AAA: $3 billion in vehicle rust damage caused by road de-icers every year

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A study by AAA says road de-icers cause $3 billion in vehicle rust damage every year.

“While the application of de-icing salts and solutions is critical to keeping our nation’s roadways safe every winter, it’s important that drivers pay attention to warning signs that their vehicle may be suffering from rust-related damage,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, said. “This can be much more than a cosmetic issue, it can also create serious safety issues for drivers by impacting brake lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and electrical connections.”

AAA says that if anyone experiences the following vehicle malfunctions, get off the road and have the vehicle towed:

  • In-dash warning lights for brakes and other critical systems.
  • A “spongey” or soft feeling when applying pressure to the brake pedal.
  • An unusually loud exhaust sound or the smell of fumes in or around the vehicle.
  • The prominent smell of gasoline or diesel fuel when the vehicle is parked or running.

“In the last five years, 22 million U.S. drivers have experienced rust damage to their cars due to salt and liquid de-icers,” Nielsen said. “In addition to the safety risk, repairs to fix these problems are often costly, averaging almost $500 per occurrence.”

Here are steps AAA says could help reduce the possibility of vehicle damage:

  • When possible, limit driving immediately before, during and after winter storms when salt and de-icing solutions are being applied and are at their highest concentrations.
  • Frequently wash your vehicle, paying particular attention to the undercarriage. This will loosen, dissolve and neutralize road salts. Many drive-through car washes offer an undercarriage rinse as an option.
  • Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent that will strip the wax from your vehicle.
  • Repair any body damage and touch up paint scratches and chips that expose bare metal which could lead to rust.
  • Thoroughly wash and clean your vehicle prior to the start of winter and apply a coat of wax to protect the finish.
  • Give the entire vehicle and undercarriage one last cleaning in the spring. Any deposits left over from winter can continue to cause corrosion year-round if not properly removed.

According to AAA, “pothole damage significant enough to require repair” was experienced by 30 million U.S. drivers in 2016. AAA believes more funding is necessary for roadway repairs and maintenance.

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