If you drive in an area where snow and ice are common, then you’re also familiar with the road salt that DOT crews put down to help ensure safer commutes. Road salt is the raw material from which our table salt comes, and its bluish gray color is due to the various impurities it contains. When spread on roads, salt melts ice and snow particles by raising their water temperature above the freezing point. And although road salt does keep drivers safer, its chemicals can be quite harmful to your car’s surfaces when they’re exposed to it.
ROAD SALT TARGETS THESE VEHICLE AREAS
There are numerous nooks and crannies found around your vehicle where road salt particles can hide from view, and later inflict damage when you least expect it. Once in place, those tiny pulverized particles begin to dissolve, releasing sodium and chloride through a process that’s accelerated by warmer temperatures and moisture. Here are some of the many ways that road salt’s chemicals can harm your car:
This is the underside of your vehicle that you rarely see. Salt imbedded within metal undercarriage structures, like the exhaust system, axles, and coil springs, can rapidly speed up the corrosive process that causes rust. A rusted undercarriage can be very expensive to repair, and if you live in a state that requires annual safety inspections, excessive rust can cause your vehicle to fail.
Salt targets your beautiful paint job by weakening its protective coatings, which then allows moisture to invade and start corroding the metal that lies beneath. The longer the salt is left on your paint’s surface, the greater the likelihood that rust can form. Paint chips and cracks are inviting areas for salt’s chemicals to infiltrate paint layers.
Your wheels aren’t painted like your car body is, which leaves them highly susceptible to rust formation that’s facilitated by road salt, warmer temps, and moisture.
Salt-filled snow and ice sticks to the soles of your shoes and then gets ground into cloth floor mat and upholstery material found inside your car’s cabin. Abrasive salt particles speed up wear-and-tear to the upholstery, while creating unsightly stains that are very difficult to remove.
PREVENTING ROAD SALT DAMAGE
If you drive in a cold weather state, the key to protecting your vehicle from salt lies in being proactive long before the first snowfall arrives. To protect your car all winter long, car care professionals recommend these steps:
Wash your car, including the undercarriage, every 2 weeks during the winter months, or immediately after a snowfall. However, experts advise not washing it until temperatures rise above freezing.
Wax your car with a high-quality product every 3 months during the year, and apply a ceramic coating for added paint protection. A good ceramic coat should last for several years.
Promptly touch up paint chips larger than a pinpoint to help stop corrosion.
Avoid driving through mud puddles or standing water where salt has accumulated.
Try to keep your distance when following snow plows, salt trucks and semis, as they can splatter large amounts of salt-filled water all over your vehicle.
Vacuum out your car frequently during winter months, especially after you’ve tracked in a lot of salt.
Apply professional detailing products to your vehicle’s upholstery to create a protective barrier against moisture, dirt and salt.