As Britons prepare to hit the road on family holidays and day trips out over the Summer, Britain's pothole strewn roads could leave motorists with a much bigger problem than sand in their ice cream.
Whilst potholes are usually associated with winter, heat can be equally damaging to the road surface and the latest spell of hot weather - coupled with severe downpours and flash flooding in some areas - means fresh problems are lying in wait for drivers.
Rory Carlin from Halfords Autocentres explains: "During the summer months potholes form because asphalt road surfaces can crack when subjected to the heat of the day and the stresses of higher traffic volumes. These cracks allow rainwater to seep into the underlying layers, pushing out some of the dirt and gravel, which eventually causes a hole.
"So whilst traffic jams used to be the worst thing drivers would encounter behind the wheel on a holiday or day trip, the poor surface of UK roads coupled with these repeated wet-dry cycles make the pothole situation worse and can cost you both time and money."
There are an estimated two million craters in UK roads and Halfords Autocentres figures reveal that more than 8.9 million vehicles have suffered steering, suspension or wheel damage as a result of potholes over the past year, leaving motorists with a bill of £1.2 billion in repairs – a rise of just 16% in just 12 months.
Halfords Autocentres, has found that 84% of drivers are concerned by the number of potholes on UK roads and a massive 68% had hit a pothole in the last six months. Its figures also show that women are particularly at risk during the summer because their mileage almost doubles and the likelihood of hitting a pothole increases.
Hitting a small pothole can easily cause damage, yet despite insurance companies attributing as many as one in five mechanical vehicle failures to pothole-related damage - well over a third of people (40%) don't check their car after hitting one.
To help motorists overcome the problem, earlier this year Halfords Autocentres teamed-up with Street Repairs - an online reporting tool which empowers road users to highlight the location of road maintenance and repair issues via their smartphone.
Colin Mahoney, Street Repairs MD commented: "Road users across Britain deserve to travel in safety. Tyres, suspension and steering are all crucial components of any vehicle and are all susceptible to damage after hitting a pothole, so it's vital to get your car checked by an expert because the damage isn't always immediately obvious."
With many drivers preparing to make long journeys this Summer, Halfords Autocentres offers the following advice for minimising the chances of encountering a pothole, or limiting damage if you do:
1. Stay alert - keep an eye out for potholes so that you can avoid them safely wherever possible.
2. Reduce your speed - Striking potholes at higher speeds can cause more damage to your vehicle.
3. Avoid unnecessary braking - Try not to apply your brakes when driving over a pothole. When you brake you tilt the vehicle forward placing more stress on the front suspension.
4. Hold the steering wheel correctly - In extreme cases, potholes can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Make sure you are holding the steering wheel properly – '10 to 2' hands position to help you stay on the road safely
5. Check tyre pressure regularly - ensuring your tyres have the correct pressure can help minimise potential damage caused by potholes. Recommended tyre pressures can be found in your vehicle's handbook.
6. Safety first - If you wish to inspect any damage to your car, ensure that you stop in a safe place. Only attempt to recover parts which may have fallen off, such as a hubcap, if it is safe to do so.
7. Get checked out - If you have hit a pothole and suspect your car has sustained damage, we recommend you get the vehicle checked out by your local garage. Ask them to verify if there could be any other issues such as problems with tracking and wheel alignment, tyres or suspension.
To find your nearest Halfords Autocentre, find out more about our vehicle inspection services or make a booking online visit www.halfordsautocentres.com