It’s common knowledge that snow and icy road conditions can cause car accidents. That is also why salt is used on the roads since it helps to melt snow and ice and provides some extra traction when combined with sand.
That is why washing your car in the midst of winter is important aside from it looking clean, but also to removing the salt that accumulates. Cleaning road salt from your car’s surface is the best practice to help prevent rust damage. The car’s undercarriage is often the worst affected by road salt corrosion. Brake lines are typically another of the areas affected, so having them checked frequently is important.
Road salt is good for having roads in the drivable condition in the winter as it lowers the freezing point of water. It chemically turns that ice back into the water so the car tires can reach the pavement for traction instead of just sliding on top of the ice.
Does road salt damage cars?
Yes, road salt can damage cars – quite extensively. While road salt is required for safe winter driving, it is also extremely corrosive and can cause extensive damage to vehicles over time.
When salt is applied to roads to melt snow and ice, it can cling to the undercarriage, wheels, and other vehicle parts.
Why does road salt have a detrimental impact on cars?
Salt is naturally corrosive to metal. Salt also reacts with oxygen and water to create increased corrosion. Additionally, the fact that the corrosion, or rust, is often not detected until it is well advanced adds to the detrimental effect.
How quickly can road salt damage cars?
How fast road salt can damage a car depends on a number of factors, including the concentration of road salt the car has been exposed to on the roads, how often the car is exposed to road salt, and how quickly the salt is cleaned off the car. As a rule of thumb, the longer road salt is left on the car’s undercarriage, the faster the appearance of damage and the worse the damage will be.
Does road salt cause rust?
The biggest threat salt poses to a vehicle is rust, which is accelerated by repeated exposure to salt. Rust on certain car parts can create many problems ranging from hydraulic brake system leaks to subframe damage.
Due to the construction of a vehicle with most of the underbody being wide open, most salt damage occurs underneath the car and, as a result, can be difficult to detect visually. This encourages rust to spread past where it can be stopped or easily controlled.
How fast does road salt rust cars?
A small patch of rust is bad enough, but if it’s not treated quickly, the rust damage can spread into the car’s body and cause further damage. This can be very expensive in the long run.
The speed at which road salt can rust cars depends on the concentration of salt on the road, the frequency of the car’s exposure to the road salt, and the type and age of the car. However, it is generally agreed upon that road salt can quickly cause extensive rust damage to cars. Often faster than you’d imagine.
How water can accelerate rusting of your car
The damage caused by road salt is often worse in areas with high humidity. Humidity accelerates the rusting process. Similarly, older vehicles or those with existing rust damage may be more susceptible to further rusting from road salt exposure – especially in humid areas.
Moisture accelerating rust is not only from humidity. After driving on salt-treated roads, many drivers then pull their cars into a garage, which allows the ice, snow and salt from the roadways to sit underneath the car and rot away at the car’s under components. This rotting or corrosion can harm the car’s exhaust and muffler systems, coil springs and the car’s frame.
How do you prevent salt corrosion to your car?
There are several steps you can take to prevent the start of road salt corrosion or rust on your vehicle. It may seem unnecessary to you at first if you are not familiar with the effect of road salt on cars. You may even think, how can a bit of road salt cause so much damage to my car, so quickly?
The necessity of road salt makes it hard to avoid damage, but visiting a car wash frequently during the winter months can help you battle salt’s detrimental effects.
Vehicles can also be taken to a collision shop before the winter season to have their vehicles pre-treated with an oil solution under-spray to help fight winter road salt damage. Applying a rust inhibitor or protective coating can help to prevent or slow down the development of rust. Regular inspections and maintenance by a qualified mechanic can also help identify and address rust damage early on before it becomes more severe.
Driving on road salt is fairly common during winter; you should be aware of potential damage and never drive a vehicle with a red brake warning light on. This light indicates a low fluid condition and can lead to severe consequences if driven without immediate consultation.
More tips on preventing road salt damage to your car
What can you do to fight road salt car damage? There are a number of steps you can take to minimize road salt damage. Importantly, you need to follow the steps carefully and diligently. Try to do the following habitually:
1) Wash your car as soon as possible after each snow or ice storm. At maximum every 10 days.
2) Wash your car when temperatures reach 4°C or higher.
3) Washing your car in daylight gives it a better chance of completely drying before temperatures drop at night.
4) Open and close all the doors, hatch and trunk after washing your car, and lock and unlock doors multiple times. This should be done as soon as possible to prevent freezing shut.
5) Avoid driving in deep snow – it packs against the bottom of the car. This can contribute to rusting and cause driving hazards.
While all road salt damage to cars is not necessarily visible, the best way to ensure that a vehicle is and will continue to function properly is to have it checked by a professional before the winter season or whenever it is also due for an oil change.
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