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Northern US road salt and rust

Corrosion rust road salt

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23 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 :)
 



#10 BB's93LegacyL

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 12:20 PM

Just an update, this winter season the first road salt was put down on Oct 31. If there is an upside to living in a cold climate, as far as rust is concerned, I think corrosion slows down in colder temperatures below freezing? I think I saw a formula for calculating this. Small consolation though!



#11 bratman18

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 03:03 PM

It's the same here in Maine. Salt and calcium chloride kills cars quickly. And anything else it comes in contact with.

#12 moosens

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 03:28 PM

My 92 legacy is holding up really well here where we have used chemicals for quite some time now.

My 78 is getting by because it WAS rust proofed but spots of the protection have been "salted" away.

The stuff helps save lives. We've got to cry less about our cars. Yeah , I cry too. But here's my example. I got to my storage unit at 6:20am today. Took a nap in the car. Previously the roads were perfectly dry. During my nap a mist/drizzle began but the temps were perfect for ...... Evil music please .... BLACK ICE wooooo , that was scary!! Driving home was slow with accidents everywhere. And UN Freakin Believably the state trucks neglected to treat the roads ahead of time as usual.

The icy northeast is like the upper Midwest. We start treating the bridges etc when temps freeze mid October maybe thru early April maybe.

I got a 73 coupe brought to me across the country in the dead of winter by one of our great members here. Dragged thru all the states you'd expect are nasty in winter. Got to me crudded up with red clay , salt , you name it. We brought it over to the U Do it type of car wash and in like 20 degrees with a wind blowing 12-18mph the water just froze and cleaning it up was half assed and painful.

Rant !!! Lol but yeah the trucks are all going to crap so they are seeing the light now , we hope.

#13 xdeadeye1

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 03:30 PM

MY QUESTION IS,, mine is already rusty.. should I be washing it ?  or is the damage done?



#14 1982gl4

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 05:35 PM

I work at a small shop here in VT, and rust is the killer. Everything becomes harder with rust, theres not a day I'm not using a torch and air hammer to get a stuck bolt out or something has failed due to rust/corrosion. (not complaing it makes for a good living, it just sucks for an enthusiast!) If you are lucky your car will make it 10 years up here. I've been undercoating my winter car, a 92 legacy since it came here from oregon a few years ago with a product called fluid film. I have a couple spots popping after 3 years of my ownership one tiny spot on the front drivers door, and a couple on the rear tailgate where the paint has cracked. I think it spent one winter here before I owned it but it was driven sparingly as it belonged to a collage student. Underneath with the exception of the exhaust, and struts, the car still looks really good, I plan on getting many more years of service out of it, but I do wash it after work regularly, and I make sure I go around touch up all the rust spots, wax, and undercoat it before every winter. I even pull the rear panels out in the rear hatch area, and undercoat it from the inside to prevent rusty from starting there like they all get, I also wash out the front fenders every year as they love to rust there as well. 

 

http://www.fluid-film.com/


Edited by 1982gl4, 18 January 2015 - 05:40 PM.


#15 xdeadeye1

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 06:04 PM

my dad swears by spraying undsides fenders etc.. with crude oil



#16 bratman18

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 06:20 PM

There are plenty of places that get bad weather and cold temps that don't use salt or calcium chloride. They can use sand,and I know of areas over seas that use pea gravel. And they often sweep a good amount of it up after the winter and re use it. Yes, these can cause rock dings in the paint, and sand blasting, but that's far less damage than the others cause. And on top of that, it often is cold enough, that these products melt the ice, or keep it from freezing for a certain amount of time, and then because of the melted water, and cold temps, it actually freezes and makes it worse than it would have been initially.

#17 BB's93LegacyL

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Posted 18 January 2015 - 10:21 PM

To 1982gl4: I discovered Fluid Film a few years ago. It's a unique product made from sheep's wool lanolin. As you know, it is not meant to be put on rusty metal to stop rust. It is for clean metal, to keep the oxidation reaction from starting. I use it all the time. People looking for it won't find it in stores -- go to the website and look for dealers in your area. In my case, I buy it from a nearby farm implement dealer.

 

xdeadeye1, You raise an interesting question. Should you wash a rusty car, or is the damage already done? I have no statistics to back up my opinion, but here it is nonetheless.

