Road De-Icers Cause $3 Billion Annually in Vehicle Rust Damage


Staff Report



COLUMBUS – It feels like spring, but road de-icing materials used this winter may still be wreaking havoc on area vehicles. De-icing materials reduce crashes and save lives, but can also lead to costly and potentially dangerous vehicle rust damage if motorists don’t properly care for their cars. A new AAA survey found U.S. drivers paid an estimated $15.4 billion in rust repairs caused by de-icing methods during the last five years, or about $3 billion each year.

“While the application of de-icing salts and solutions is critical to keeping our nation’s roadways safe every winter, it’s important that drivers pay attention to warning signs that their vehicle may be suffering from rust-related damage,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair.

Dangerous and Costly Damage:

  • Rust damage from de-icers can be more than a cosmetic issue. It can also create serious safety issues by impacting brake lines, fuel tanks, exposed electrical components and floorboards.

Dangerous rust damage warning signs include:

  • In-dash warning lights for brakes and other critical systems.
  • A “spongey” or soft feeling when applying pressure to the brake pedal.
  • An unusually loud exhaust sound or the smell of fumes in or around the vehicle.
  • The prominent smell of gasoline or diesel fuel when the vehicle is parked or running.
  • Rust damage is also costly. During the past five years 22 million U.S. drivers have experienced rust damage to their cars due to salt and liquid de-icers. The average cost to repair this damage is close to $500 per repair.

De-Icer Basics:

  • Many state and local transportation departments have shifted from using rock salt to liquid de-icers to combat ice and snow. The Ohio Department of Transportation pre-treats roads with a liquid salt brine or calcium chloride solution, and uses rock salt or liquid treatments to melt ice and snow during a storm.
  • While incorporating liquid de-icing methods is more effective at improving road safety than simply using traditional salt, they can be more damaging to vehicles. The chemicals remain in liquid form longer and are more likely to coat vehicle components and seep into cracks and crevices where corrosion can accelerate.

Prevention is Key:

Ohioans are among the 70 percent of Americans who live in areas impacted by ice and snow. Since clearing the road during winter storms is critical to road safety, it’s up to Ohio drivers to take steps to prevent dangerous rust-related vehicle damage to their vehicles:

  • When possible, limit driving immediately before, during and after snow storms when salt and de-icing solutions are being applied at their highest concentrations.
  • Frequently wash your vehicle during the winter, paying particular attention to the undercarriage.
  • Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent that will strip the wax from your vehicle.
  • Repair body damage and touch up paint scratches and chips that expose bare metal.
  • Apply a good coating of wax to protect the finish.

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Staff Report

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial- and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited online at AAA.com.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial- and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited online at AAA.com.