Combating The Salt Assault: What You Need To Know

Looks pretty nice... for now!Road salt has long been the bane of car owners in areas with snowy winters. No matter what you do, it has a way of covering your entire vehicle, making your pride and joy look like utter trash. Why do we even use the stuff? Simple chemistry. Salt lowers the melting point of water, allowing snow to dissipate with ease after a massive blizzard.

Despite how damaging it is to cars (not to mention the environment), the United States uses over 20 million tons of road salt every year. With tens of millions of tons of that good ol’ sodium chloride hitting the roads annually, it’s important to know what kind of damage salt does to cars, how to protect your car from salt, and what NOT to do when you notice a build-up of salt on your car. Let’s take a look.

Why Salt Matters

Aesthetics

Aesthetics are key to any car enthusiast. Half the fun of properly maintaining a vehicle is how great it looks when you take the right care. Few things ruin that look quicker than road salt. After only a few blocks on salt-ridden streets, you’re gonna have a significant amount of dusty, crusty salt clinging to the sides of your car. And while it may be fun for your kids to draw a giant smiley face on your rear window, all that dust is going to make you and your car look like a joke. 

Rust/Corrosion 

Salt speeds up the oxidation process of water, potentially leading to rust and corrosion slowly eating away at your vehicle. Thanks to the increased use of rust inhibiting technology in car factories, this is less and less of an issue, however, it still should be taken seriously. Holes caused by rust can lead to noxious fumes being pumped into your car and will make your A/C and heating systems virtually useless. 

How To Protect Your Car From Salt

If you’re already making a point to take care of your car, I have good news for you: road salt is not something to be worried about. Chances are, you’ve already covered your car with a protective coating that will let the salt slip right off with a simple hand wash. But what if you haven’t taken those steps yet? Let’s take a look at the options:

PPFs

PPFs (Protective Paint Films, also known as clear bras) are millimeters-thick films that encase parts (or all, if you’ve got the dough) of your car to prevent paint damage from small rocks and, yes, you guessed it, road salt crystals.

As I mentioned in the last paragraph, PPFs cost a pretty penny, so most would be fine to cover only the front-facing features on your car. While not essential by any means, when used in concert with a coating that covers the unprotected parts, they can be remarkably effective. 

Coatings

Coatings, on the other hand, are absolutely essential for protecting your car’s paint from salt damage. Pick up a jar of Dr. Beasley’s PlasmaCoat and apply that to your car before winter sets in. The coating will not only protect your car’s paint, it will also make salt wash off with ease. 

Unfortunately, when faced with a salt-plastered car, many people with coated cars panic and immediately rush to an automatic car wash to blast away the offending substance. Don’t do this! Automatic car washes use harsh chemicals that can damage the coating, which was protecting it from salt in the first place. Stick to a hand wash and your coating will be fine.

Hand Washing 

Hand washing is absolutely necessary for eliminating salt on a car. However, many (understandably) object to the idea of hand washing your own car during the frigid depths of winter. Instead, they point to touchless or brushless car washes as an alternative. Unfortunately, they can be just as damaging as an automatic wash since they also employ harsh chemicals. If you absolutely cannot do your own hand wash, try to find a professional hand car wash near you.

Two Bucket vs. Snow Foam

Most car owners default to the two bucket method when tasked with a hand wash, which is a smart move. However, if you’re looking for added protection, you may want to take a look at incorporating snow foam into your hand wash regimen.

At Dr. Beasley’s detailing partner, Simon’s Shine Shop, we soak the car in a snow foam following the initial rinse, which eliminates the possibility of salt scratches by lifting the crystals and letting them wash away in the second rinse. So, if scratches are a major concern for you, make sure to pick up some snow foam or find a hand washer that employs it. 

What About Matte Cars?

Cars with matte paint jobs follow largely the same principles outlined earlier. The major difference is that salt takes a little longer to show up on matte paint, and you need to use a coating designed specifically for matte paint jobs – Dr. Beasley’s Matte Paint Coating should do the trick. 

Common Sense Tips

Beyond coatings and films, there are some common sense tips that can help you avoid excessive salt build-up.

  1. Try to avoid puddles while driving. This may seem like second nature to anyone with even the slightest interest in maintaining their car, but you’d be surprised. Puddles kick up water on to your car’s body, which binds with the salt, smearing it all over and kickstarting the oxidation process. 
  2. Avoid tailing road salt trucks. Once again, sounds obvious, but many people drive on “auto-pilot” and don’t necessarily consider the kind of vehicle directly in front of them. 

 

Like I said earlier, road salt is a major aesthetic annoyance, but should be no cause for panic. If you’ve already got a coating or clear bra on your car, you should be able to clear the salt right off with a simple hand wash. If you don’t have a coating, it’s never too late. Even if it’s the end of winter and another snow seems unlikely, coatings are still useful in the warmer months. After all, you never know when a seagull will decide to drop a deuce on your hood!