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What those potholes will do to your vehicle

Potholes are bowl shaped openings on the road surface. They can be up to 10 inches deep and several feet wide depending on the severity of road damage.

They are mainly caused when small cracks on the road surface allow water to seep through and weaken the soil beneath the asphalt surface. As vehicles pass over, the paved surface gets stressed and breaks away.

With continued wheel loads, the adjacent areas around the cracks are plucked out and the pothole grows wider. They are generally bound to appear during cold or thawing weather where the effects are most aggravated.

Effects

The effects of potholes usually affect the suspension system, steering system, tyres and car rims. The undercarriage and sometimes the exhaust system are damaged in severe cases.

Severe injuries have been reported when vehicles hit a pothole or swerve to avoid hitting one. Pothole problems are not only experienced by car drivers but by motorcycles too.

In fact, motorbikes are poorly equipped to handle potholes and so the effects of running over a pothole are usually more devastating and sometimes deadlier because of the instability of having just two wheels on the ground and a much lighter vehicle weight.

Some signs of pothole damage include: the vehicle sways on turns, the front end dives when braking, the front or rear end sits lower than usual, the car experiences underside leakages and physical damage like dents and loss of directional control when the car comes to a sudden stop.

Worse damage

These are just a few signs that your shocks and steering system have been damaged by the effects of hitting potholes. Should you realise that your car has any of these signs, you should have it checked immediately since you might suffer worse damage if you ignore them.

In Kenya, potholes are a common phenomenon we have to face every time we get on our roads but often, drivers don’t know how to drive apporopriately on potholed roads.

To begin, keep a good distance between you and the car in front of you to enable you to see a pothole before hitting it. Do not swerve to avoid hitting potholes as this causes loss of traction and makes your driving dangerous to other traffic and pedestrians in the vicinity.

Keep your speeds low in pothole filled roads because more vehicle damage occurs when hitting potholes at high speeds.

Apply brakes

Don’t apply brakes when driving over a pothole as this applies stress on the front suspension of the vehicle and can lead to greater rim and tyre damage. If you can’t avoid a pothole make sure you stop and look for damage as soon as possible after you have hit one.

While the easy way to avoid potholes is to bypass them, sometimes encounters with potholes are inevitable. Keeping your tyres at recommended pressures is paramount as over­inflated tyres are just as bad as under­inflated ones when it comes to pothole damage.

It is hard to judge the size of a pothole in rainy weather and sometimes you might not see them at all. Keep your speeds low as extra caution might help you identify other road hazards.