Chloe Allen

Chloe Allen

Our Digital Marketing Executive Chloe is in charge of our e-newsletter. There's no one better placed to inform and delight you every month, so keep your eyes peeled for her newsletter hitting an email inbox near you soon.

Read time of 5 minutes.

The state of our roads is enough to drive anyone potty. Forget spooky season, it’s pothole weather you need to keep on your radar as we head towards winter.

Listen, we love this season as much as the next person.

The smell of bonfires, the crisp crunch of fallen leaves, the prospect of a proper Sunday roast’s a cosy vibe we can fully get behind.

But the downside to autumn weather is most keenly felt on our roads – which after years of council budget cuts are in a worse state than ever. And it’s drivers who end up paying the price when the problem is ignored.

As the night skies start closing in, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know to get through pothole season without breaking the bank.

What causes potholes? 

We love life in the UK for the most part.

But if there is a downside, it’s that our beautiful island has prime conditions for creating monstrous potholes. Yes, there are a few different factors involved, but it’s that crucial freeze-thaw cycle we see so much in British autumns and winters that make our roads a hotbed for pothole creation.

Water seeps into cracks and pores in the road surface, which freeze in colder weather and then expand, weakening the structure of the road. When the ice thaws, it leaves gaps and voids in the road that, you guessed it, become troublesome potholes.

Heavy traffic and vehicle loads play their part too.

As cars and SUVs continue to grow in weight, they weaken the roads and accelerate signs of deterioration and damage – creating the cracks that moisture seeps into.

And of course, if the road has been poorly constructed or maintained this can cause problems too.

Why are our roads already in such bad condition? 

We can put our money where our mouth is – or more accurately, behind the dedicated findings of the RAC, who reported a 20% increase in pothole related breakdowns between 2022 and 2023.

Between April and June this year alone, over 8,100 pothole breakdowns were reported which is the highest number in five years.

But that’s not the only depressing stat.

Since the start of this year, the RAC has dealt with a stunning 18,250 breakdowns for damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs or distorted wheels – which are all the most frequent callouts for defects caused by broken roads (aside from punctures, of course). 

Surely, you’d think, councils must be doing something about this?

Not enough, unfortunately. Only 1.4 million potholes were filled in England and Wales between 2022 and 2023, which is down from 1.7 million the year before.

So why is this?

Essentially our roads are being harder hit than ever between wet winters and the increasing weight of traffic causing faster wear and deterioration. And after years of austerity politics (and a pandemic on top of it), our councils simply lack the funds to keep up with the problem.

And unfortunately, a council that can’t keep up means the damage to the road worsens in severity and wait times for repairs increase dramatically.

Poor Stoke-on-Trent has an average wait time of 657 days for individual pothole repairs. That’s coming up on two years to wait for a hole in the road to be patched up!

And during that wait, the damage will keep growing.

Forget patching a pothole, by that point you’re probably looking at a moon-crater in the middle of the street. You might as well resurface the entire road given how much structural integrity it will have lost waiting for a patch repair.

And think how many drivers will hit such potholes in that time – whether accidentally, or because the damaged area has grown so large it can’t be avoided – and unwittingly damage their vehicles in turn.

Locals in Plymouth clearly share this view; some are so fed up with long wait times there, that individuals have started spray painting a certain phallic body part around particularly bad holes – but we’ll leave that to your imagination. 

What are the ways in which a pothole can damage my lease car? 

If you’ve ever hit a pothole unexpectedly, you know exactly how the impact jolts the car and goes all the way up your spine.

It is Not Nice.

Hit a pothole hard enough and at the right angle and you can puncture your tyres, or even blow them out entirely, and you do not want to be stranded on the side of the road with a flat.

We think it’s a toss up whether it would be worse for that to happen on a dark country road, or in busy lane traffic with a queue of furious commuters behind you as you wait for a rescue.

But there are other, less obvious ways potholes can damage your car which you need to be aware of.

Hit a pothole too fast and you can ruin your wheels and damage the suspension of your car. Wheel misalignment as a result will cause you further problems and affect your steering – the last thing anyone wants is a struggle to keep the car from drifting on a busy motorway.

But you can damage the exhaust or undercarriage too if the pothole is deep enough that the underside of your vehicle hits the road surface (yikes).

Let’s not forget the risk of cosmetic damage.

Potholes come in all shapes and forms unfortunately, and there is danger of loose asphalt flying up and damaging the paintwork or your car. Not ideal when you have to hand your lease car back at the end of your term.

Most importantly though is the risk to your safety.

Any kind of impact or collision on the road – whether with another vehicle, or a pothole popping up suddenly – increases the risk that you may lose control of your vehicle completely. And if it’s a bad collision, you may not even have a functional car at the end of it.

Damaged roads are a hazard to all road users– drivers, cyclists and even pedestrians.

Report a pothole near you

The wait time for a fix might be astronomical in some places, but that’s no reason not to bring damaged stretches of road to your local council’s attention.

The more people report a specific hole, the more pressure councils are under to deal with it.

You can report directly to your local council, or use apps like Fixmystreet to do so. It’s a quick and easy way to note a damaged road which will be fed back to your local council, without the faff of having to write a lengthy email about it.

And if your car is damaged by impact with an untreated pothole, there is always a chance you can claim back the damage to your vehicle. If you do make a claim, we’d recommend you keep receipts for any work done to correct the damage – you likely won’t see a penny of compensation without one.

Our tips for managing pothole season

You’d have to be a bit deranged to hit a pothole on purpose, wouldn’t you?

But with so many on our roads these days, they’re becoming harder and harder to avoid.

For those of us living in more rural areas with no street lighting, they are particularly difficult to navigate. When driving down a narrow, pitch-black country lane in the dead of winter for instance, you may not see the crater in the road at all, but you’ll definitely feel it.

While we can blithely recommend you try to avoid impact, sometimes it’s just not possible. But you can take steps to protect your car from further damage.

If (like this writer), you keep hitting the same infuriating potholes day after day, regular maintenance and servicing is an excellent way to keep on top of any damage to your suspension and steering.

But if your main concern is preserving the condition of your car, you may have an insurance package that will cover (and repair!) the damage so you don’t get hit with any pesky fees at the end of your lease.

Our Smart, Smart+, and Tyre and Alloy packages are designed to keep your car in spick-span shape for the duration of your lease. If it’s not something you’ve considered before, it might be worth keeping in mind for any future leases.

You should also check your breakdown cover as we head deep into autumn. The absolute worst time to find out you don’t actually have it, is when you really need it.

In some cases, breakdown cover will be included with your car lease as many manufacturers offer this with new vehicles below a certain age. If in doubt, check the manufacturer website to see if you have free breakdown cover.

However, you may also have this as part of your comprehensive insurance cover, so check with your provider too.

And lastly, though you should always be aware of cyclists on the road, be even more wary in autumn and winter. Just like cars, bicycles and the people on them are vulnerable to road conditions and the way some potholes form can pose a particular risk to those on two wheels.

So slow down, keep your distance and be mindful.

Interested in extra protection for your next lease car?