How to Protect a Car from Winter Road Treatments

Many things are harsh about winter. Not only can winter weather put a damper on your own mood, but it can be difficult for your vehicle to deal with as well. While you may be getting into the car, turning on the heat, and shivering while your car warms up and wishing for warmer temperatures, your car may feel the same way.

One of the most difficult aspects of winter driving is protecting your car against winter road treatments. Of course, nobody wants to drive on black ice, and this is why cities, municipalities, and states take it upon themselves to apply road treatments to make sure that snow and ice do not build up and cause accidents. The most common road treatments we have come across are either snow salt or coal ash.

While there is no doubt that these road treatments prevent many accidents, it's also no secret that they are hard on your vehicle. People have known this since way back during the days of the Model T, where drivers would actually apply used motor oil to the undercarriage of their cars to protect the chassis against road salt.

However, in many places using used motor oil for this purpose is now strictly prohibited due to the environmental concerns associated with the practice. Thankfully, there are several other options available to modern motorists who are interested in protecting their vehicles from winter road treatments.

How to Protect Your Car From Road Treatments


Clean it up

The first defense against ash and salt is to ensure that your vehicle is cleaned as often as necessary. Many people skimp on washing their car during the colder months due to unpleasant temperatures. However, failure to clean your car on a regular basis can result in irreversible damage to the undercarriage of your vehicle.

If it is too cold where you live to get out and wash your car, it's a good idea to at least take your vehicle through a professional car wash every two weeks or so. It is true that doing it yourself generally results in better work, but if you cannot get out on your own the touchless car washes are better than nothing. Depending on the driving conditions where you are, however, once every two weeks may not be often enough.


Wax it on

Before it gets too cold to even think about being outside, you want to give your car a solid waxing. Just like waxing your car protects it from UV rays in the summer, it prevents corrosion from road treatments in the winter. Generally speaking you are going to want to re-wax your car once every 3 months during the winter.


Scrape it off

Even with a liberal coating of wax and due diligence where washing is concerned, it is impossible to drive and not get any grit on your car during the winter. If you are not able to take the car to a car wash during this time, you should do a little bit of maintenance between washes to make sure that grit and grime doesn't just sit on your car's finish.

A good tip for this is to get a clay bar. A clay bar is, as implied, a bar of clay that is used for its micro-abrasive properties. They are most often used by people involved in car shows, but clay bars are also very useful for the average motorist. The clay is very slightly abrasive and can help remove any grit that is left behind by driving in winter conditions.


Look Underneath

Of course, it figures that the easiest bits of your car to keep clean are also the ones that are actually least susceptible to corrosion. You still want to make sure that the body of your car is well-maintained, but the part of your car that is actually most at risk is the undercarriage.

Even if you are able to wash your own car during the winter months, getting underneath your car is extremely difficult unless you have a lift in your garage. (We assume that you are not a mechanic, so this is unlikely.)

To take care of this, you may want to visit a car wash that's specifically offers undercarriage detailing. You can also look into specific sprays that can be used on the underside of your car to prevent it from experiencing corrosion due to splashback while driving. In a pinch, WD-40 can even help here.


Look Inside

While it is true that the inside of your car is not going to experience corrosion as a result of salt or ash treatments on the road, these substances can also be very problematic for your carpets. There are a number of ways of dealing with this. Probably the most common way is to purchase floor mats for your car. The best kind of carpet mat when it comes to dealing with winter weather debris are rubber ones that function as trays. These can be easily installed and hold any drippings from your shoes until you can remove them and dump them out.

If you are not able to invest in rubber mats for your vehicle, some people choose to cover the bottom of their car with newspapers or plastic. These function well as a stopgap, but need to be switched out often in order to maintain their functionality. Finally, some people even keep a pair of shoes in their car. When they get into the car they swap out their muddy boots for these clean car shoes. This is a great solution if you are dedicated enough to stick to it. However, it may not be the most realistic solution for those who are trying to drive around with their entire family.

If you suspect that you have soiled carpets from either salt or ash, the best thing to do is remove them from the car immediately if you can. A mixture of half warm water and half white vinegar can be sprayed on the stain and you can gently scrub it to bring the ash or salt to the surface. Then, use a towel and press down to remove it from the carpet. You may need to repeat this process a few times depending on how serious the stain is and how long it has set.

An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure. Make sure to get good-quality car wax so that your vehicle is fully protected against winter road conditions.

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