Like a termite bores through wood, rust eats through the critical components of your car. Its favorite meal is aluminum, wiring, and steel. You won’t see it until it’s too late. A silent enemy, its destruction is aided by the salt-covered highways meant to keep you safe.

Road Salt Rust

CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=268040

The Cost of Salt

 

Protecting our highways since the early 40s, salt has been a cost-effective go-to resource. Over the years, as the highway infrastructure grew and commuters and truckers needed to travel in all conditions, salt became a standard in keeping roads passable. While this solution saved a number of lives, its effect on the environment and budgets is staggering; as well as its effects on the cars and trucks.

 

Salt corrodes and it doesn’t just affect cars and trucks. It affects where you drive; bridges and reinforcing rods in concrete — below the road. It also affects the vehicles that lay the salt, the heavy rigs pouring millions of tons of salt on roadways to keep drivers moving. According to Brad Plumer’s research and interview with Xianming Shi, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at Washington State University for Vox.com, the U.S. spends just under $3 billion to make roads safe during the winter and another $5 billion to pay for the resulting damage. Annually.

 

The Effects of Salt on Your Car

 

Many of us put the key in the ignition, put the car in gear, and head along our merry way. Our vehicle gets us from Point A to Point B and we don’t think much about it beyond that, except to feed it fuel. But, on wintry roads coast to coast, what we don’t know and can’t see; can hurt us.

 

You probably know the basic components of the car affected by rust, but our list may offer a few surprises. The usual suspects: frame, sub-frame, brakes and brake lines, ceramic brake pads, fuel lines, cross members, exhaust, front suspension, steering components, floor plans, radiator, trunk, gas lines, shock towers, fuel tank, and wheel wells. Find anything that surprised you?

 

Rust forms when moisture and oxygen combine on metal. Salt accelerates this process. Taking your car out of the cold and letting the ice melt in a warm environment, such as a garage, increases the chance of rust. Road salt crushed under your tires spins into all your car’s components big and small.

 

Years may pass before you realize the damage. Though it can take as little as two winters to begin to show rust underneath, a car’s outer layers of primer and paint keep the worst of it out of sight.

Road salt rust

How Does Salt Accelerate the Process?

 

Imagine a small rip in a piece of fabric. As you use it or wear it, the rip gets bigger. It stretches wider and wider until it eventually weakens and tears in two. This is the effect of oxidation (corrosion) not sticking to the surface of metal and flaking off (pitting). Those little “pits” of rust you see will eventually weaken and disintegrate the metal on your car and unchecked, could leave you stranded or worse.

 

Salt, saltwater, and moisture in the environment are all contributing factors to the rate of rusting metals. Salt, itself, increases conductivity of moisture; much like lightning striking a metal pole. The salt’s reaction in a moisture-rich environment is one reason iron or steel rusts more quickly. Concentrated salt deposits, like those on icy, winter roads only exacerbate the problem.

 

Protect Your Vehicle

 

Toyota may soon agree to a settlement of up to $3.4 billion in answer to a class action lawsuit about its inadequate rust protection. Extend the life of your car or truck with an automotive wellness check. With structural integrity at stake, how will you protect your car? NH Oil Undercoating