Anyone who drives regularly on UK roads will know the sickening feeling. You’re motoring along happily without a care in the world when you hear an almighty clunk as your motorhome drops down into a pothole.
Hopefully, it won’t have caused any serious damage. But it could result in some seriously costly repairs to your cherished home on wheels, or even injury to you or your passengers. Read our straightforward guide on what to do if you hit a pothole, acting fast could save you from trouble in future.
Motorhome owners with a sense of adventure will often find themselves driving on unfamiliar roads or in difficult terrain. The most sensible way to protect yourself from the fallout from pothole problems is to have the right motorhome insurance in place.
A spotter’s guide to potholes
If you’re used to taking your motorhome out on adventures then you’ll no doubt be familiar with finding potholes in your path. And if you’re worried about the effect hitting them might have on your beloved motor, then you’re not alone! Recent research has shown that pothole-ridden local roads are the number one concern for UK drivers. Even more worrying than drivers using handheld phones, poor standards of driving, and aggressive behaviour from other motorists!
So, if you’re on the lookout for any potholes getting in your way then take note of these times when you need to be particularly wary.
If there’s been heavy rain along your route then you can probably expect to see one or two puddles along your journey. Beware of hurtling through the waters as deep potholes may lie beneath the surface of the puddles. This can be particularly dangerous if you don’t know the road and where the potholes are lurking.
Most motorhome drivers prefer to travel during the day and hope to be parked up and looking forward to a relaxing evening well before the sun goes down. However, this isn’t always possible and when visibility drops, it’s all too easy to not see a pothole until it’s too late.
Where there’s poor visibility
It’s not just at night when visibility can be an issue. If there’s fog, heavy shadow, or even glare from the sun you might not be able to see the condition of the road surface clearly.
As the temperature drops the prime cause of potholes really comes into its own. Water that has managed to seep into the road surface freezes and expands. Over time this gradually creates gaps in the surface which are then made bigger and bigger by vehicles driving over them. Watch out!
When roads are dug up for maintenance of utilities and so on, this can lead to cracks, damage, and ultimately potholes. Unfortunately, the authorities often adopt a quick-fix solution to cover potholes rather than properly repair them. If you see a ‘repair’ then still be careful.
What to do if you’ve hit a pothole
Fingers crossed you will have been driving carefully and won’t have hit the pothole hard enough to damage the motorhome. Unfortunately, accidents do happen and sometimes our luck really doesn’t hold out. So, what do you do if you’ve hit a pothole and suspect you might have damaged your precious motorhome?
Check for damage
Potholes can cause serious damage to motorhomes so it’s important to pull over when it’s safe to do so and check for damage. Particularly if you hit a large pothole at speed.
The first thing to do is to check all around your wheel and tyre for any obvious signs of damage. Even if you find only a small dent or bend in your wheel, don't ignore it. Driving on even slightly damaged tyres and wheels can cause significant damage in the longer term. The impact may also have caused your tyres to crack or become deformed. A flat tyre or one with lumps or dents in the sidewall will need to be replaced immediately. When it comes to motorhome tyre safety, UK charity Tyresafe has all the information you need to know.
Also keep an eye out for any strange vibrations through the pedals, shaking through the steering wheel, or the motorhome pulling to one side. There could easily be damage to the suspension or steering that will need to be checked out by a professional. Other problems include:
- Fluid leaks
If the pothole is deep enough, the bottom of the motorhome might even hit the road surface. With enough force, you could easily damage tanks and components under the motorhome causing fluids to leak and other long-term issues such as rust.
- Exhaust system
Parts of the motorhome exhaust system could even break or be torn loose. Any odd noises from beneath the motorhome need to be looked at by a qualified mechanic.
- Body work
Depending on how deep the pothole is and how low to the ground your vehicle sits, you could also damage low-hanging bumpers or side skirts. Leading to a sizable bodywork bill and greater depreciation in the motorhome’s value.
As well as motorhome insurance, to deal with such eventualities you’ll also want to have breakdown cover available. Speak to the team at Motorhome Protect about your options.
Remember, it’s you who is responsible for making sure your motorhome is safe to drive and roadworthy. You can be fined up to £2,500 for driving an unroadworthy vehicle. You can also be penalised with 3 penalty points for every fault. If there are enough things wrong with your van then that could translate into a driving ban! A motorhome is a large and very powerful vehicle and should never be driven if you suspect a serious problem.
A quick check at the side of the road might not have shown any damage. But what happens when you reach your destination and find that isn’t the case. Even if you don’t see any damage at first, it’s sensible to take a record of what has happened. Just in case you need to make a claim at a later date.
