The Corrosive Qualities of Road Salt

Usually when drivers think about winter, the first issue that comes to mind is snow. Roads covered in anything from a dusting to a full blown white out can cause serious traffic problems, but there’s something else covering the roads in winter that might not pose such obvious issues: road salt, and the more elusive “brine”.

Salt crews cover the streets before, during, and after winter weather with the goal of minimizing the snow build up on the roadways. Salt is essential to safe winter driving, because it lowers the freezing point of water allowing the snow to melt regardless of the cold weather. The melted snow then mixes with the salt making it unfreezable.

This sounds ideal, but the problem is that salt is extremely corrosive and overtime it can cause serious problems on the underside of your car without you even noticing. Rust and corrosion on your vehicle’s exposed undercarriage, eating away at expensive car parts.

The DMV’s website claims your exhaust, muffler, coil springs, subframe, and hydraulic brake system are the parts most at risk. Worse yet, the brine sprayed on the roads prior to a winter storm is a mix of rock salt and magnesium chloride which is worrisome because according Bob Baboian, a fellow at the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, “Magnesium chloride is much more corrosive than sodium chloride, the rock salt.”

So, what can you do to protect your vehicle from these corrosive chemicals? How can you neutralize road salt this winter?

Here are a few important measures to prevent salt damage.

Wax your car before winter

Your undercarriage may be the most at risk, but salt can seriously damage your paint job as well. Think of how many cars you’ve seen on the road this winter completely caked in sodium chloride. Giving your car a protective coat of wax before winter is a strong step in the face of paint damage.

Pretreat your vehicle's undercarriage

Some auto shops offer an oil solutions pre-treatment that’s sprayed on your cars exposed undercarriage. The protective coating will make it difficult for salt and brine to stick to your car’s valuable parts.

Avoid plow trucks like the plague

Driving behind a plow truck is like putting your car in the front lines. Stay away from the trucks otherwise you’ll be the first to drive through a fresh salt spread.

Get a car wash after a snow storm

You want to get that salt of as quickly as possible. Don’t just get a regular wash you have to ensure that your undercarriage is clean. Find a car wash with this option, or for complete confidence do it yourself.

Drive safe this winter, and remember that even if the roads are clear that doesn’t mean they’re completely safe for your vehicle.

Categories: Service
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