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How Road Salt Damages Cars

When the snow is falling but you NEED to get to work in spite of it, you’ll feel extremely thankful for the salt trucks that coat the roads in one of many road salt formulas. While road salt plays a major role in treating the roads during a winter storm, it has a nasty effect on cars, even after the snow has melted.

At O’Neill’s Auto Body, we’re auto exterior experts — and we’ve seen more than our fair share of gorgeous paint jobs ruined by road salt, rust, and damage.  We’re here to help you learn how road salt damages cars, what you can do about it, and the big-time preventative strategies to stop it.


4 Ways Road Salt Affects Your Car 

You probably hate driving through the snow and ice because of the sliding, the slow driving, and the ever-present risk of getting stuck in a drift or struck by another car. In addition to these dangers, every trek through the snow and every drive for a few days afterward exposes your car to road salt.

Here are the 4 most common ways road salt damages cars:


Undercarriage Rust — It may be out of sight, but it should never be out of mind. Road salt has a tendency to attach itself to the nooks and crannies of your undercarriage. Over time, the salt speeds up oxidation, causing the underside to rust. A rusted undercarriage is extremely expensive to fix and can actually cause your car to fail inspection.


Paint Rust, Spots, & Damage — While the undercarriage is more susceptible to rust than your paint job, the salt still has a negative effect on your car’s painted body. If you leave salt on your car’s exterior, it can weaken the paint barrier, inviting rust to start forming. This is a bigger issue for cars that drive in cold, snowy climates where salt is practically ALWAYS on the roads.


Wheel Rust — Like your undercarriage, your wheels are down in the muck and are coated in the slurry of road salt. Since your metal wheels don’t have the protection of a coat of paint, they are extra susceptible to rust as well.


Interior Nastiness — The salty snow and ice you trudge through gets packed onto your shoes, leaving stains throughout your otherwise clean interior. Not quite as serious as exterior rust, but still another reason to begrudge driving in winter weather.

If you need to get your car sparkling clean, check out our detailing packages.


Protecting Your Car from Road Salt

If you’re serious about protecting your car from road salt, you need to be proactive. We recommend periodically cleaning the inside and the outside of your vehicle throughout the winter to limit salt damage.

To clean salt stains from the inside of your car, we recommend spraying your trim, seats, and floor mats with a half white vinegar, half water solution. After that, you can use a detailing brush to scrape away at anything that’s left.

Whether you see the salt on your car or you just know it’s there, washing your car is your best bet to remove most of the salt from the body, the wheels, and the undercarriage. You need to pay special attention to the undercarriage since it is most at risk for rust. However, you should only wash your car when the temperature is above the freezing point and likely to stay that way for a few days. Whether you use a car wash or your own hose, make sure you are thorough, and your car will be fine.


Preventing Salt from Damaging Your Car

Driving through snow damaging cars

While keeping after any accumulated road salt is one way to handle this situation, you can also proactively protect your car from potential salt damage. Both waxes and ceramic coatings protect your exterior from all types of damage, including salt.

Anything you can do to put a barrier over the top of your car’s paint protects it. Having either wax or ceramic coatings applied to your car is a preventative step that can be done to limit road salt damage.

  • Exterior Wax— This covers your car in a water-resistant layer of wax. This basic protection comes with some of our detailing packages and can protect your paint job.
  • Ceramic Coating — The ultimate form of paint protection, ceramic coating lasts for years and provides protection against most hazards that can damage your exterior. O’Neill’s is one of the few local body shops to offer true ceramic coating. Learn about the best ceramic coating on the market.

Taking the right steps before the flakes fall ensures that your snowy trek won’t tarnish your paint. Learn more about ceramic coating and see the prices.


Detailing and Ceramic Coating from O’Neill’s

Since winter loves to make a mess of previously clean cars, this is the perfect time of year to think about professional detailing. That means this is the best time to schedule your maintenance for the beginning of spring, or you may even want to give car detailing as a Christmas gift to the car-lover in your life.

Contact us to schedule detailing or ceramic coating for your car today.

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