Road De-Icers Cause $3 Billion in Rust Repairs Annually

rust repairs winter driving

If you live in an area prone to winter weather, listen up. Make sure you’re preventing dangerous rust damage to your vehicle caused by de-icers.

A new AAA survey finds that 70 percent of U.S. drivers will face costly vehicle repairs due to damage from chemicals used to keep roads safe during the winter. Researchers say drivers paid an estimated $15.4 billion in rust repairs due to de-icing methods over the past five years. That’s $3 billion annually.

Rust damage can cause problems with everything from brake lines and fuel tanks to exhaust systems and other critical electrical systems. The average cost of a repair is $490.

It’s not just a rock salt problem either. AAA researchers say newer liquid de-icers can be even worse on cars. They are more effective than salt because they can be applied before a snowstorm, have a lower freezing point and melt ice and snow faster. At the same time, this makes them even more damaging to vehicles. The chemicals remain in liquid form longer making them more likely to coat components and seep into cracks and crevices where corrosion can rear its ugly head.

AAA advises drivers who experience any of the following vehicle malfunctions to immediately move the vehicle off the road to a safe location and have it towed to a trusted repair facility.

  • In-dash warning lights for brakes and other critical systems.
  • A “spongey” or soft feeling when applying pressure to the brake pedal.
  • An unusually loud exhaust sound or the smell of fumes in or around the vehicle.
  • The prominent smell of gasoline or diesel fuel when the vehicle is parked or running.

Some rust damage is unfortunately unavoidable. But AAA has a checklist of things you can do prevent it.

  • Thoroughly wash and clean your vehicle prior to winter.
  • Repair body damage that could de-icing chemicals.
  • Touch up paint scratches and chips where bare metal is exposed.
  • Apply a good coating of wax to protect the finish.
  • Try to limit driving immediately before, during and after winter storms when de-icing chemicals are being applied and are at their highest concentrations.
  • Frequently wash the entire vehicle, including the undercarriage, using a detergent formulated for use on a vehicle – not dish washing soap – to loosen, dissolve and neutralize newer road salts.
  • Give the undercarriage one last cleaning in the spring, any deposits left over from winter can continue to cause corrosion year-round if not properly removed.
Photo Credit: AAA Newsroom
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