Take a note of the precise position of the pothole including the road name and where on the road the pothole is. For example, if the pothole is near a junction, then be sure to note this down. The more evidence you can collect the better. Perhaps download the What3Words app in order to give a suitably exact location.
One of the best ways to record the approximate size and depth of the pothole is by taking plenty of photographs. If there’s a road sign or lamppost nearby that can demonstrate the scale then also include that in the photo. Also take photographs of any damage to your motorhome.
Finally, if someone witnessed what happened, then take down their details, too. Just in case you need a witness later.
Report the pothole
Reporting a pothole is comparatively simple. And even if your vehicle isn’t damaged, by reporting it you could stop other vulnerable road users from suffering damage or injury. The first thing you need to do is to find out who has responsibility for the road and then report it on their website. But when you’re far from home you might not know who this is.
If it’s a motorway or A road in England then you need to contact Highways England. If it’s in Wales you need to contact Traffic Wales for help. If it’s any other road then find this out by entering the postcode into the government’s ‘Find your local council’ page. There are separate procedures for reporting potholes in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
If there are potholes near you then it’s important to report them asap. The Local Government Association recently announced that local councils’ budgets for road maintenance in 2021/22 has been slashed by a massive £400m – funding that could have repaired 9.5m potholes. So, get a move on before the funding dries up!
When your motorhome has been damaged through no fault of your own you might decide to apply for compensation from those responsible for maintaining the road. The organisation you contact depends on the type of road and where it is. The government has contact details for all of the main organisations and further details on making a claim.
Consumer champion Which? has some excellent step-by-step advice for making a pothole damage claim. It says:
- Collect as much evidence of the pothole and the damage it has caused as you can.
- Report a pothole to the appropriate authorities.
- Keep all receipts for emergency repair work you’ve had done. For everything else get a quote from a professional.
- Contact whoever is responsible for the road and find out how to make a claim. It’s important you follow their specific claims protocol as closely as possible.
- Be prepared to negotiate over repair costs.
- If your compensation claim is refused, don’t despair you may have grounds for an appeal.
- If you’re still not happy, take your pothole claim to the small claims court. Although you’ll probably want to get some legal advice first.
How to avoid pothole damage – six top tips
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to avoid potholes altogether on the UK’s roads, so here are some motorhome driving tips to keep damage to the minimum.
- Keep tyres correctly inflated for the time of year and driving conditions. If your tyres aren’t properly inflated then they can’t do their job properly. A well inflated tyre will cushion the force of the impact and help prevent damage to the wheel itself. Monitor tyre pressure and condition as part of your regular pre-trip checks.
- Make sure your vision is clear. Motorhomes tend to provide a great field of vision for the driver when motoring (unless you’re reversing that is). So, you should have ample time to avoid potholes completely or at least slow before hitting one. However, sometimes visibility can be affected. So, keep your windscreen clear, your windscreen wipers in tip top shape, and your headlights in perfect working order.
- Watch your speed. When you’re in a large vehicle such as a motorhome, it can take more time to slow down than when you’re driving an everyday car. Speeding will not only reduce your reaction time but also make damage far more likely. Remember, speed matters!
- Keep your steering wheel straight. Turning the wheel while going through a pothole not only makes it more likely you’ll get a flat tyre, but also increases the chance of you losing control.
- Release the brakes just before hitting the pothole. Braking directly over the pothole can cause increased damage.
- Keep everything well secured. Even a short motorhome trip will require you to have stocked up on provisions and other items to make your adventure a success. However, when you hit a pothole this can cause van contents to jump around. Prevent damage to your possessions and the van interior by making sure everything is well secured before travel. Making the best of your trip sometimes involves purchasing expensive equipment such as binoculars or cameras, so you’ll want reassurance that these are protected as well – motorhome insurance is the number one way to do that!
Protecting your vehicle with motorhome insurance cover
A motorhome is a significant investment, so they deserve significant protection when out on the road. Read up on eight things to do after a motorhome accident if the worst should happen.
However, whatever precautions you take to combat the risk of accidents, it’s pretty much impossible to rule out everything that could happen when you hit the road. But using our panel of insurers Motorhome Protect will search out the most appropriate motorhome insurance, tailored to your vehicle, needs and budget.
Cover arranged by our specialist team includes benefits such as:
- Cover for vehicles valued up to £120,000
- Cover for camping personal effects up to £3,500
- Unlimited mileage cover
- Discounts if you’re a member of a motorhome club
Call Motorhome Protect and get a quick quote for motorhome insurance today.