Keeping cars roadworthy on near-undrivable roads, is a very real problem for vehicle owners. Dodging to avoid potholes which have opened up and are not being repaired on roads across the country is one of the biggest obstacles drivers face.
What motorists may not know is that they can claim for pothole damage to their vehicles, directly from the South African National Road Agency (SANRAL) or the responsible municipality. The motorist needs to provide the exact location where the accident or damage occurred, as well as take a picture of the damaged car, the pothole and a wide shot of the road and surrounding area where the incident occurred. It is however not as easy as it sounds, in spite of the recent ruling in the Free State in favour of a claimant for such damages. The burden of proof rests on the motorist to show the pothole had been there for a time and that the authorities were aware of it, and still did nothing.
Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) says everyday South African motorists face the risk of tyre and rim damage caused by these potholes, damaged roads and road construction. Apart from posing a serious threat to the safety of motorists, hitting a pothole has the potential to damage crucial vehicle components such as tyres, rims, shocks and mags – which will set you back financially if you choose to get your vehicle repaired.
Driving over hidden or unknown potholes can cause damage to vehicles of all shapes and sizes as many motorists will attest to. And in 80% of the cases when you hit a pothole it is your rim, one of the most safety critical items on your car, that gets damaged and not the tyre. Rim damage can often lead to other problems like vehicle alignment and suspension problems.
Ranft says unfortunately it is not always possible to prevent damage, but it is advisable to know how best to solve the problem. “Rims can be very expensive, particularly with the current exchange rate, and it is not always essential to purchase a completely new rim provided that, if you elect to repair the rim, you use a reputable supplier. He says motorists should consult their local manufacturer or accredited RMI fitment centre first to determine the extent of the damage and then ensure they are referred to a specialist rim repairer.
“It is essential that the repairer is SABS approved and if possible, carries an approved ISO 9001 accreditation,” he says. “Unfortunately, not many repairers have x-ray technology and can repair according to a certain standard so one needs to choose carefully when selecting such a repairer.”
MIWA provides some useful tips on how to avoid roadside pitfalls and check damage:
· Be extra cautious when there is water on the road as a pothole may be lurking beneath. If possible, and if not endangering other motorists, rather drive around the puddle.
· If you do drive over a pothole do not slam on brakes as this could compound the damage to your vehicle or cause an accident.
· Hold the steering wheel firmly when driving over a pothole to avoid losing control of the vehicle.
· If driving at night, ensure your headlights are clean as dips and potholes are harder to identify at night.
· Do not swerve if you hit a hole as this could endanger other motorists and pedestrians.
· If the tyre has deflated this is an obvious sign the rim is damaged.
· If one feels a vibration in the steering wheel, the chances are one of the front rims are damaged and if one feels the vibration on the seat, then it’s usually a rear rim.
· Remember, if you live in Gauteng, the Gauteng provincial government has just launched its new PotholeFixGP App which allows road users to report poor road conditions and other road maintenance issues that require attention. The app, which is currently only available on the Google Play Store, is set to be rolled out on the Huawei and Apple App stores in the coming weeks.
“Should you suspect that you may have sustained damages to your rims but are unsure, feel free to call on an accredited MIWA or TEPA shop for an evaluation. Most importantly, in the event of damage, remember to consider your repair options first, ahead of buying new rims,” he concludes.