand. And make no mistake, it’s a big problem.
The true state of British roads
We know that moaning about the roads is a great British pastime, but research suggests that there’s actually plenty to moan about. Every way you look at them, the pothole statistics are a shocker:
- On average, there’s a road defect every 110m of road in the UK
- Our roads could have as many as 100,000 unrepaired potholes in the UK
- One calculation estimates that the combined depth of UK potholes is around 40km
- Local Authorities pay out around £30 million in compensation for road surface problems
- According to the Ashphalt Industry Alliance, around £12 billion of funding is needed to address the issue.
As you might expect, the situation varies from region to region. If you want a smooth road, the best place to be is, no surprises, the financial district of London. In that area, according to CityAM.com:
Just 123 potholes were reported in 2016…equivalent to a depth of only two metres…the local council has repaired every single pothole and not had to pay out a penny in compensation to drivers.
We’ll just give you a moment to mutter about bankers! At the other end of the scale, The Sun recently compiled statistics on the number of potholes for the ten worst counties in the UK:
- Surrey 6,473
- Hampshire 3,241
- Kent 3,105
- Hertfordshire 3,004
- Essex 2,912
- Lancashire 2,484
- Glasgow 2,444
- Buckinghamshire 2,399
- Oxfordshire, 2,225
- Devon 2,114
Potholes and your vehicle
There are plenty of times when driving over a pothole does nothing more than make an alarming noise. Unfortunately, it’s also common for encounters with potholes to damage your vehicle. In particular, the steering and suspension are vulnerable to the extreme jolts caused by potholes, and damage may occur to the steering rack, shocks, bearings, ball joints, struts and tie rods.
The tyres can come in for a battering, too, both indirectly and directly. Indirect damage to your tyres results from the pothole disturbing the vehicle’s alignment. If the wheels are badly out of alignment, your tyres can wear rapidly and unevenly. Direct damage to the tyre usually occurs to the sidewall. The jolt transfers force to a small area of tyre, putting it under massive stress. This causes pinching of the sidewall against the rim, damaging the internal structure and forcing the inner liner to leak air. This results in a visible bulge in the tyre’s sidewall that spells trouble.
Damage to the sidewall leaves the tyre vulnerable to sudden, catastrophic failure. It should never be ignored, and can’t be safely repaired.
In Part Two, we’ll look at what you should look out for after driving over a bad pothole, and what compensation might be available.