Car Counselor: The salt spray used on the road can damage your car

Rain. Good ol' rain. That's what we're used to and that's what it looks like will be coming very soon! After last week's city-crippling snow, we should be grateful.

The snow we had, though, is what I want to talk about this week.

The city used a salt-brine solution for the first time in recent memory. For years, we depended on sand and a few plow trucks to get the arterials clear until the winter of '08 / '09 when prolonged snow drew criticism from the people on why we didn't use salt on our roads the way they do in other parts of the country. After all, if the Midwest can get feet of snow every year and still manage to have people drive to work and back, why should we shut down for a few inches of the white stuff?

Well, this year we were ready. I saw the trucks going by on Monday morning, laying a liquid base of salt and water to the streets so the snow wouldn't stick. The problem, it seems, is that when it worked and the falling snow melted, the night-time freeze turned the whole thing into ice – as we saw on Tuesday. The city admits it has a little fine-tuning to do, but it looks like the salt is here to stay.

You may wonder what this has got to do with my automotive column.

It's the salt that I want to make you aware of. Now that we're past the first snowfall (La Nina will likely bring more), we need to deal with the salt-spray that is on everyone's vehicles. I've seen so many cars and trucks from the Midwest and East Coast, that I can practically identify the area! Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey – the salt is extremely corrosive and takes it's toll on the vehicles. In fact, after as few as 6-8 years the vehicle may be ruined.

What I want everyone to do is wash their cars as soon as possible after events like last week, and take the time to get some fresh water up under the vehicle as well. The paint, if it's in good shape, usually will protect the body fairly well, but it's the exposed metal of bolts, brackets, exhaust, etc. that will take the brunt of the damage. If you have your car washed professionally, ask them to take the time for an undercarriage rinse.

The extra time you spend now will add more service life you your car or truck, especially if we have the kind of winter that is being predicted for our area.

For now, enjoy the rain and drive safe!

As always, I welcome questions and feed back from my readers and I'll see you on the road!

Todd Ainsworth is one of the owners of West Seattle Autoworks and can be reached at or 206.257.5344.

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