What causes potholes?
When roads become worn due to heavy traffic and a lack of maintenance, tiny cracks appear, allowing water to penetrate down through the surface. In cold weather this water freezes, and when water turns to ice, it expands - splitting open those tiny cracks and destabilising the ground below the asphalt. Once the ice has melted, traffic pounds the loosened material until a divot opens up. Then as more cars and lorries drive over the weakened spot, this asphalt and underlying rubble begin to crumble, and the divot becomes a fully fledged pothole.
How to report a pothole
The longer a pothole is left unattended, the bigger it will get. So if you see a fresh pothole, consider reporting it to the appropriate authority. In England, motorways and A-roads are managed by Highways England, while in Wales, it’s Traffic Wales. But other roads are generally the responsibility of local councils. Most authorities have a clear system for reporting potholes, so visit your council’s website or give them a call. You’ll be doing everyone a favour, because potholes present a real danger to cyclists and can cause serious damage to vehicles.
Potential pothole damage
The most common result from impact with a pothole is damage to tyres and wheels. Hit a pothole at speed and your tyre can suffer a sidewall bulge or tread separation. And if a wheel gets chipped or bent, the tyre can deflate. Damage to suspension is common too, including broken ball joints, struts and shock absorbers - so if you’ve hit a pothole recently and your car feels like it’s handling differently, get it checked out by a mechanic. If a wheel drops into a deep pothole, your car can “bottom out” - this is when a vehicle’s undercarriage comes into contact with the ground, which can cause damage to the chassis, exhaust and catalytic converter.
If your car has been damaged by impact with a pothole, you may be able to claim compensation from the council responsible for road maintenance in the area. It’s worth pointing out that most councils don’t have a great record for compensating pothole victims, but if you have a serious complaint, then it’s worth registering a claim. Make a note of when the damage occurred and where the pothole is located. If it’s safe to do so, take a photo of the offending pothole. And when you’re getting your car repaired, get several quotes and keep a record of them, together with invoices for work done. Then present all your paperwork as evidence to support your case.