Winter is the season of road salt across the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, and many parts of the Great Plains. And while road salt might be good as a tool for melting snow and ice, it is not good for cars. Just a couple of seasons exposed to winter weather and salt can do a real number on everything from the underside of your car to its finish.
The big problem with road salt is that it’s corrosive. What does that mean? In short, salt encourages metal to rust. It’s all due to an electrochemical reaction that occurs when salt comes in contact with water and metal.
Salt is a mineral comprised of sodium and chloride (chlorine with an added electron) that facilitates the oxidation process that causes rust. So essentially, even though metal will naturally rust if it’s soaked in water, salt speeds up the process.
The damage caused by road salt actually begins as you drive. As your car moves down the road, it picks up salt that sticks to everything it touches. Meanwhile, the car is also picking up water – both liquid and in the form of ice and snow. The water facilitates the oxidation process while the salt acts as a booster to accelerate it.
What you really have with salt is a driving hazard. It is a hazard that eats through mufflers and tail pipes, catalytic converters, brake lines, etc. It also eats through your finish if it can find just a minor scratch or ding to get in.
What’s the solution? Regular trips to the car wash during the winter along with an anti-rust treatment come summer. If you do have any body damage, getting that taken care of will also inhibit rust.