When wintertime comes around, we tend to pay more attention to snow, ice, and cold per se. But what about all the road salt that comes with these items? Yes, we appreciate that it serves in public safety as rock salt helps melt ice even if it is freezing. But it can also inflict punishment on a car, increasing the probability of rust and even damaging the act of driving itself.
Salt lowers the freezing point of water and is, therefore, an effective means of keeping roads free of ice and sleet, much more so than, for example, a flamethrower mounted on the front of the vehicle.
However, the residues that remain on the road can accelerate the corrosion of all vital parts of the car: the brakes, the body, and the structure itself. For this reason, and because winters seem to be increasingly harsh throughout the country, RCC Auto Transport will describe some steps that can mitigate salt’s effects.
How does road salt affect my car?
Road salt was first introduced in the 1930s as a fighter in making paved sections safer routes. It does this through a chemical reaction called cryoscopic lowering that lowers the freezing point of water, melting the ice so the tires can make contact and gain traction with the pavement. It, therefore, helps to prevent the vehicle from sliding when there is ice on the road. The downside is that it is highly corrosive and causes rust over time.
Although the cars come from the factory with a waterproofing primer that protects the underbody, with the passage of time and friction with the speed bumps and potholes, that protective layer is removed, which makes it easier for that salt spread on the ground to come into contact with the underside of the vehicle, which will facilitate the appearance of rust. However, the lower area is not the only area damaged by road salt: the doors, fenders, hood, and trunk are the most vulnerable parts, as they retain more moisture.
According to Juan Manuel Llorente, RACE technical trainer, the problem with salt is that it can damage cars. This is so because, with this compound, the oxidation of the metals that are part of the structure of vehicles is accelerated. It can affect both the paint of the car and the bodywork and other elements, see the alloy wheels, the brakes, the shock absorbers, or the exhaust pipe, among many others. The metal becomes brittle and, if not treated in time, the damaged area can lead to a nasty pit or hole.
This phenomenon is that the metallic parts of a car come into contact with the precipitation water that contains carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and oxygen (O 2 ). Road salt contains free radical ions that come into contact with water that melts from snow. After prolonged exposure to oxygen, iron oxide forms, which accelerates the oxidation process. Since corrosion from salt and snow can occur without looking for it, it is best to be vigilant to avoid it as much as possible.
What can I do so that the salt does not damage my car?
Llorente warns that you also have to pay attention to the anchoring of the hood in cars, isolating the engine from the outside. With salt, this closure can be damaged and can cause, in extreme cases, the hood to open while driving, with the consequent danger that this poses by nullifying all our visibility behind the wheel. The more we let the salt rest on the body, the more damage it will do to it, especially at the junction points. To prevent the salt from affecting it excessively, it is best to spray the car with pressurized water.
It is best to apply this water both on the bodywork as well as on the wheel arches (if you turn the steering wheel to one side, you will have better access to all the parts) and under the car, which drivers do not usually do. Due to its difficult access. If we do not have a pressurized water hose at home, remember that in some gas stations with car washes, you can use them, in most cases, for one euro (two minutes). Some car washes clean the lower areas of the car.
Also, the wax protects the exterior paint’s surface like an invisible shield, which is highly recommended to do in these situations. If you do, make sure you apply a good, strong coat before the winter season starts to protect it from the corrosive salt. Seal the undercarriage as well, either on your own or through a professional. With the same logic, consider the car’s rims and their gaps, where road debris loves to hide. Then try drying everything.
Remember: if you do not remove the salt and snow from the car, your faithful travel companion will suffer breakdowns sooner than it corresponds, which will affect not only your safety and yours, but also your pocket.