Home » The perils of potholes: How to protect your vehicle 

The perils of potholes: How to protect your vehicle 

by Tia

According to a report published by the South African National Roads Agency, there has been an increase of 67% in the number of potholes in the past five years, which is now estimated to be 25 million.

The Johannesburg Roads Agency[1] alone reported that a total of 233 claims were submitted during the third quarter of 2022, with the related damage claim payouts equating to as much as R24 863 137. The Agency also reported that in February 2023, over 12 000 potholes or claims were reported across the city.

As we head into the festive period – a busy time for South African roads, motorists are urged to take extra precautions to prevent pothole-related accidents and motor vehicle damage. Summer has arrived in South Africa, which comes with rain in most parts of the country and occasional flooding. Due to recent turbulent weather conditions eroding run-down road infrastructure – with Johannesburg’s roads taking the hardest hit – the formation of potholes remains a serious risk for motorists.

According to Youlon Naidoo, Executive Head: Claims and Procurement at MiWay Insurance at, who says that due to the deterioration of national road infrastructure, which is reportedly at its highest in Johannesburg suburbs such as Roodepoort[2], the insurer is anticipating seeing an increase in pothole-related claims, and therefore warns drivers to take extra precautions.

Stay connected. Plan smart.

With other provinces such as Durban and Tshwane reporting similarly high rates of claims, motorists need to be as vigilant as possible. Naidoo recommends planning routes carefully and avoiding highly congested highways and run-down roads where possible. “Thankfully, social media, other pothole-specific reporting sites, and digital platforms like the Sanral Pothole app have helped immensely in identifying potholes and issuing warnings ahead of time.

“At the very least, therefore, South Africans who are travelling on the roads over the festive period should check these websites for notifications on where potholes have formed and plan their route accordingly,” Naidoo says.

Got a spare?

Naidoo encourages all vehicle owners to conduct a few vital safety checks before hitting the road. The spare wheel should be in good condition and inflated according to the guidelines in the vehicle handbook. Differently sized spare wheels will require different inflation pressures to operate optimally.

When checking the spare wheel pressure, it’s also important to check for any damage or holes. Furthermore, according to South Africa’s roadworthy standards, all tyres – including a spare wheel, need to have a tread depth of at least 1.6 mm. It’s also important for motorists to bear in mind that spare wheels are intended for emergency use and drivers should not exceed 80km/h when using it.

Remember the limits on run-flats

In a bid to minimise the extent of damage caused by potholes and in the interests of maximum safety on the roads, some South Africans have opted to install run-flat tyres on their vehicles. These tyres are developed specifically to allow a tyre to continue operating in the event of a puncture and the resultant loss of tyre structure.

Drivers with run-flats need to remember that these tyres are built to operate at normal loads and operating conditions, but that in the event of a puncture, the vehicle may not be driven for a distance greater than 80 kilometers and at a maximum safe speed of 80km/hour. Drivers who do find themselves in the unfortunate situation of sustaining a prick due to a pothole should travel to the nearest service station for assistance and tyre replacement.

What to do if you sustain pothole-related damage

In the event that a vehicle sustains damage caused by a pothole and the motorist is insured, Naidoo recommends documenting the damage as thoroughly as possible. When at a safe distance from the pothole and from other cars on the road, the driver will need to inspect both the tyres and rims for any cracks or tears. The undercarriage of the car also needs to be checked for any damages or signs of leaking.

Once the extent of the damage has been ascertained, the driver should take wide angle and close-up photos of the damage and the pothole if possible. Obtaining this evidence and having it on-hand when claiming with an insurer could help in ensuring that the claims process happens as quickly and efficiently as possible.

As Naidoo concludes: “Vehicles heading out on the road need to be roadworthy and checked for safety. In case of an emergency over this period and a hassle-free self-service, you can alternatively use the MiWay App or call 08600 767 64 for Emergency Roadside Assistance. We wish all South Africans a safe festive season and a pothole incident-free ride.” 

[1] https://www.citizen.co.za/motoring/johannesburg-pothole-count-increasing-along-with-damage-claims/

[2] https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/city-of-potholes-roodepoort-reports-highest-number-of-potholes-in-joburg-20230117

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