Preventing Undercarriage Car Damage Caused by Rock Salt

Summer is when most people keep up on washing their car, opting for the most thorough clean the automatic car wash offers. However, winter is when most undercarriage damage starts. In the north-eastern states, crews keep roads clear of ice and snow using a compound of rock salt. While this method makes for safer driving conditions in the cold months, rock salt causes a chemical reaction that can corrode the underside of your car.

There are many risks to the integrity of your vehicle if you do not remove rock salt from the undercarriage of your car. However, you can avoid costly repairs and keep your family and friends safe by taking simple preventative steps to avoid undercarriage car damage caused by rock salt.

Understanding Undercarriage Car Damage Caused by Rock Salt

After snow melts, rock salt remains on the roads all year and can continue to coat the underside of your car with every rain. Even newer cars with factory chassis coatings wear off. Understanding rock salt damage can help you stay on top of your unseen car care.

How does rock salt cause damage?

All exposed metals, such as iron and steel, are susceptible to rust when exposed to the combination of sodium, chloride and water. Rust speeds up the corrosion process. Even the smallest scratch can expose metal in a car’s undercarriage and create big problems if left untreated. Rust, even on the frame of a vehicle, can quickly spread to other exposed metals and cause both cosmetic and mechanical damage because of corrosion and deterioration.

Common signs of undercarriage salt damage

Taking a speed bump too fast or hitting a pothole at the right angle can scratch the protective chassis undercoating that comes on your vehicle. Therefore, even if your car is new, it’s important to check for these signs of damage:

  • Bubbles in the paint
  • Cracks in the body panels
  • Orange stains on the ground where you’ve parked
  • Broken or hanging parts
  • Visible scratches in the wheel wells, or under the front or rear bumper
  • Build up of mud or visible salt
  • Any evidence of rust

Impact of salt damage on vehicle performance and safety

While the body of a car protects the inner workings from damage, the underside of your vehicle is not as protected. Rust and corrosion caused by rock salt can break down those inner workings, like brake and fuel systems, putting you at risk for a serious accident. Axles and steering systems can be affected as well. Any breakdown of metal in the undercarriage, even if cosmetic can spread if not cleaned and protected from further deterioration. Failure to do so can result in the need to replace the corroded metal or ultimately lead to a serious accident.

How to Protect Your Car’s Undercarriage from Salt Damage

In order to protect your car against this corrosion and avoid costly repair fees, it is important to take certain preventative measures this winter.

Winterize your car early

In the fall, wash your car and apply a layer of high-quality wax. The wax creates a barrier between your car and the elements, preventing snow, salt and other debris from sticking to it. Remember that the wax will slowly deteriorate over time, so you should reapply the wax several times through the winter.

Wash your car regularly

Make it a point to take your vehicle to the car wash frequently this winter, especially after driving on salted roads. By thoroughly washing your car, particularly the undercarriage, you will rinse any trapped rock salt off the metal and prevent rust and erosion. Make sure to only wash your car during the day to give it time to dry before nightfall.

Avoid driving before and after snowstorms

Road crews lay fresh road salt before a large snowstorm is expected to hit and again after the storm has ended. Driving during these times puts you at risk of excess salt sticking to the car’s undercarriage.

Don’t drive across snow-covered roads

Driving through the snow can pack road salt deep into the undercarriage where it is difficult to remove. If there is deep snow on the road or in your driveway, wait for it to be plowed or find an alternate route. Driving across snow-covered roads is extremely dangerous and can lead to your car getting stuck, leaving you stranded and potentially causing a life-threatening emergency.

Fix any minor damage prior to wintertime

Before winter sets in, take your car to the shop and have it inspected. You will want to ensure that any deep scratches, chips or rust spots are repaired before the first big freeze. Having this minor damage fixed before wintertime prevents water, dirt and rock salt from reaching the metal and forming rust, which can lead to a more expensive repair bill if not promptly dealt with.

Wrapping Up – Prevent Undercarriage Car Damage Caused by Rock Salt

Corrosion caused by rock salt can cause extensive damage to your vehicle this winter. However, by following these five tips, you can reduce your risk of rock salt damage. As you prepare your car for winter, take time to reach out to an independent insurance agent for a review of your auto coverage before you must navigate potentially dangerous winter roads.

FAQs about Protecting Your Car from Salt Damage

1.     How often should I wash my vehicle during winter?

A simple wash every one or two weeks with a touch up of wax every month will keep your vehicle clear of dirt, salt and other corrosive debris on the road. You should include an undercarriage rinse after driving on salted roads.

2.     How do I wash salt off my car’s undercarriage?

Many automatic car washes offer undercarriage treatments and are most effective, but you can also clean your undercarriage at home. Choose a product that is formulated specifically for car washing and is biodegradable. Remember to avoid using a car jack to clean under your car. A high-pressure garden hose or pressure washer should be enough to reach.

3.     How do you rust proof an undercarriage?

Applying an undercoating to your vehicle is the best defense against undercarriage car damage caused by rock salt. Most body shops can spray oil, wax or rubber-based composite to the chassis of your car. Remember, even coatings deteriorate over time and should be applied before the next snow season.