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How to Avoid Salt Corrosion

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/6/2006 | Auto and Trucks

You pride yourself on how well you keep up your car. The engine is tuned regularly, belts are replaced on time, and you check your fluid levels at least twice a month. When it comes to how your car looks, you make sure you wash and wax it often enough to keep it looking shiny and new. All in all, you think of just about everything, right?

That depends; have you given any thought on making sure you are avoiding salt corrosion?

If you live in an area that experiences snow and ice during the winter months, you definitely need to take precautions to prevent deterioration of the underside of your vehicle. Salt is often used by cities and towns to help with tire traction and slippage on roads that are icy. While it certainly helps to prevent accidents and save lives, it does mean you need to take some extra care with your vehicle.

In addition to the attention you pay to washing and waxing the surface of your car, it is very important to give equal consideration to the underside. While chances are that you do not normally wash your car in freezing weather, do try to at least rinse off the underside during the winter months, any time the weather will allow it. What you will be doing is helping to keep the buildup of the salt layer on your vehicle to a minimum until you can do some real detail work in the springtime.

Once the weather has improved, make sure you get down to the bottom of things and give the underside a good washing. Scrub it with as much energy as you would give to the parts everyone sees. Pay special attention to areas with sections where salt deposits could collect, such as doorjambs and around and under fender walls. If you are taking the car to a professional car wash, try to find out if they are using fresh or recycled water. There is a strong possibility that if the water is recycled, then there is already a fair amount of salt contained in the water. Since you don't need more salt, opt for a place that uses fresh water or take the car home and do the job yourself.

After you have taken care of the underside, don't forget to check under the hood and see if you have any type of salt buildup around any of the wiring. Salt can dry out the wire insulation over time as well as speed the corrosion of electrical plugs. The end result will be a weaker electrical flow through the system and that creates extra wear on various components under the hood. Clean any traces of salt you see and replace anything that appears to have cracked or been damaged during the winter weather.

Remember, once the weather begins to warm, it will trigger an oxidizing effect on the metal of your car. While the oxidization will not do much damage to the paint, it can cause significant problems with the metal underneath. With a little bit of care in the winter months and a thorough cleaning once spring has arrived, you can lengthen the life of your car by several years.