Protecting vehicles from road salt in the winter

Winter brings the holidays, toasty fireplaces, warm drinks and thick blankets. It also brings icy roads. While the salt that road crews spread over asphalt makes the roads safer to drive on, it has a damaging and corrosive effect on vehicles.

Types of road salt

Sodium Chloride
Sodium chloride is commonly known as table salt, and less commonly, as halite. Sodium chloride is one of the most commonly used types of road salt. It is occasionally mixed with other salts to maximize melting and is usually pre wet to stop it from scattering across the road.

Magnesium Chloride
Magnesium chloride in its liquid form is often used to pre wet road salts because it is neither expensive nor especially corrosive (when compared to other chemicals). According to Hunker, a setback of magnesium chloride is the slippery, hard-to-clean residue it leaves behind.

Calcium Chloride
This salt is actually used most commonly as a dust suppressant on gravel roads in the summertime. It's naturally occurring and more effective than sodium chloride in terms of preventing ice buildup, but because it is more expensive, it isn't used very often.

Potassium Chloride
Potassium chloride is naturally occurring and considered a safer alternative to sodium chloride, says Hunker. However, it's not as effective as other salts at low temperatures, so it tends to be used as part of a salt blend when spread on winter roads.

snow roadRoad salt prevents motorways from freezing over, but can also have a damaging effect on cars.

How road salt can affect your car

As you drive your car over salted roads, the salt water solution which splashes up onto the undercarriage and sides of the vehicle can corrode it over time. According to the News Wheel, some parts of cars are particularly vulnerable to road-salt corrosion, including the rear body panels and rocker panels. Some luxury cars come with built-in protective coatings, but it's still a rare occurrence.

Maintaining your car in the winter

The first and most obvious way to maintain your car in the winter is to wash it often. Most electric car washes clean the underneath of the vehicle in addition to the top and sides. If you don't feel like driving to the car wash, you can also use a power washer at home to get the salt off the undercarriage, where the most rusting tends to take place.

Another option is to have your car permanently waxed. This layer protective layer acts as a buffer to prevent rusting, chipping paint and more. You can visit your car dealership's service department or an auto body shop to get the service professionally done.

You can also apply anti-rust products to your car. Car Bibles suggests using a high quality anti-rust spray, which often contains the same compounds used in protective layers during a car's manufacturing process.

If you do happen to spot rust on your vehicle, address the issue right away, as waiting will only give the problem time to get worse. You can purchase a rust repair kit or use sandpaper to buff the rust off. Once the rust is removed, cover the exposed area with primer, touch-up paint, and a top coat. Car Bibles says this much alone should be enough to take care of minor corrosion, but if rust has eaten its way through the metal or if there is extensive damage, it's better to not take chances and leave the repairs in the hands of an auto body professional.