Monday, June 5, 2023
The Importance of Washing Away Road Salt

Spring is a great time to start promoting that all important post-winter wash to your customers. Months of filthy roads, mud, grime and salt could be sitting unchecked on the hidden nooks and crannies of vehicles slowly causing expensive problems. Get the low down on why salt is bad so you can educate and inform your customers.

Why is salt bad for cars?

While wintry landscapes and freshly settled snow can make the countryside look beautiful, they can also severely take their toll on vehicles as road salt has corrosive properties that, if left unchecked, can have a negative impact on your customers pride and joy.

Saab 900 in the snow

Why do we put salt on the roads?

More than two million tonnes of ‘road salt’ (a mixture of salt and sand) is spread on the UK’s roads each year, the salt helping to prevent ice from forming, while the sand adds traction.

It works because sodium chloride, to give salt its chemical name, raises the freezing point of water and – in turn – makes our roads far safer. There’s no arguing with its benefits, but for those who cherish their cars its presence isn’t always welcomed.

What can it do to vehicles?

In short, salt is corrosive. If it is left on any exposed area of bare metal, it will begin a chemical reaction leading to the formation of ferrous oxide – better known as rust.

Prior to the late 1990s, when most manufacturers started to protect steel car bodies via the process of galvanisation (essentially coating the steel with zinc in order to preserve it), corrosion was a major problem and once a car had seen half a dozen winters it wasn’t uncommon to see it pockmarked with rust. Things are much better today, but that doesn’t mean you should rest easy.

While most cars will be absolutely fine on top providing they are cleaned between icy spells, there are areas of the underside that won’t be – all it takes is for a split or crack in the car’s underbody paint to appear, which is quite normal given this is where stones and gravel get thrown up, and rust can take hold. Then there are the exposed suspension components and brake pipes, which can also suffer.

What can I do to prevent it causing harm?

The most important thing you can do is to keep cars clean. While this isn’t, of course, practical when the roads are being gritted every evening between sub-zero temperatures, once the mercury rises you should encourage customers to get a thorough post winter wash. A cheap splash and dash “mini valet” won’t cut it though, as it’s often the parts of the car you can’t see that are under the most critical threat, and this is where your understanding and expertise come into play.

By far the best option is to thoroughly and professionally clean both on top and underneath, paying extra attention to inside the wheel arches and the floor-to-sill joints where dirt traps can create build-ups of salt.

A multipurpose cleaner such as Advanced TFR or Clean All can be foamed or sprayed into the arches and underside areas to dwell and breakdown the grime. A high-pressure rinse with a stubby gun gets you into the arches and a lance extension, or wheeled sprayer give you enhanced access to the underside.

After washing inspect all paintwork carefully. If there are exposed stone chips and areas of lacquer damage, these, too, can become salt traps and will ultimately lead to either corrosion or, at best, damage to the paint surface. Alert your customers to any damage found and educate them on the pitfalls of leaving it. A coat of Wax of Instant Ceramic Coating will provide temporary protection, but it really wants new paint.

Salt can also be extremely damaging to alloy wheels. Any curbed areas leave bare metal exposed to corrosion. Wheels must be thoroughly cleaned and ideally protected. Autoglym Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner will cut through the grime effortlessly and make them spotless again. Instant Ceramic Coating or UHD Wax will take care of the protection. Advise your customers to refurbish damaged wheels.

Now spring has sprung, a full post winter wash and coat of durable protection such as Instant Ceramic Coating is the best investment your customers can make into their car’s long-term preservation.