Secrets to Protecting Your Car from Road Salt Damage


English: Andover - Road Salt Storage Depot Thi...

Do you know how to protect your car from salt damage? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you live where it snows, you are likely to be familiar with that crusty white line that appears amongst the dirt and grime on your car. That line is left by the salt used to treat the roads. Communities use road salt in the battle against winter weather.  By lowering the freezing temperature of the water it mixes with, road salt helps melt accumulated ice and keeps new ice from forming.  It is also responsible for decreasing the number of auto accidents by about 80% in winter conditions and makes plowing and clearing roads faster and easier.  

While road salt is a godsend when it comes to driving in winter weather, it also wreaks havoc on the outside of our cars.  By promoting the development of rust, road salt can cause permanent damage and even vehicle failure if it isn’t taken care of right away.  As snowy days and icy nights approach, make sure you know how to protect your car from the ravages of road salt.

1.     Before Winter

One of the best things you can do to protect your car from rust and other road salt damage is to give it a good wax in the late fall before the snow starts to fall.  Waxing helps prevent the road salt from corroding the paint.  You should also have a sealant applied to the undercarriage of the car.  This part of your car is bombarded with road salt all winter long and things like brake lines are very susceptible to rust damage.  Protection is the first step toward preventing damage.

2.     Wash Weekly

If you are in an area where rock salt is used to keep the roads safe, even if it is mixed with sand, you need to wash your car every 7 to 10 days regardless of the weather.  Wash it again directly following any heavy snowstorms.  This routine will remove the salt residue from the car before it can cause any damage.  Make sure you are thoroughly washing the underside of the car or using a car wash that includes this service.  For best results, try and wash your car when the temperature is above 40 degrees.  After you wash the car, open all doors, hatches, and trunks and allow them to dry or dry them by hand to keep them from freezing shut. 

3.     Special Attention Areas

Make sure to clean out snow and ice that has become compacted into wheel wells and under or against the fenders.  These areas are very susceptible to rust damage and leaving snow and ice filled with road salt increases the likelihood of damage.  Wheel wells packed with snow can also impact the way the car handles and make braking, turning, and maneuvering difficult. 

4.     Don’t Forget the Carpet

The outside of the car isn’t the only part that can be affected by road salt.  Every time you step in the car with snowy shoes you are bring salt and dirt with you.  Make it a habit to vacuum the carpets in your car every time you wash it to prevent long term damage to the carpet and interior of the car. 

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