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How Salt Affects Cars

by Anthony Bianco

You’ve just given your car’s paint job the best wash ever, but all of a sudden, you break down. Our mobile mechanics offer jump starts, battery replacements (at an extra cost), tow truck services and help if you run out of petrol. No membership required – just pay for what you need, when you need it!

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Here is our blog post on how to protect your car against the sea breeze!

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How Salt Affects Cars – And How To Minimise Its Impact

It’s a pretty simple equation – salt and cars don’t mix! We’ll guide you through what to do when it comes to protecting your car from coastal salty air.

By far, one of the biggest causes of rust and corrosion in cars is salt – otherwise known as sodium chloride. Think back to your high school chemistry. When the metallic surfaces of your car come into contact with salt, it causes a chemical reaction where the iron component of your car’s metal reacts with oxygen to form iron oxide (the fancy name for rust!).

This is exacerbated in hot climates as the direct sun expands the pores in your car’s paint, which absorbs the salt quicker. And when you also add water in the form of humidity, this then speeds up the process, so you’re often fighting a losing battle against the elements.

But don’t despair, here’s what you can do to minimise the impact of salt on your car.

How to protect your car from salt

By far, the single most effective way to protect your car from salt caused corrosion is to keep it clean – really clean! Regularly washing your vehicle will help remove the salt from your car and prevent the oxidation process from occurring.

Washing your car at home will mostly do the job, but sometimes you may need to take your car through a car wash that has an under spray which will blast water into the nooks and crannies of your vehicle.

Hand Washing A Car

Presuming you’re not taking your car on the sand, driving or parking next to the beach on a short term basis shouldn’t cause too many issues. But if you live near the coastline, you’ll need to be vigilant about washing and waxing your car often.

That’s because once the salt has landed onto your paintwork, regular washing prevents it from embedding there and starting the oxidation process. After washing your car, polishing it with a wax or other protectant will create a barrier between your car and the salty air.

Keeping your car locked up in your garage instead of on the driveway reduces the risk of rust from salt as this isolates your car from the elements. If you don’t have an enclosed garage, invest in a car cover to minimise the chance of salt floating onto your car.

Salt corrosion can often be missed, especially when it comes to the underside of your car. Ask your mechanic to have a quick look for rust with every service, especially the exhaust and braking systems.

If you’re the kind who likes taking their 4WD on the beach, then you’ll need to take extra precautions to minimize. You will definitely need a thorough under body wash after a trip on the beach, as well comprehensively cleaning the door seals and outer paintwork.

For some handy car washing tips, see more at our page on How To Clean Your Car

How to stop salt corrosion

Regularly inspect your car for rust, especially in places like the bonnet and door edges. If you have stone chips on your paintwork, make sure to repair the exposed metal surfaces as soon as possible to keep the rust away.

If you have just bought a new car, consider having it rust proofed by an accredited professional. However, if you organise this for a used car, this may not be as effective as you’re probably trapping any existing salt particles to the metal if you haven’t had it washed properly.

In the absolute worst case scenario, if you are unlucky enough to have a car that’s suffered from flood damage due to saltwater, it’s more than likely that your car will be unrepairable. So keep away from creeks where possible, especially during high rainfall periods.

So the take home message is – wash, wash and wash! It’s easy to do, and extremely effective. It might take a few years for salt damage to show up on your car, so keep an eye on it and keep up the regular washing and waxing to keep it looking great.

Your car and wallet will thank you for it!

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