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Protecting Your Car From Road Salt

by Autotropolis Contributors
January 12, 2011

Although road salt is necessary for safe transportation when snow and ice accumulate on roads and highways, taking active steps to protect your car from road salt is necessary to avoid rust and corrosion and general loss of your investment.

Salt was first used in snow and ice control in the 1930s to make roads safe and passable by creating a lower water freezing temperature. Salt is the most available and cost-effective de-icer and is easy to store, handle, and apply. Unfortunately, road salt also promotes rapid corrosion.

When salt is on the road, washing your car is the major factor in combating corrosion and maintaining the value of your car. Salt that remains on a vehicle surface and undercarriage for any length of time can;

  • damage your car's clear finish.
  • promote rust.
  • affect the mechanics of your vehicle.
  • Wash your vehicle every 10 days or less.
  • Wash your vehicle whenever the temperature reaches 40 degrees F. or higher.
  • Wash your vehicle during the day to allow it to dry completely before freezing evening temperatures begin.
  • Immediately after washing the vehicle, open and close all doors, the trunk, and other parts of the car with locks several times before parking it to prevent locks from freezing.
  • Avoid driving through deep snow. Deep snow can become packed into the undercarriage and contribute to corrosion and even cause drivability problems (reduced braking action, vibrations, inhibit airflow, etc).

Snow and sleet contain corrosive road salt and rain and snow collects pollutants in the air and drops them as acid rain which can damage the protective finish of your car.

  • Wash your vehicle as soon as possible after a snow or rain shower if you live in an area subject to acid rain.
  • Wash the underside of your car often during the winter months in a car wash that does not use recycled water.
  • Avoid driving through large puddles of standing water where road salt collects.
  • Repair paint chips that are larger than the tip of a pen to avoid corrosion.
  • Wax your vehicle at least every six months to give your vehicle a strong protective coating.
  • Wax your vehicle before winter to protect your paint from corrosive salt.

Vehicles are one of the biggest investments we make in our lifetimes and protecting them from the ravages of the environment, such as salt and rust is important. Certain vehicle problems are inevitable, but rust from road salt is one that can be prevented.

Some of the areas of vehicles that are most affected by rust are body panels including doors, fenders, the hood, and tailgate. The reason for this is that they inherently have areas that retain moisture. Depending upon the model of vehicle, there are many other areas that can retain moisture as well. Certain cars retain more moisture just due to the way they are designed, so you have to be especially careful and vigilant with them. Some factors that you have no control over include the environment in which you live. If you live in a coastal area you are exposed to more salt air for example. If you live in an area where there is snow and ice on the road, the authorities usually use salt on the roads which can result in rust on your car's undercarriage.

  1. Keep your car clean and coated with a finish protectant at all times.
  2. Keep the underneath of your car rinsed continually when you are in an area where a lot of salt is present as mentioned above.
  3. Keep your grill, cowl, tires, and wheels clean and free from moisture holding material like leaves.
  4. Make sure any drainage holes in the frame, floor, and the bottoms of the doors are clear so that any moisture can get out.
  5. Always open your doors after washing your car to allow any accumulated water to drain out.

Rust proofing only works on new vehicles. Rustproofing a pre-owned vehicle may trap dirt and moisture beneath the product resulting in an increased risk of rust and corrosion.


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