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Northern US road salt and rust

Corrosion rust road salt

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8 replies to this topic

#1 BB's93LegacyL

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 12:51 PM

The question comes up occasionally about used cars from the northern U.S., and how rust is a problem.

I came across a map that shows the amount of road salt used in the U.S. The map tells most of the story, but there is more to the problem.

 

Where I live in Wisconsin, the road salt season is anytime temperatures drop below freezing. Our road salt season is about 6 months long, as early as October, to April. 

 

The severity of the cold prevents washing cars unless you have access to a heated structure for thawing the glaciers in the wheel wells, and flushing the undercarriage. Last winter we had 60 days with a low temperature of 0ºF or colder. Even if it warms up enough to wash the car, in two blocks driving away from the car wash, the car is bathed in salt water/slush/spray again. The undercarriage flush at the automatic car wash doesn't even begin to wash out the wheel wells.

 

Finally, the amount of snow throughout the season means there is always new snow, sand, and salt being packed into the wheel wells forming a gritty block of dirty salty ice. The map below shows the depth of snow cover on March 10, 2014.

 

The photos of my car show how much ice packs in the wheel wells. During a couple of days in early February that were sunny and around 20º, the wheel wells started to thaw, and I estimated about 30# of snow/ice/sand/salt came out of each wheel well. The photo with the snow shovel shows what came out of one wheel well. They packed full again anyway. 

I'm sure those of you who live right on the coasts with salt in the air have your own rust issues, but this is why we like to find "southern cars" when shopping for used!

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Edited by BB's93LegacyL, 15 July 2014 - 12:54 PM.


#2 Fairtax4me

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 12:36 AM

At least you're not in Michigan.

We get enough salt where I am in VA. I do not want to go any further north or west and have to deal with the salt there. Only about half the state has to use salt though. East of Richmond practically never even sees snow.
Except for this past winter. They had over 20" for the season in Virginia Beach. I lived there for 10 years and saw snow maybe twice.

#3 heartless

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 07:03 AM

I grew up in Michigan, and have lived in Wisconsin for the last 22 years - I can completely sympathize with BB's93LegacyL

 

Finding any car more than a couple years old without at least some rust is pretty much impossible without going far out of state. you do what you can to maintain what you have, but when it is -20 to -30 F for days/weeks on end, there isnt a whole lot you can do...not many of us have heated garages...

 

and then there are the days when it is snowing and blowing so bad that it packs your car full of snow (my profile pic is of my 90 Lego's engine bay packed full - taken after I had scraped the snow off the top of the motor - was packed so full that you could see the impression of the underside of the hood in it! wish I had thought to take a pic before I started digging it out) Funny thing was - the car started and ran fine - until it started to melt that snow and got connectors wet...took 3 days to get it thawed out & dryed out enough to be able to drive it again.



#4 fishy

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 07:26 AM

I'm in the rust belt on the Canadian side of the border. Nova Scotia to be exact. Not only do we use obscene amounts of salt on the roads here but there's also no point in my province where you can be more than 50km (35mi) away from the ocean. Draw your own conclusions but most cars here seem to disintegrate before they stop working.

Heck, the salt even destroys our road infrastructure like bridges and such. 

There was a study done that showed (I'm going to invent the numbers out of thin air because I forget the exact ones) using salt was a cost savings over newer better technology that doesn't ruin metal or at least not nearly as quickly. The government was saving something like $100/tonne by using salt... and that's great but the salt was causing an estimated $900/tonne in infrastructure damage. In any case it's sickening.



#5 BB's93LegacyL

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 09:15 AM

Re: road salt alternatives, cost of de-icing materials vs. cost savings to infrastructure, here's a table that shows relative costs and effectiveness of different de-icers. As to the damage done to cars, it is severe, but compared to when I was a kid, cars are so much more durable mechanically and with regard to corrosion. My parents had a new '62 Pontiac that had rust perforation by the time it was 3 years old. Now that cars are lasting longer (average car on the road today is 11 yrs old), corrosion can still add to repair costs, and reduce the life of the car faster than miles driven, especially on low-mileage cars like mine ('93 w/144k miles).

I can appreciate the damage from being near the ocean. When vacationing in a fairly new rental home within a hundred yards or so of the ocean, I saw rust on things I've never seen rusty before, e.g. rust on the refrigerator door hinges, rusty ceiling fans, and rusted out motorcycles. What really drove home the point of how salty the air is near the coast was when a naturalist showed us live oaks that grow as scrubby brush near the ocean, compared to just a few hundred yards inland, where they can grow to be very large trees.

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Edited by BB's93LegacyL, 16 July 2014 - 09:20 AM.


#6 lmdew

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 09:09 PM

I love Colorado Cars!

Pretty much rust free.

 

Let me know when you need a good one!



#7 MilesFox

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 09:23 PM

Even new cars begin to show their rust within 5 years. This is why you can't have nice things.



#8 its_masters

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 12:58 AM

It's sad. I live in Michigan and you have such a hard time finding a rust free car coming originally from Michigan.  



#9 fishy

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 04:56 AM

Re: road salt alternatives, cost of de-icing materials vs. cost savings to infrastructure, here's a table that shows relative costs and effectiveness of different de-icers. As to the damage done to cars, it is severe, but compared to when I was a kid, cars are so much more durable mechanically and with regard to corrosion. My parents had a new '62 Pontiac that had rust perforation by the time it was 3 years old. Now that cars are lasting longer (average car on the road today is 11 yrs old), corrosion can still add to repair costs, and reduce the life of the car faster than miles driven, especially on low-mileage cars like mine ('93 w/144k miles).

I can appreciate the damage from being near the ocean. When vacationing in a fairly new rental home within a hundred yards or so of the ocean, I saw rust on things I've never seen rusty before, e.g. rust on the refrigerator door hinges, rusty ceiling fans, and rusted out motorcycles. What really drove home the point of how salty the air is near the coast was when a naturalist showed us live oaks that grow as scrubby brush near the ocean, compared to just a few hundred yards inland, where they can grow to be very large trees.



Thanks for the table. There are lots of choices there and probably none of them are any good :)

You're right about the newer cars holding up better. Just about any new car you get now would likely go 5+ years before rust even started in on it.


I seem to have a knack for buying older japanese cars that deteriorate in both body condition (rust) and mechanical condition (mileage and regular wear) at about the same rate so they fall apart around me while they fall apart underneath me beyond the point where they're worth fixing. Don't be jealous :)
 







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