Protecting Your Vehicle from Road Salt

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winter roads covered with salt - protect your vehicle

Preventing Rust from Road Salt

Winter weather has a secret hazard you may not realize until it’s too late. While ice and snow can cause immediate and visible dents to your vehicle, road salt takes a toll slowly. By spring you may notice ugly body damage and damage to your vehicle’s brake and fuel lines. Thus, whether you have been stock in the polar vortex or not, you have to prevent road salt damage to your vehicle.

Why Road Salt is Used?

To combat winter storms, salt and/ or sand is used on the roadways. The salt helps to lower the freezing point of water so roads can stay unfrozen and slippery. In addition road salt adds traction to wet, cold roads. The major disadvantage to your vehicle is that salt is a corrosive material that causes rust damage to vehicle’s undercarriage and body.

Prevent Road Salt Damage

To prevent road salt damage from occurring in the winter, you want to perform maintenance before winter. For example, towards the end of autumn, clean every inch of your vehicle from top to bottom and the inside. You also want to:

  • Apply a coat of wax and wax sealant to the vehicle’s exterior.
  • Check for any rust damage in the brake and fuel lines. If there is any damage, have a professional fix it.
  • Seal the undercarriage. You can do it yourself. There are plenty of products on the market. However, if you feel uncomfortable doing the work, you can hire a professional.
  • Make sure to pack your winter car kit.
What about the Winter Time?

OK, you say that is great information (for later this year), but what about during the winter months. There are things you can do in the winter months to prevent road salt damage. For example, keep your vehicle clean. As the snow and ice piles up, washing your vehicle falls lower and lower on your list of things to complete. However, it is important to keep the road salt from damaging your vehicle. You also want to:

  • Go to the car wash as often as you can during the winter months. This cleans the rust-sensitive spots where road salt settles like the rear deck, hood and top deck. Make sure the car wash offers steam cleaning.
  • Re-wax your vehicle and have it sealed.
  • Steam clean the interior of your vehicle. This includes the carpet mats to get rid of the road salt and grime that is left from passengers’ shoes.
  • Install heavy rubber floor pads to keep the road salt from seeping into the undercarriage.
  • Vacuum the floor mats and upholstery too. Road salt typically discolors these areas.
  • After driving in a heavy snowfall, clean behind the vehicle’s wheels. You want to remove all the accumulated snow.

Here are some tips from Lauren Fix, a car coach:

On really warm days during the winter when you’d rather be doing something else, wash your vehicle to prevent road salt damage. Always wear waterproof gloves and use a garden hose to remove as much debris and road salt as you can. You want to focus on the salt-sensitive areas and those that endure the salty slush splashes such as the behind the fender. Here’s a tip: if the road salt on your vehicle is really bad, then use about a tablespoon of baking soda to your wash water to neutralize the salt.

The winter months may seem like they never end regardless of what the groundhog says. Unfortunately, the harsh weather can take a silent toll on your vehicle in three short months (sometimes six months if there’s a short spring or autumn). However, you can be your vehicle’s savior and prevent road salt damage from harming it.

Read more car care tips.

Sue Rogers has been working and writing for automotive industry for seven plus years and is excited to share her knowledge and experience with you.