Winter Driving 101: How to Stop Road Salt from Damaging Your Car This Winter

The road salt that gets sprayed onto snow during the wintertime does wonders when it comes to clearing the roads, but it can also wreak havoc on your car’s paint. Over time, the salt, wetness, and moisture can erode your car’s paint and cause rust spots, which is expensive to repair. However, there are some steps that you can take to prepare your car’s exterior for during the winter and help prevent rust from forming. Here are a few tips.

Wax your car and keep its tires clean

A car's tire spins on an icy and snow-covered road.
A car’s tire spins on an icy and snow-covered road. | Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images

While you might think that washing and waxing your car are great during the summertime, it’s even more important in the winter. According to Nationwide, the wax protects your car’s surface like an invisible shield, and applying a good thick coat can guard it against corrosive salt. Speaking of the salt, your car’s tires typically pick up the road salt and fling it onto your car’s paint when you drive, so make sure to keep them clean as well.

Wash your car every 10 days or so

 Workers wash cars wearing full protection against Coronavirus.
Workers wash cars wearing full protection against Coronavirus. | John Keeble/Getty Images

Before waxing your car, it’s a good idea to wash it. However, make sure not to wash your car in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit as doing so can cause the water to freeze the paint. Additionally, the car’s door locks can end up freezing as well, so be sure to completely dry the car when you’re done. For best results, repeat this process every 10 days.

Avoid driving before or after a snowstorm and stay away from deep snow

A man pushes his car out of deep snow.
A man pushes his car out of deep snow. | Getty Images

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If possible, try to avoid driving before or after a snowstorm as there is typically a lot of salt on the roads during that time. If you must drive during those times, or during the snowstorm itself, then just make sure to wash and wax your car after the weather has cleared up. By doing so, you’ll be able to wash off any dirt, grime, or road salt picked up during the storm.

On that note, try and stay away from deep snow and water puddles as well. However, it’s not always possible, so just do the best you can. If anything, always wash your car after to prevent corrosion.

Use a do-it-yourself car wash

Rotating brushes at a car wash.
Rotating brushes at a car wash. | Ernst Haas/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nationwide also recommends that if you’re going to wash your, then you should do it yourself. Whether you can wash your car at home with a hose or pull up to a coin-op car wash with a high-pressure hose, either route will be better than an automatic wash. The reason is that you can wash behind the fenders and underneath the car better than an automatic carwash can by simply angling the hose to reach those hard-to-get places.

Caring for your car during the wintertime is relatively simple

As we can see, there’s no hidden secret to preventing road salt from corroding your car’s paint. All it takes is a little time and preparation, in addition to a really good car wash and wax job, to ward off the potential damage that the salt can do to your car. In some cases, rust formation might not be completely preventable. However, properly caring for your car during the wintertime can do a lot to help.

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