What Road Salt Does to Your Car

what road salt does to cars

Winter is right around the corner. And with it comes difficult driving conditions like whiteouts and black ice.

Road salt definitely helps makes the roads safer. A study conducted by Marquette University found that de-icing winter roads with salt reduces accidents by 88 percent and injuries by 85 percent. Each year, state and local agencies spend more than $2.3 billion on snow and ice control operations.

Yet there are some definite downsides to road salt when it comes to your car. Read on to learn exactly how road salt works—and what road salt does to your car.

How road salt works

Salt—a.k.a. sodium chloride in scientific terms—lowers the melting point of water. So while water normally freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water needs colder temperatures in order to freeze when it’s exposed to salt. The more salt you add, the lower the temperature needed to freeze water is.

The water that results after salt is applied to ice is known as “brine.” This water needs a temperature lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit in order to freeze. If there’s a lot of snow and ice on a road, the brine will seep into the bottom layers, breaking the bond between the ice and the road. The remaining snow and ice will then float along the top of the brine, making it easy for any passing traffic to break it up for good.

What road salt does to your car         

While road salt is doing good things for road safety, it’s doing something very different when it comes into contact with your car.

Salt creates chemical reactions that can corrode your car. This is especially true if you have any exposed metal on your car.

Two car parts that are especially susceptible to corrosion and rust are the brake and fuel lines. That’s because they’re close to the undercarriage of the car, which takes the brunt of the road salt damage.

So what’s a motorist to do? Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true ways to help protect your car from road salt damage.

  • Take measures in the fall. Give your car a good wash and wax. For the best protection, apply a wax sealant over your wax.
  • Have any scrapes, chips or rust spots repaired before the first snow falls.
  • Refrain from driving behind trucks spreading ice or brine.
  • Get regular car washes. Spray your car down at least once a week if you live in a snowy area. Invest in a wash that cleans the undercarriage of the car at least every few weeks or after a heavy bout of snow and/or ice hits your area.
  • Give an older car some extra TLC.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that cars are especially susceptible to corrosion after being exposed to road salt for eight years or more.
  • When spring arrives, consider a thorough exterior detailing job. (Also consider taking other steps to help your car recover from winter.)

One way you can protect your car in any season is with the right auto insurance. Talk to an insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent to learn more about getting the right coverage at the right price.

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