Are the Anti-Icing Chemicals Used on Roads Bad for Cars?

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Are the Anti-Icing Chemicals Used on Roads Bad for Cars?

Even if you don’t live in an area that sees a lot of winter weather, there’s a better-than-average chance that you will have at least one or two events each winter where salt or other chemicals are used to treat road surfaces in order to prevent them from becoming slick. Granted, this makes it safer to drive on the roads, but have you ever wondered what it does to your car?

Chemicals Typically Used

More often than not, the thing that is used in order to deal with slick roads is salt, although there are some other combinations of chemicals that are sometimes used as well. In some areas, sand is used and in other areas, it’s a salt and sand combination. It really depends on exactly where you live and how bad the winters typically get in that area. Since salt is by far the most common thing that is used to treat roads during the winter, that is what will be discussed first. It’s also the focal point of this particular article.


For anyone that drives an older car, rust is always a huge concern. Several years ago, most cars were made out of metal and sooner or later, that metal has a tendency to rust, even in fairly good conditions. If something has happened to the paint or the car has been exposed to salt in any capacity, the tendency to rust is accelerated. This can do a real number on a car, even to the point of adversely impacting its overall value. Rust is a process that goes from bad to worse. For any car that is experiencing rust, the process either has to be stopped or it will continue until it eats a hole right through the metal. Therefore, salt on roads is a real problem for older automobiles.

Modern Cars Are At Risk Too

This might lead some people to believe that they don’t need to worry if they drive one of the more modern cars that is made from lighter types of metals and incorporate a lot of plastic. However, that really couldn’t be farther from the truth. Salt damages these vehicles too, just in different ways. For the most part, the salt damages the clear coat finish that is used on these modern cars. It has a way of eating the clear coat away, just as it eats away metal. Sooner or later, the clear coat finish starts to peel away, exposing the paint or the raw finish itself. Either way, it makes the car look terrible and it can do serious damage, depending on what the base material is. If it’s a type of metal like aluminum, rust can still occur. If the surface in question is a plastic bumper, the peeling of the clear coat makes the surface look far different than the rest of the vehicle, thereby making the vehicle look old and worn-out.

Other Chemicals

It’s important to note that a whole host of chemicals can sometimes be used. Therefore, drivers never really know exactly what’s on the road once it’s been treated. Generally speaking, there aren’t very many chemicals that are good for the paint job of an automobile, so it’s imperative that these types of substances be removed as quickly as possible in order to ensure that the car remains in good condition

What Can Happen To Your Car?

Obviously, damage to the finish is one of the things that is going to be a potential problem. However, it doesn’t stop with a rusted finish or a peeling clear coat. The damage from rust can go from being a mere nuisance to something that is truly serious, especially for those cars that have been neglected for a number of years. The same thing happens when drivers travel on these treated roads and then don’t get the substances off of their cars in a timely fashion. The longer the substance is on the car or the more times the automobile is exposed to the substance, the better the chances are for damage to occur. When it’s all said and done, it can result in serious body damage that can have a negative impact on the resale value of the car. It can also take things a step further by damaging the car so severely that virtually no amount of body work can restore the finish, short of a total rebuild.

Are There Deeper Concerns?

Most people start to wonder if there might be bigger problems brewing, especially once they know what these types of substances can do to the finish of an automobile. Is it possible that it could be damaging mechanical components such as those associated with the steering or potentially damaging the rotors on the car? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is yes. That’s why it’s so important that these substances be removed as quickly as possible and the car owners be thorough in making sure that the chemicals are removed in their entirety.

Possible Solutions

Most people think that the obvious answer to dealing with these chemicals is to take the car to the car wash in order to remove the substances. This answer is only partly correct. Obviously, you want to get these chemicals off of the car as quickly as possible. The problem comes in the form of the car wash itself and its design. If you’re going to an automatic car wash, the very design of it has a tendency to grind the chemicals into the finish of the car as opposed to getting rid of them. When you see those big machines coming at your car that rub it with soap, they’re actually grinding the impurities right into the surface. Manual car washes are a better option because you can spray the entire car down before you allow anything else to touch it. Once you’ve done that, you can take the foam brush and make sure that it’s really clean but you have to be meticulous in order to make sure that everything has been removed. Your best bet is to take the car to a manual car wash, spray it off from bumper to bumper, top to bottom, and then use the foam brush on it so you can wash it again. Once you’ve done all of that, you can go to an automatic car wash and have the undercarriage sprayed down. It might take a little time and it seems a bit redundant, but it’s really the only way to make sure that you get all of the chemicals off the car. Obviously, if you live in an area where there’s a lot of winter weather, this is something you’re going to be doing every few days until the weather warms up.

Know When To Seek Help From A Professional

If you notice rust on your car or that your clear coat is starting to peel, it might be time to consider taking the car to a professional body shop and having them look at it. It’s easy to discount these things, especially when they’re first noticed. You think that you have time to deal with it later. The problem is, most people never deal with it until the problem becomes so severe that it ends up costing them a small fortune to fix it. If you take the car in when it’s first noticed, it might be a lot easier and more economical to deal with the problem. In some cases, only a few minor repairs might be needed from a qualified body shop. In other instances, it might be time to get the whole car repainted and have a new clear coat put on. It all comes down to the fact that it’s better to leave this decision to the experts and then follow their advice.

Buying A Used Car

A lot of times, you will notice these types of problems when you’re in the market for a used car. This is one of the main reasons that people make the decision to trade a car off, especially aside from mechanical issues. More often than not, people simply don’t want to deal with a problem like rust once it starts. If it gets out of hand, a lot of individuals think it’s easier to simply trade the car off and start over than do something about it. If you already own a car that has a rust problem, it just makes sense to take it to a body shop and have the professionals make the necessary repairs. Things might be a little different if you’re in the market for a used car and you find one that has tons of damage. Is it really worth it to purchase a car that already has a lot of damage and you know you’re going to have to have it repaired almost immediately? You would have to be getting a great deal on the car for this to even be feasible. You also have to ask yourself the question concerning the rest of the car’s condition that you can’t see as readily. If these problems, which are clearly visible to the naked eye, haven’t been dealt with, what else hasn’t been attended to with the car? You might be getting yourself into hot water if you purchase it.

When it’s all said and done, it’s important to remember that the chemicals that are used to treat roads during the winter can be very damaging to the finish on virtually any car. The best thing you can do is get the chemicals off of the car as quickly as possible. Whatever you do, don’t leave them on there for an extended period of time, as real damage can occur very quickly when the chemicals have the opportunity to remain on the surface of the car. That’s why it’s so important that you wash it promptly, you wash it the right way, and you know what to look for when it comes to signs of body damage from salt and other road chemicals.

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