If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, then you’re probably used to seeing rock salt build-up on your vehicle each winter. It’s unfortunate but necessary – salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, which means that rather than turning to ice at 32 degrees, water may freeze at 20 degrees or lower. The result is that the snow and ice on the road melt even in freezing temperatures, making driving conditions safer. Unfortunately, a side effect of ice-melting rock salt is the corrosion it causes to car bodies and undercarriages. Read on to find out how salt damage works, and a few ways you can protect your vehicle from corrosion.
How salt corrosion works
There’s a complicated scientific explanation for the way salt speeds up the corrosion of metal, but the basic idea is simple. Water contains oxygen which oxidizes metal, causing it to rust. Salt speeds up oxidization, which is why metal near coasts, which comes in contact with salt and water in the air, is more susceptible to rust.
Three ways to avoid salt corrosion
1. Wash and wax your car regularly – During months when roads are heavily salted, it’s a good idea to wash your car every one to two weeks. And adding a layer of car wax every three or four car washes can provide extra protection against the salt. Doing so can prevent long-term salt corrosion, and save you money on body repairs down the road.
2. Repair paint flakes – The paint, clear coat, primer and other layers that cover your vehicle aren’t just there to make your car shine in the sunlight. The various coats protect the metal of your vehicle from oxidation and corrosion. Over time, these layers can peel, leaving the metal vulnerable to rust. Look for places where the paint or clear coat are peeling, and consider getting them repainted. Catching these patches can prevent rust before it starts.
3. Get rid of rust when you find it – Keeping an eye on your vehicle’s body paint is a good rust prevention method, but rust often begins on the undercarriage of the car. Since this surface is closest to the ground, it has more contact with salt and water. Have a mechanic inspect the undercarriage after each winter to look for signs of rust. If caught early, rust can be ground away, primed and repainted.
Salt isn’t the only risk your vehicle faces this winter. Road conditions can become slick in areas where salt hasn’t been applied, or if the weather drops below about 15 degrees and the salt is less effective. Car accidents resulting from dangerous road conditions cause a lot more damage than rust in the wheel well, but the cost of repairs can be minimized if you have automotive insurance. To find a policy that protects your vehicle, compare car insurance quotes online, and to protect it from rust and corrosion, remember to wash your car regularly this winter.
Dale Cooper has been blogging about financial services, insurance and education for more than three years. He holds a B.A. in English and lives in Cleveland. In his spare time, Dale enjoys cooking and traveling.
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