Put your car on a low salt diet

Put your car on a low salt diet

Avoid corrosion and boost your vehicle's lifespan
AAA Staff
salt rusting car's body

Driving is a challenge on slick snowy roads. Fortunately, de-icing and anti-icing chemicals applied to the roadway help improve traction and speed snow removal. What’s more, studies show that treating roads with these materials helps reduce crashes and saves lives. Unfortunately, some of the newer solutions used to melt ice and snow can also increase vehicle corrosion.

Today, rock salt may be supplemented or replaced with de-icing and anti-icing solutions that contain chemicals such as calcium chloride and magnesium chloride that are more effective in keeping roads clear. These new chemicals are applied as liquids, which are then thrown up by tires in a fine mist that adheres to the car body and undercarriage, and can penetrate into cracks and crevices where rock salt particles could not.

Even more problematic is that the new de-icing and anti-icing chemicals are hygroscopic –they attract moisture and are often used as desiccants. This means that even after a vehicle is dry, deposits that contain these materials will pull moisture out of the air and contribute to ongoing corrosion.

So how can motorists protect their cars from corrosion? Here are some practical maintenance tips that can make a difference:

  • Regular car washes, including the undercarriage, are critical. Salt deposits left over from the winter will continue to corrode year round.
  • Even powerful pressure washers can leave behind corrosive deposits, and too much pressure may actually drive chemicals further into vehicle cracks and crevices.
  • Low pH detergents can help break up and neutralize corrosive deposits. Many automatic car washes now offer low pH pre-rinse cycles.
  • Body scratches and chips should be repaired in a timely manner to prevent rust and corrosion, and regular vehicle waxing adds an effective layer of protection.
  • Professional rustproofing, including asphalt undercoating and oil/wax body cavity sprays, may be helpful, but generally only if applied when the vehicle is new.
  • Routine vehicle maintenance checks should include inspections of safety-related undercar components such as brake and fuel lines, whose failure could result in a crash or fire.

Modern cars are far more corrosion resistant than earlier models, but for maximum vehicle life there is no substitute for proper car care. Following the simple steps outlined above will help keep a vehicle looking like new, and contribute to safer and more trouble-free driving.


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