Car wash tips: Taking it with a grain of salt

With snowfalls expecting to accumulate into the 8- to 10-inch range Thursday, motorists can expect to see salt trucks and plows clearing the roadways.

However, while the salt can melt ice, it can also corrode automobile’s bodies, chassis, mufflers, brake lines and wheel wells, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. The motorist advocacy group is recommending drivers take the time to wash their cars once a week to prevent rust and decay.

Jeanette Tejada de Gomez, a spokesperson for the group, said while salt and brine used by the Virginia Department of Transportation and other jurisdictions is “an important tool for highway programs to use,” motorists need to know salt has corrosive properties.

“Corrosion does take a while to cut in, but the salt is not something that you want hanging out [on] your vehicle,” Gomez said. “After the snow clears and there’s a break in the cold temperatures, we recommend washing your vehicle.”

At the beginning of the 2014-2015 winter season, VDOT had 366,678 tons of salt, 122,766 tons, 60,850 tons of treated abrasives, 544,405 gallons of liquid calcium chloride and 1.1 million gallons of salt brine. Gomez said it is hard to say what chemicals have built up on a vehicle because the chemicals used to treat roads can vary.

“It depends on the type of mixture that’s being used because some jurisdictions use salt, some use salt brine, some use sand, there’s just so many types of formulas they use in an area,” Gomez said.

Gomez added, “We travel everywhere, so if you have one particular formula in one area, if you’re commuting 30 miles, it can change and if you’re crossing state lines, it can be a completely different mixture.”

Washing a car in the dead of winter is a challenge, Gomez said.

“You certainly don’t want to be washing it when it’s below freezing because it’s going to freeze to your car,” Gomez said. “If you have a garage, make sure you keep the vehicle in there to help protect it from the elements.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends the following tips to wash a car after it accumulates salt:

• Never wash the car in direct sunlight and pick a mild day to avoid frostbite and freezing water to the car.

• Use a wash bucket with diluted, warm soapy water with one gallon of water to each tablespoon of soap and another bucket to rinse the car.

• Rinse the car with a hose from top to bottom to hit brine and salt caked to the car.

• Use a lint-free, non-abrasive, absorbent towel or sponge and wash from the roof downward, then the windshield, windows, mirror, hood trunk, headlights and taillights. Then wash the doors, tires, rims, hubcaps, wheel wells and undercarriage.

• Vacuum the inside of the car to pick up salt tracked in by foot.

• To prevent freezing, spray a lubricant such as WD-40 on a rag and wipe rubber gaskets around doors and trunks and use an isopropyl-based lock de-icer on each of the locks.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or

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