If you live in the so-called salt belt, you’ve probably seen plenty of cars sporting the “rusty wheel well” look. While areas like our home state of Ohio use road salt to make driving conditions safer, the downside is all of the long-term corrosion this salt can cause to a vehicle. Read more to find out the best practices you can implement to keep your vehicle from rusting away over those salty winters.
The underside of your car takes the brunt of the damage from salt damage and corrosion. These areas are the most exposed and the hardest to wash after a winter drive. This is why having your car undercoated can be incredibly valuable. The best time to undercoat your vehicle is when it is new and before it has been exposed to salt or other corrosive materials, this is when it will require the least amount of preparation time to properly coat. There are several different ways to “undercoat” a vehicle both professionally and as DIY options so talk to your local detailer, body shop or dealership to see if they offer the service and do some research on which one might be right for you.
Wax or Ceramic Coating
Along with the underside of the vehicle, the lower sides of a vehicle including the fenders, rockers, wheel wells, and quarter panels, are very prone to rusting. The best thing you can do to protect these areas is to prevent as much salt from collecting on them as possible. Because the painted surfaces are somewhat porous, this allows these corrosive materials to gather and sit on the vehicle. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have your car protected with a ceramic coating, a high-end wax, or a ceramic spray sealant. The benefit to a full ceramic coating like our EPIC™ Ceramic Coating is the longevity and level of protection, being able to keep your vehicle safe for up to 2 years. The downside being that it can be more time and labor intensive to apply. Another option with easier and quicker application that still offers good protection is our, Nano Care™ Banana Crème Wax . Banana Creme should last up to 9 months and can be applied by hand or with an orbital polisher. The second alternative and fastest application would be EPIC™ CR2 Hydro Ceramic Spray. This spray is safe to use on most exterior surfaces and allows an entire vehicle to be coated in just minutes, while still providing around 6 months of protection.
Whether you are having a professional apply these coatings or doing it on your own, it is important to be precise with your application and not miss areas where salty water and dirt can collect and eat away at the finish. These coatings will also help with our next step, washing excess contamination off the surface.
The next best thing you can do is to remove surface debris as often as possible and give it less time to corrode the surface. This is simply done by regularly washing vehicles with proper washing techniques and products. Because salt is abrasive, proper washing technique is important to minimize the amount of paint marring and scratching that can occur. A standard was such as CW-37™ will work just fine, but it is the accessories that are truly important. Using a microfiber wash mitt, and the dual bucket method with grit guards in the buckets will go a long way towards protecting your vehicle from excessive scratching. Since washing a car by hand is not always a viable option in the winter, if you choose to use a car wash, as always, try to stick to the touchless wash. Your paint will thank you.
Re-touching Damaged Paint
Finally, and most importantly: TOUCH UP EXPOSED METAL! If your car has chips in the paint where the metal below is exposed, this can be a death sentence to rust. It is the paint and clear coat that provide the metal of the car with protection from the elements, but with that metal substrate exposed, heavy winter conditions will cause those spots to rust quickly. Getting any of those exposed spots repainted will go a long way to saving your vehicle in the long-run.
The best thing you can do with a newer vehicle in the salt belt is to proactively take these steps to keep salt off your vehicle and prevent rust before it starts. Once the rust spots start, depending on their size and severity, they are nearly impossible to stop without expensive professional body work.
So remember these three tips, undercoat, wash and retouch damaged paint, to save your car from salt corrosion and the harsh winter!