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Road Salt May be Taking a Toll on Your Car

by on February 09, 2014 7:30 AM

It might be too cold to wash the car, but your vehicle probably needs it.

Without regular washes through the winter, salt used to melt icy roadways can get caught underneath your vehicle and rust away joints and other parts.

JR Brooks, body manager at the Blaise Alexander dealership on West College Avenue, says manufacturers can do very little to prevent salt corrosion.

"Anything that has salt in it can cause metal to rust," says Brooks. "It's probably one of the most dangerous things as far as causing damage."

The damage doesn't happen overnight. It occurs overtime. That's why Brooks says it's important for drivers to regularly wash their vehicles – especially in the cold winter months.

"People who drive their cars everyday are bound to see it occur. The best thing to do is to keep your car clean," Brooks says. "A lot of people neglect that in the winter time because of the cold weather. But salt hangs around, it creates the corrosion that occurs down the road."

Rust repairs can be very costly with patch work and replacement of panels.

When washing a car, Brooks says it's important to wash underneath the car.

"In my opinion, it's worth the extra couple of dollars at the car wash to have that done," he says.

Paint sealant and waxing can also help prevent corrosion in paint, Brooks says.

PennDOT uses salt and salt brine when conditions for those applications are appropriate, according to PennDOT spokeswoman Marla Fannin.

Salt brine is used in the effort of anti-icing. The brine is applied to the road surface prior to winter storms. The solution lowers the freezing point of water and slows or prevents ice from forming a bond with the pavement during the early stages of storms.

"Salt brine evaporates quickly and should not cause serious damage to vehicles," says Fannin.

Salt is used to help melt ice off of roadways. Its effectiveness lessens as temperatures fall into the teens.

"As motorists experience storms and accumulate snow, mud, and other materials on their cars, they will often make use of car washes in order to rid their vehicles of those materials and lessen the wear and tear on the body of the vehicle," Fannin says.

Last winter, PennDOT used 18,588 tons of salt and 429,975 gallons of brine in Centre County.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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