THOSE DREADED POTHOLES!
We are all too familiar with these dreaded potholes on our South African roads, especially during the rainy season when the surface of the road is under pressure and then cracks and holes appear seemingly out of nowhere.
WHAT CAUSES POTHOLES?
Let us start with what actually causes potholes in the first place.
Most potholes are caused by water seeping into the cracks and crevices of asphalt roads, which then freezes and thaws. This constant freezing and expanding weaken the road by shifting the layers of dirt and gravel. Holes then form under the surface of the road when the water melts. In time, together with the weight of vehicles driving over the road, the surface layer of asphalt collapses, causing the dreaded potholes.
WHERE ARE THEY MOST LIKELY TO BE FOUND?
Potholes are usually found on rural roads, residential areas where maintenance has been neglected and where there is heavy traffic flow – such as the road delivery trucks travel on to deliver to shopping centres.
WHY ARE THEY SO DANGEROUS TO MOTORISTS?
Driving over a seemingly innocent hole in the road could actually spell disaster for you. The safety threats potholes pose are more than car damage which will cost you financially, but potholes can also be the direct cause of head-on collisions and sometimes fatal accidents. Motorists may try to swerve out of the way of a large pothole, over-correct or lose control of his car and find themselves in the wrong lane and in front of oncoming traffic.
WHAT VEHICLE DAMAGE CAN I EXPECT IF I HIT A POTHOLE?
The damage to your car by hitting a pothole can be severe, particularly to the tyres, rims, suspension and chassis. Some of the more common damages to be expected are:
- Deflated or flat tyre/s – Do not drive on a flat tyre as it will cause more extensive wheel damage
- Damaged tyres – bad cracks or bulges in the tyres
- Dents and/or damage to the wheel rims – if your steering wheel starts to shake or vibrate, your could have damaged a tire or rim, or there is a problem with the wheel balance or the wheel weights are dislodged
- Alignment issues – car shaking or pulling to the left or right. If the steering wheel seems off-centre, you would need to check the wheel alignment or perhaps a steering component has been damaged.
- Some Fluid leaks which could indicate damage to your undercarriage.
- Break or bend suspension parts – have suspension inspected if you notice any strange noise/vibrations
- Strange noises coming from the exhaust system which means there is more than likely some damage to the exhaust system
- Swaying or bouncing could indicate problems with the shock absorption or suspension.
If you notice any of the above issues, you need to take your car to a professional for inspection and/or repair. You may need to purchase some tata spares, to replace certain damaged parts. These are readily available and you can choose from genuine, new or used spares.
HOW CAN I AVOID THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE?
These safe driving tips can help you navigate your way around potholes and may even minimize the damage to your car.
- Maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you so you are able to spot any potholes ahead
- Ensure you have a clear vision to the surface of the roads by keeping your windscreen and wipers clean and in good condition
- Ensure your headlights and taillights are in working order at all times
- Ensure your tyres are properly inflated at all times (check owners manual for recommended tire pressure)
- Keep an eye on your car’s suspension and keep it well maintained
- Avoid driving distracted – keep alert and look ahead
- Reduce Speed/Drive slowly – you need to allow yourself the time and space to see ahead of you
- Avoid puddles and wet surfaces which could be massive potholes filled with water
WHEN SHOULD I BE EXTRA CAUTIOUS?
- On Wet Roads – potholes look like puddles when the road is wet. Use caution when driving over any “puddles” or avoid them completely as they could be potholes in disguise
- Driving at Night – sometimes night visibility is not great and you may be blinded by oncoming headlights and not clearly see the pothole
- In Dark Areas/Poor Street Lighting. Again visibility is reduced in the dark so you may not be able see the condition of the road you are on
- Maintenance or other Warning Signs. They are warning you for a reason so just be extra cautious on this stretch of road
WHAT HAPPENS IF I CANNOT AVOID HITTING A POTHOLE?
Some potholes are unavoidable, so if you do happen hit one, these tips will ensure you are safe and will minimise the damage to your car:
- Drive slowly through it – the faster you are driving if you hit a pothole, the more severe the damage
- Do not hit the brakes violently
- Hold tight – you don’t want to lose control of your car