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Potholes are damaging vehicles say Sheppey and Sittingbourne mechanics

By John Nurden

Hard-pressed motorists are having to shell out extra cash to replace broken car and van springs.

Older vehicles are especially vulnerable to the latest epidemic which some blame on the state of Kent’s pothole-ridden roads.

Stuart Bradburn, who runs G’s Drive Thru in Blue Town, Sheerness, said: “I seem to be replacing these all the time now. Some say car-makers are using a different type of steel but I blame it on the roads. There are huge potholes everywhere.”

Stuart Bradburn of G's Drive-Thru MOT Centre in Blue Town, Sheerness, says he is replacing at least three car springs a week.
Stuart Bradburn of G's Drive-Thru MOT Centre in Blue Town, Sheerness, says he is replacing at least three car springs a week.

He is replacing up to three springs a week at an average cost of £120 a time.

Ben Smith, the workshop manager at A2 Tyre Supplies on Sittingbourne’s Trinity Trading Estate, said: “Springs are thinner these days and do rust and deteriorate over time. But hitting a pothole doesn’t help.

“Sometimes we have fitted two or three a day. Last weekend we had to fit two on a van. I would estimate most garages average one a day.”

But he added: “Potholes are mainly to blame for tyre and wheel damage. There was a pothole which opened up on the A2 the other day and we had four cars in almost immediately.”

An engineer at SMC Ford in Sittingbourne said he hadn’t noticed any increase in damaged suspensions but admitted there had been more buckled wheels, split tyres and wheel alignment problems.

He said: “Damaged springs are more likely to affect older cars.”

One motorist’s front offside coil spring broke while his Seat Alhambra was going over the Sheppey Crossing late at night. The car shuddered as the metal spring tore into the front tyre.

Many damaged springs are discovered during routine servicing or MoTs.

Issy Anderson was injured after crashing her car when this giant pothole opened up on the A249.
Issy Anderson was injured after crashing her car when this giant pothole opened up on the A249.

On January 4 Issy Anderson was injured and her black Ford Ka was written off after it struck a 100-foot long gash which opened up on the A249 at Bobbing during heavy rain.

In the last financial year Kent County Council received 958 claims for damage or injury caused by bad roads but only paid out for 132 - 14%.

One in seven motorcyclists say they have suffered damage or injury from a pothole, according to a survey by the Kent Advanced Motorcyclists Group.

Spokesman Nick Farley said: “It is high time the government, both national and local, took its share of the responsibility for road safety. We can all improve our skills but we cannot improve the roads."

A KCC spokesman said: "We have more than 5,000 miles of road which, in part, explains our position in terms of the number of claims lodged. The ‘successful’ claim figures reflect a low level of liability because of our improved fault reporting and repairs brought in over the past few years.”

KCC insists it does not have to pay if plans were already made for repairs.

Steve Mallett from the Motorcycle Action Group's North Kent branch said: “When repairs are made, they should be good quality. They now seem to be of a very low standard.”

Recently completed repairs to Marine Parade in Sheerness near the Ship on Shore pub now have potholes again.

To claim for the cost of repairs, call 03000 418181 during office hours for a form.

But KCC’s website www.kent.gov.uk warns: “Please think carefully before you submit a claim. Even the cost of processing your request diverts money from important front-line services.

"Any compensation is paid from public money so we will always justify the claim. There is no automatic right to compensation.”

Claims are dealt with under sections 41 and 58 of the Highways Act 1980.

It adds: “Because of the legal defence available, the majority of compensation claims are unsuccessful.”

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