Road salt damage: Why some vehicles do better than others

(Thomas Brueckner/Flickr Commons/CC BY 2.0)
(Thomas Brueckner/Flickr Commons/CC BY 2.0) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Salt used to treat roads during the winter is common and so is the vehicle damage that can be caused by the corrosive material. But there are some vehicles that do better than others and it all depends on the owner.

Tom Christmas, owner of Christmas Automotive in Boardman, said salt damages a vehicle most in the underbody where brake and gas lines can get corroded.

Christmas said owners should wash their vehicles at least every two weeks or after a winter event to make sure the salt doesn't have time to do damage. However, Christmas said timing a car wash should depend on the temperature outside.

"You have to be careful. You don't want to get it washed when it gets below 30 degrees. Your locks and everything else will freeze when you come out of the carwash," Christmas said. "It has to be the right temperature, but it's very important to get all of that salt from underneath the car off the frame."

Another issue Christmas points out is broken wiper blade motors. He suggests making sure that windshield wipers are not frozen to the windshield before turning them on.

The Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles offers these tips to prevent salt damage:

  • Wax your car before winter: While the undercarriage is the most at risk, giving your whole vehicle a good coat of wax before bad weather begins is a great pre-game step.
  • Avoid puddles and plow trucks:Puddles can hold larger amounts of salt, and driving behind the plow means you will be the first to drive through a fresh layer of salt.
  • Pretreat your vehicle's undercarriage:Collision shops offer an oil solution pre-treatment that can be sprayed on your vehicle's exposed parts. This coating will help prevent salt and water from the road sticking to your vehicle's metal parts.
  • Wash your vehicle after a snow storm:Get the salt off your car as soon as possible!
  • Use an under spray:Just washing your car isn't enough—you have to get the undercarriage clean. Choose a drive-through car wash or a hand wash that sprays under the vehicle.