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The science of salt damage: tips to preventing rust spots on your car

Winter Weather storm Oklahoma
Posted at 12:05 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 12:05:36-05

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WKBW) — With the latest snowstorm to hit Western New York, crews are putting down large amounts of salt on the roads to melt the snow but all that salt can also seriously damage your car as well.

How does the salt impact your car?

According to experts at Ziebart in West Seneca, road crews in Western New York spread more salt than any other area in the country, and crews here often use a combination of two types of treatments to get the job done.

Both your typical rock salt and liquid treatments are used and sometimes the solid salt is coated with the liquid to make it stick to the roads better. However, that also makes the salt stick to the undercarriage of your car more as well.

Over time, that eats away at the metal components under your car, causing rust.

"Rust is natural, it's always going to happen," said Ann Scalia, Vice President of Dealer Services at Ziebart. "It's nature's way of removing steel from the environment — we are always fighting it here in Western New York."

What is the cost of rust damage?

Experts say rust can also do thousands of dollars in damage to your car if it forms in the wrong spot. Just one panel being rusted can cost $1,000 to fix.

There are also thousands of small welded spots on your car, and welding does not have rust protection.

Plus, salt can damage your car's suspension and dry out your car's brake lines; replacing a brake line can cost upwards of $500, depending on the severity of the damage.

How can you prevent rust from forming?

Experts say one of the best ways to avoid having to make costly repairs like these is to wash your car regularly: it prevents salt buildup at a fraction of the cost of repairs. A car wash generally starts at around $20 per wash at places like Delta Sonic.

You can also consider getting the undercarriage of your car sprayed with undercoating. This, however, is a little more pricey — it can cost a few hundred dollars to have done — but will last longer.

A simple and free thing that car experts say will prevent your car from rusting deals with your doors specifically. Many cars have drainage holes built into the bottom edge of the doors; clearing these of debris and dirt will help prevent pooling that would cause rust to form on your car doors.