7 Tips for Preventing Road Salt Damage

Learn how to protect your car from road salt during winter

Winter travel adds extra hazards to everyday driving. While snow- and ice-related dents and dings are immediately noticeable, road salt damage to cars is the culprit that silently assaults all winter long. The risk: unsightly car body damage and dangerous brake and fuel line damage.

Spread over roads both before and after winter storms, the sand and salt mix packs a one-two punch. Salt helps lower the freezing temperature of snow and ice to help the roadway stay unfrozen at colder temperatures. Salt provides added traction on cold, wet roads.

But, salt is a corrosive material. Without proper maintenance, road salt damage can rust your vehicle. Rust damage caused by road salt can generally be avoided with the proper precautions. These tips can help you prevent rust damage.

Preventive Maintenance

  • In late fall, wash your entire vehicle including the underside, which is extra sensitive to rust damage.
  • After a thorough car wash, apply a complete coat of wax and a wax sealant to protect your vehicle’s paint. Unsure of the best car wax strategy? Review our How-to Wax a Car: Step-by-step Guide.
  • Check your vehicle for rust damage, including the underside. Monitor brake and fuel lines. Corrosion in these places can make your vehicle unsafe. Ask a professional to repair rust damage to the brake and fuel lines.

Winter Upkeep

  • Keep the floors of your car clean and dry to prevent the slush and salt on your shoes from creating floor rust. Installing heavy rubber floor pads can help.
  • After driving, carefully remove any snow that accumulated behind the wheels.
  • Run your car through the car wash as often as possible during the winter, cleaning rust-sensitive spots such as the hood, top and rear deck. Salt often settles in these locations. Car wash steam and undercarriage cleaning can also be helpful in preventing rust damage under your vehicle.
  • After each wash, re-wax and re-seal your vehicle.

Warm Weather Salt Damage

Drivers in states outside the Snow Belt rarely suffer road salt damage, but they face salt damage from a different source: salty ocean air. To fight sea salt damage, drivers can take the same steps to protect their vehicles.