pot holes in road

How seriously can potholes damage your car?

16th May, 2023

Potholes are the bane of UK roads, and no matter how hard you try, sometimes hitting them is unavoidable. (Especially if you don’t see them until too late, which is all too often the case!) So, the question is: how seriously can potholes damage your car? The answer obviously varies depending on several factors – they can range from virtually harmless to pretty dangerous, and some have the ability to damage your car pretty seriously.

Now, that doesn’t mean that every time you hit a minor pothole you’re going to be stuck with hundreds of pounds worth of damage. In most instances, it’s probably not going to cause you to decide: I need to scrap my car. But obviously, even minor damage can be (at best) irritating, and at worst outright dangerous – so if you want a bit more detail about what’s involved in avoiding potholes, here’s our brief guide.

What is a pothole?

A pothole is a depression or hollow in a road’s surface, typically caused by wear or sinking. And, generally speaking, there are two main factors that affect the severity of the damage they can cause to your vehicle:

• How fast you hit the pothole
• How deep/wide the pothole is

Not every pothole is going to cause damage. In fact, in most cases you’ll probably get away with no serious damage at all, beyond an unpleasant jolt (although we recommend avoiding them to the best of your ability). Unfortunately, though, pothole damage is an all too common problem for drivers of all vehicles.

Much of the damage caused by potholes is obvious to the eyes but unfortunately, sometimes, it’s the hidden damage which can really cause problems. So let’s go through some of the different types of damage your car can sustain from hitting potholes.

Tyres and rims

It can be really frustrating paying for new tyres only to have them ruined by a pothole on a rubbish road – tyres aren’t cheap! And, while modern tyres are definitely sturdier, no tyre is immune to the damage caused by hitting a pothole at speed. While a flat tyre is a good indicator that a pothole did some damage, it’s definitely a good idea to closely inspect your tyres on a regular basis, even if they don’t appear to be deflated.

Start by looking for anything that seems out of the ordinary, like bulges or any abnormal bubbles along the side of the tyre wall. If you spot any of these issues, it’s best to have your mechanic look over it so you can avoid any dangerous blowouts while you’re driving. The same is true for your rims – any damage or dents to your rims can lead to damage to your tyres, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Fluid leaks

Some potholes are deep enough that your car’s undercarriage will suffer a hefty scrape, which can cause a whole host of issues. If you notice a leak from under your car after you’ve hit a pretty nasty pothole, there’s a good chance that your undercarriage will have suffered some damage. If this is the case, we’d always recommend getting it looked at as soon as possible to avoid the damage worsening over time. With major jobs like this, the costs of repairs can start rocketing pretty rapidly.

Suspension damage

As you drive over a pothole, the initial force on your tyres is then transferred to the suspension system. Frequent bumps caused by driving over potholes will wear down your suspension over time, affecting its performance and making it harder for you to drive your car safely.

Some signs there’s a problem with your car’s suspension include: your car pulling to one side, or an unusual sound (like ticking, clicking or vibrating), and the handling feeling looser. If you experience any of these signs, you’re best getting it checked out before it becomes a future issue.

How to avoid pothole damage

It’d be impossible to drive around without encountering at least a few potholes, especially in major cities. Thankfully though, there are a few ways you can minimise the potential damage they’ll do to your car and they are:

  • Slowing down – Approaching a pothole at speed is going to increase the likelihood of sustaining serious damage.
  • Don’t slam on – A perfectly natural reaction to hitting a deep pothole would be to hit the brakes in an attempt to minimise damage. However, brakes could be putting more strain on your vehicle’s suspension system. Like we touched on above, going slow and steady is the best course of action.
  • Tyre pressure – Keeping your tyres at the right pressure (not overinflated or under-inflated) will help reduce the likelihood of damage in the event that you do hit a pothole. Properly inflated tyres will also help to lower your chances of a puncture or blowout while driving.

As annoying as potholes are, the chances of them disappearing from our roads any time soon is highly unlikely. Ultimately, there’s no better defence against them than simply keeping a careful eye out, and watch for any traffic up ahead that might be swerving around something you can’t see. And of course, if you do notice any unusual sounds, fluids or problems with your car after hitting a pothole, getting a once over from a professional is the best thing you can do.

However, if you do happen to have an unfortunate encounter with a pothole that leaves your car unroadworthy, we’ve got the solution. Here at Scrap Car Network we’ll give you an instant quote for your car today. It’s free and easy to get an instant online quote, and there’s no obligation to proceed until you’re ready! Simply enter your registration and postcode into the fields on our site and find out what your car could be worth within seconds.

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