Potholes, and the damage they can do to your car

potholes can damage your tyres

As adverse weather events attributable to climate change increase in frequency, their consequences are being felt more broadly. And it’s not just in obvious ways. The devastating effects of both floods and fires across Australia have been obvious to all. But events such as floods can have smaller day-to-day effects as well. One of those is the mortal enemy of those of us who drive – potholes.

Without underplaying the serious pain and disruption – even loss of life – caused by storms, floods and fire, it’s worth having a look at some of the less prominent consequences.

Potholes are a salient one, because they occur everywhere – in both cities and country towns – and can affect many.

The potential damage caused by sinkholes, such as that which opened up near Rutherglen in Victoria last November, is clear. Less obvious is the damage the much smaller ones can do to your car’s tyre, wheel or both.

Smaller they may be, but potholes are far more common than sinkholes, and their small size can often be the major contributor to car trouble.

What’s so bad about potholes?

The pothole’s lack of size gives it a two-pronged ‘attack’ on your beloved vehicle. First, a small pothole is often difficult to see. On a wet road, a pothole full of water can look very much like nothing more than a puddle. Aside from creating a bit of a splash, driving through a puddle is hardly likely to cause a problem. (Unless you happen to a pedestrian within close range.)

By the time you’ve come close enough to realise the puddle is in fact a pothole, it’s too late. That’s when a pothole’s small size becomes its second weapon. It may be too small to spot in time, but it’s just large enough to snugly accommodate your car’s wheel.

And when that wheel passes through the pothole at speed, even low speed, that’s when the damage can be done. At risk are the tyre, and sometimes even the wheel itself.

The sudden shock can cause a tyre to blow out, an event that is annoying at least, if not serious. More serious is the potential damage to the rim and the wheel. There has been an increasing trend (for reasons that escape me) in recent years to fit cars with low-profile tyres.

These ever-larger alloy rims and low profile tyres are not well-equipped to absorb the impact associated with a pothole.

While even rim damage can seem relatively minor in the context of cost, the damage of driving through a pothole can extend to a car’s suspension. Multiple pothole ‘events’ can even reduce your car’s life expectancy.

What can you do?

Prevention is better than cure, so they say, and that holds true here, too. Try and stick to the speed limit and “scan the road” (as my dad use to say). And if you see a pothole, report it to your local council and try a different route until it’s fixed.

But if you’re unlucky enough to fall victim to a pothole and sustain some damage, you may be able to claim compensation from your local authority. That will, of course, depend on being able to show that the authority is responsible through lack of maintenance.

And right now, as a result of high rainfall in some parts of the country, waiting times can be lengthy.

The process for making such claims may very slightly across our states and territories, but it is broadly the same. If your car does sustain some damage, take a photo of the pothole and the damage.

Ideally, though, be ‘pothole aware’ and take any practical steps you can to steer clear of them. And take extra-special care after a downpour or storm.

Has your car fallen victim to a pothole? What damage was caused? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: How to keep it safe when driving on the roads

Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

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  1. If you notice any Damaged Council Infrastructure, report it immediately, preferably with associated photos. This is because, if the Council can prove that they did not know about the damaged infrastructure, then they are legally not liable for any damage that it causes to you or property.
    I know this from experience, my car was damaged by Damaged Council Infrastructure, but the Council stated that as they did not know about that infrastructure damage, they are not liable. All I wanted was them to pay my Insurance Excess.

  2. Never mind the potholed local roads, try the Newell Highway sometime. Even the transport drivers in B-doubles and B-trebles fight with them daily and appear to to be driving drunk, but no they are avoiding bloody potholes and soft sunken spots.
    I laughingly refer to my steering wheel as the BAS (Bump Avoidance System).

  3. This article misses the point. Aussie roads, except motorways have been built to a low (cheap) standard for many decades. They shouldn’t normally break-up just because of heavy rain.
    NZ has more rain than us and their roads are exemplary.

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