With the harsh weather of winter comes every driver’s enemy – the pothole.
The rain, snow and ice inevitably lead to more damaged roads and, in turn, more damage to cars but drivers are being advised that a simple check could save them hundreds of pounds in repair bills.
Colder weather affects the pressure of your car’s tyres, with each drop of 1 degree Celcius reducing the pressure by around 0.19PSI, so tyres inflated when it’s warmer will be softer in the cold weather.
Under-inflated tyres are more susceptible to damage from potholes and other road imperfections and the risk extends beyond the tyre to the wheel, steering and suspension components.
By checking your tyre pressures once a week during the winter months you’re less likely to suffer under-inflation problems and the potential damage they can bring.
James O’Malley, director from Select Car Leasing, explains: “When the mercury drops, the risks posed by potholes are increased – and it’s not just down to the state of the UK’s roads, which break up even more during periods of freeze and thaw.
“In cold weather, your tyre pressure drops, as the air inside actually contracts and shrinks.
“If a tyre is inflated to 29 PSI at 20C, it might only read 26 PSI at 0C.
Read more: How to claim for pothole damage to your car
“Those lower pressures can cause all sorts of problems – increased fuel consumption, more wear on tyres, increased braking distances, and compromised steering and handling.
“And what it also does is make tyres more prone to suffering bulges, tears and even bursts, while also leading to cracked alloy wheels.”
However, going too far the other way can be equally problematic.
“Properly inflated tyres – not too soft, and not too hard – is one of the best ways to limit pothole damage.
“If your tyre pressure is too high, the impact of a pothole isn’t transferred properly through the wheel, and it’s more likely to damage your vehicle’s suspension, resulting in damaged track rod ends, broken coil springs or even bent suspension wishbones.
“In winter, we should all be keeping a really close eye on our tyre pressures. Consult the recommended PSI in your vehicle’s handbook and check them at least once a week.”
A burst tyre is an expensive first problem – with a decent brand costing anything from £50 for a small city car to almost £300 for a premium SUV. But the damage can extend beyond that to other components. A cracked alloy rim caused by a pothole will cost around £200 for a 2016 Ford Fiesta and a lot more for larger cars with bigger wheels..
Recent data shows that claims for pothole damage have reached a five-year high, more than doubling in 2017/18.
The Highways Agency said there were 528 claims upheld between April 2017 and April 2018, compared to just 212 in 2016/17, with the cost of settling those claims rising from £54,301 to £164,341.