Corrosion is aggravated by moisture, salt, and temperature. If you wash your car (including underbody flush) you are removing some of the corrosive salt, but you are forcing moisture into tight spaces that dry slowly. Since cars in wet environments without salt have nowhere near the rust problem of cars in the salt belt, I believe that removing salt by washing is a good trade-off vs. leaving your car salty, and as wet as the roads and nature dictate.

 

ADIDASubarus, you make a good point, and you are from a cold part of the U.S., so you know what you are talking about.

 

PsychoSub, Yes, the salt saves lives, no question about it. Black ice is just horrible. Many years ago I spent a few terrifying seconds tobogganing into the snow-filled median of a 4-lane highway because I failed to recognize black ice. So soon old, and so late smart.

A few years ago I was driving commercially with a young kid in the co-pilot seat. He thought we were driving on wet pavement. I explained black ice to him, but I don't know if the message reached him. I hope so, he was a good kid.



#18 moosens

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 12:22 AM

moosens , not psycho .....
Thanks for verifying. :)

#19 mikaleda

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 08:49 AM

Up here we have major issues with a salt brine they use on the roads. The bad part of salt brine is it gets everywhere! I constantly have issues with calipers undercarriage rot, I've even had issues greasing ujoints as well.
As for a product to stop rust, POR 15 works well for stopping rust in its tracks. If it wasn't so expensive I would paint my car with it.

#20 bratman18

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 08:53 AM

Up here we have major issues with a salt brine they use on the roads. The bad part of salt brine is it gets everywhere! I constantly have issues with calipers undercarriage rot, I've even had issues greasing ujoints as well.
As for a product to stop rust, POR 15 works well for stopping rust in its tracks. If it wasn't so expensive I would paint my car with it.


"Salt brine" is the calcium chloride I speak of. It's terrible stuff.

#21 mikaleda

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 11:10 AM

"Salt brine" is the calcium chloride I speak of. It's terrible stuff.


You are correct and I agree

#22 heartless

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 03:10 PM

couple the salt with coarse sand (fine gravel really) and you get even worse problems - little rocks chipping away at the paint to let the salt get an even stronger hold on your car.

 

They use this fine gravel on the county roads around me...the main routes get covered in salt - combine the two and it is pretty rough on a car <_<



#23 scatgo

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 05:43 PM

Hate to be a buzz kill but my niece has a 99 forester that I  work on when needed and the rust situation is not all that bad. It has over 200k on it. My nephew has a 98 jeep I just spent a lot of time under because I had to replace the flywheel and it has close to 0 body rust and he has over 200k on it. And we are in the death zone of NY as far as the map and salt goes.



#24 scatgo

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 05:47 PM

To 1982gl4: I discovered Fluid Film a few years ago. It's a unique product made from sheep's wool lanolin. As you know, it is not meant to be put on rusty metal to stop rust. It is for clean metal, to keep the oxidation reaction from starting. I use it all the time. People looking for it won't find it in stores -- go to the website and look for dealers in your area. In my case, I buy it from a nearby farm implement dealer.

 

xdeadeye1, You raise an interesting question. Should you wash a rusty car, or is the damage already done? I have no statistics to back up my opinion, but here it is nonetheless.

Corrosion is aggravated by moisture, salt, and temperature. If you wash your car (including underbody flush) you are removing some of the corrosive salt, but you are forcing moisture into tight spaces that dry slowly. Since cars in wet environments without salt have nowhere near the rust problem of cars in the salt belt, I believe that removing salt by washing is a good trade-off vs. leaving your car salty, and as wet as the roads and nature dictate.

 

ADIDASubarus, you make a good point, and you are from a cold part of the U.S., so you know what you are talking about.

 

PsychoSub, Yes, the salt saves lives, no question about it. Black ice is just horrible. Many years ago I spent a few terrifying seconds tobogganing into the snow-filled median of a 4-lane highway because I failed to recognize black ice. So soon old, and so late smart.

A few years ago I was driving commercially with a young kid in the co-pilot seat. He thought we were driving on wet pavement. I explained black ice to him, but I don't know if the message reached him. I hope so, he was a good kid.

Thumbs up on the Fluid Film! Good stuff.



#25 BB's93LegacyL

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 11:04 PM

I don't see any rules about posting links on this forum.  If I'm breaking a rule here, let me know--here is the link to FluidFilm

http://www.fluid-film.com/







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