Road salt and other de-icers can cause costly rust damage to vehicles – The Tribune

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Periodic car washing can help offset costly rust issues

Every year, millions of Americans face costly vehicle repairs caused by rust, and the chemicals used to de-ice the roadways may be a major culprit. AAA East Central advises motorists to be proactive throughout the winter to prevent dangerous rust-related damage to brake lines, fuel tanks, exhaust systems and other critical vehicle components. .

“Washing your vehicle regularly in the winter is key to avoiding costly repairs down the road,” said Mike Hoshaw, vice president of automotive services for AAA East Central. “Over time, rust can not only cause aesthetic problems, but also serious safety issues if components underneath your vehicle become damaged.”

In recent years, many state and local transportation departments have switched from using rock salt to liquid de-icers to combat ice and snow on the roads. These new alternatives are more effective than traditional salt because they can be applied before a snowstorm, have a lower freezing point, and melt ice and snow faster. However, these same characteristics can be even more damaging to vehicles since the chemicals stay in liquid form longer, are more likely to coat components and seep into cracks and crevices where corrosion can accelerate.

Although some rust damage is unavoidable, AAA East Central recommends that motorists take the following preventative measures to reduce the risk of vehicle damage:

• If possible, limit driving immediately before, during and after winter storms when salt and de-icing solutions are applied and at their highest concentrations.

• Wash your vehicle frequently, paying particular attention to the chassis. This will loosen, dissolve and neutralize road salts. Many drive-thru car washes offer an optional undercarriage rinse.

• Always use a high quality car wash solution, not household dishwashing detergent which will remove wax from your vehicle.

• Repair any body damage and touch up scratches and paint chips that expose bare metal, which could lead to rust.

• Perform a final cleaning of the entire vehicle and undercarriage in the spring. Any deposits left over from winter can continue to cause corrosion all year round if not properly removed.
AAA strongly urges drivers who experience any of the following vehicle malfunctions to immediately move the vehicle off the road to a safe location and have it towed to an AAA-approved repair facility:

• Dashboard warning lights for brakes and other critical systems.

• A “spongy” or soft feeling when applying pressure to the brake pedal.

• An unusually loud exhaust noise or the smell of fumes in or around the vehicle.

• The strong smell of gasoline or diesel fuel when the vehicle is running or parked.

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