Safety warning: De-icing chemicals used to clear roads of winter snow and ice cost US drivers some $3 Billion a year in repairs to brakes and paint damaged by the corrosive road salt and liquid chemicals. That’s an an average of $500 per vehicle, according to a new AAA survey.
Rust corrosion to your brakes, fuel tanks and exhaust systems are especially susceptible, along with other vehicle components. AAA warns of the potential of accidents to damaged cars, even with a rust protection package from the manufacturer, dealer or an aftermarket source.
In recent years, many state and local transportation departments have shifted from using rock salt to liquid de-icers to combat ice and snow on the roadways.
However, the AAA also says these same characteristics can be even more damaging to vehicles. That’s because the chemicals remain in liquid form longer and are more likely to coat components and seep into cracks and crevices where corrosion can accelerate.
Rust damage warning signs
If you notice any of these warning signs, AAA strongly urges you move the vehicle off the road to a safe location and have it towed to a trusted repair facility.
- In-dash warning lights for brakes and other critical systems.
- A “spongey” or soft feeling when applying pressure to the brake pedal.
- An unusually loud exhaust sound or the smell of fumes in or around the vehicle.
- Prominent smell of gasoline or diesel fuel when the vehicle is parked or running.
How to prevent damage to your vehicle
- It’s often not possible, but try to limit driving immediately before, during and after winter storms when salt and de-icing solutions are being applied and are at their highest concentrations.
- Wash your vehicle often in winter, paying special attention to the undercarriage. This will loosen, dissolve and neutralize road salts. Many drive-through car washes offer an undercarriage rinse as an option.
- Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent that will strip the wax from your vehicle.
- Repair any body damage and touch up paint scratches and chips that expose bare metal which could lead to rust.
- Give the entire vehicle and undercarriage one last cleaning in the spring. Any deposits left over from winter can continue to cause corrosion year-round if not properly removed.
- Before the start of next winter, wash and clean your vehicle thoroughly and apply a coat of wax to protect the finish.
When pothole or rust damage occurs, be sure to choose a reputable repair facility.
The AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) network includes nearly 7,000 facilities which have met AAA’s high standards, including, certifications, technical training, cleanliness, insurance requirements, rigorous inspections and customer satisfaction. AAA members are eligible for special benefits such as priority service, a 24-month/24,000-mile warranty, discounts, free inspections, dispute resolution assistance and more.
To locate an AAR shop in your area, visit AAA.com/AutoRepair.
Statement from the AAA:
“While the application of de-icing salts and solutions is critical to keeping our nation’s roadways safe every winter, it’s important that drivers pay attention to warning signs that their vehicle may be suffering from rust-related damage,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair.
“This can be much more than a cosmetic issue, it can also create serious safety issues for drivers by impacting brake lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and electrical connections.”
The five-year AAA study of de-icing estimates we have paid more than $15 Billion to repair the corrosive damage to our cars and trucks.