March 4th, 2021 by
Have you noticed small spots of rust, predominantly at the bottom of your car, around the wheel arches? You may also see spots where the paintwork is being damaged but it’s not quite rusty yet. If you do, it could be salt corrosion causing the damage. If you don’t see these things, but want to avoid them, you also need to read this.
What is salt corrosion?
Salt corrosion happens as a consequence of winter driving conditions. Salt, mixed with water, is corrosive to paintwork and metal. Salt is also the main substance we use on the roads when it is icy to maintain safe driving conditions.
The salt and water from the road, therefore, splashes onto cars as they drive on them, gradually eating away at anything it touches. This is often primarily behind the wheel arches, as the tyres lift the water from the road, but it could be anywhere. Much of it will be underneath the car where you can’t see. The salt adheres to the metal where it oxidises – or rusts, as it’s commonly known. Normally, your car is covered in various protective coatings that prevent rust from forming on the metal, but if coatings have been eaten away, you’ll soon end up with rust. Rusted metal, as you probably know, is weakened, so it’ll start to flake away. This results in either ugly holes in your paintwork, or more serious damage to the parts underneath your car.
What to do if you have salt corrosion damage
Unfortunately, if you already have rust patches or damage, these will need to be repaired by a body shop. They do need to be dealt with quickly as they will become progressively worse. There may also be damage underneath the car, where it bears the brunt of the spray from the road, and this can even damage important components such as the fuel and brake lines, so don’t put it off.
How to prevent salt corrosion
Luckily, salt corrosion can be prevented and it’s a simple as just washing your car regularly. By washing away the salt before it can damage the metal, you can prevent salt corrosion. Wash your car every couple of weeks in the winter or more if it’s particularly wet or icy.
There are a few things to remember though:
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- Don’t go straight in with a sponge or cloth. Salt, grit, and dirt particles can scratch your paintwork if you rub them over the surface. Start by rinsing, or ideally use a pre-wash product such as snow foam that clings to the paintwork and grabs the dirt. You then simply rinse it off before proceeding with car shampoo.
- Make sure to clean underneath the car as this is where the most damage could occur. Use a jet washer or hose to give it a thorough rinse.
- Applying wax, or an all-in-one car shampoo/wax product, will give your paintwork extra protection as it can act as a barrier between the paintwork and the salt.
- Don’t assume that you don’t need to wash your car if you’re not using it (many of us are driving much less during lockdown). If it is parked on the roadside it could still be splashed by passing traffic.
- Examine your paintwork regularly for any scratches or chips as these areas, where metal is exposed, are particularly vulnerable to salt corrosion. Deal with them before they become a problem.
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