16 Jan Road Salt: The Pros and Cons for Driving and My Car
Everything looks so pretty with the first snowfall of the season. All the trees, roads, and buildings are pristine and white. Then the daily activities of life mar those surfaces with road grime, exhaust, and road salt. The wide use of road salt has opened up transportation during the winter months, but not without costs. Find out why road salt causes rust and corrosion, how to prevent it, and if your car needs undercarriage sealant during the winter.
What Is Road Salt?
During the winter months, the need for safer roads began in the late 1930s with ordinary people’s widespread use of automobiles. By the early 1940s, over 5,000 tons of road salt was being used annually on highways across the nation. Today estimates state over 20 million tons of road salt is used for deicing our nation’s highways, roads, and city streets.
Formulas In Use
Plenty of concerns swirls around the use of road salt. Too much salt has negative environmental factors, including aquatic life toxicity, plant life damage, and fertilization issues. Environmentalists are researching and developing other methods of deicing that are less hazardous. According to The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, there currently are many different types of deicers in use across the United States. They vary in temperature effectiveness, toxicity, and other environmental factors.
- Road Salt or Rock Salt (NaCL)
- Potassium Chloride (KCL)
- Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2)
- Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)
- CMA- Calcium Magnesium Acetate (C8H12CaMgO8)
- Potassium Acetate (CH3CO2K)
- Urea (CH4N2O)
- Sand (silica) – used for added traction in combination with a deicer
How Does Road Salt Affect My Car?
Regardless of the deicing formula used, none of them are good for your car. In general, the various road salts used to deice roadways are corrosive to metal components. They can cause pitting and discoloration to paint and plastic parts as well.
Rust and Corrosion
Deicers are hygroscopic, which means they attract and retain moisture. This is why the metal parts in your car’s undercarriage often rust from exposure to road salt. Rust and corrosion occur when iron (including steel) is exposed to moist air. The road salt mixes with the oxygen and water in the air, causing a chemical reaction with the metal to form hydrated oxide (rust).
How Do I Protect My Car From Road Salt?
If you need to drive in the winter, there is no real way to avoid road salt. But, there are ways to minimize road salt’s effect on your vehicle.
Try to drive during the warmest part of the day when there is a lower chance of snow and ice build-up on the roads. Avoid driving through puddles of meltwater on the side of the road whenever possible. These puddles often contain high levels of melted road salt.
Wash And Wax Your Car
Since avoiding road salt entirely during the winter is unrealistic, do your best to wash it away. Drive-through car washes with an undercarriage wash feature can help remove road salt deposits from those vulnerable components before they rust. Run your car through the wash during the warmest part of the day (and use the blow-dry feature), so it can dry completely. If you do a lot of driving during the winter, wash your car at least twice a month. Remember to apply a coat of wax to seal and protect your paint job from the harsh winter weather, too.
Undercarriage Sealant /Rust-Proofing
There are many aftermarket undercarriage sealants available. It is best to apply them long before freezing temperatures set in. Ensure your car and undercarriage are completely clean and free of all deicers. You do not want to accidentally seal any deicing agents into the components of your undercarriage.
Routine Auto Maintenance
Sticking to your routine winter maintenance schedule during the winter months is a great way to spot trouble areas early. Many auto services require your car to be put up on the rack to access components in the undercarriage. Your service technician can easily see if your springs, shocks, exhaust, or muffler needs to be washed, oiled, or sealed for rust-proofing.
Road Salt Issues
Your Local Auto Shop Can Help
Discuss with your service technician at Eby’s Garage the various damages road salt can have on your car. Let us help you work out a service routine to address your specific needs this winter.
Schedule An Appointment
Call us at (301) 432-5130 or visit us online to schedule a service appointment this winter. We look forward to seeing you!