If you live in an area that has snow and ice during the winter, your vehicle is bound to be exposed to road salt at some point. Road salt is used to melt the ice, but it can damage your vehicle’s finish and promote rust. The Unofficial DMV Guide has provided tips for cleaning and protecting your vehicle from salt.
Plan ahead. If salt has been used in the past on the roads you drive, there’s good reason to believe it will be used on the roads you travel this winter. Prepare in the fall by thoroughly washing your car’s exterior, including the underside. Wax the car and apply a wax sealant. Seal the undercarriage, paying special attention to the brake and fuel lines. You can do this yourself or have it done professionally.
Maintain cleanliness. Take your vehicle to a car wash regularly. Choose one with steam cleaning and undercarriage cleaning for best results. Every time you wash your vehicle, wax it and seal it. If you prefer to wash your vehicle at home, begin by high pressure spraying your entire vehicle. Wear gloves, and remove as much mud as possible. Focus on areas where slushy mud is most likely to accumulate — beneath the wheel wells, under the bumper and behind the fenders. After the spray, wipe it down with soapy water. Only use soap specifically made for car washing. Add a couple spoonfuls of baking soda to get rid of hard-to-remove salt. Don’t neglect the trim, outside door seals and wheel covers. Rinse thoroughly.
Finish strong. It’s cold. Water freezes when it’s cold, so make sure to dry your vehicle. Focus on the edges of the door, the inside part of door handles, hinges and hood and trunk edges. Don’t freeze yourself out of the vehicle. Apply protectant to exterior vinyl and rubber surfaces. Use an applicator instead of spraying it. After you’ve thoroughly cleaned and dried the vehicle, add a coat of wax. You may need to heat the surface with a hair dryer and use a warm cloth to help the wax adhere to the car.
Be smart. Do your best to avoid driving immediately before and after a winter storm. These are the most likely times you’ll encounter road salt. As long as the ice your car accumulates remains frozen, the salt poses little threat to the car’s exterior. If you store your car somewhere warm, you’ll want to remove the muck and mud as soon as possible.