Name the One Thing That Most Protects Your Car from Road Salt

Car Road Safety

They’re calling for snow this week. And while salt and sand are excellent ways to create safe roads for drivers, they also spell trouble for your truck or car’s paint finish. That kind of paint damage and chips devalue your resale value and can lead to rust.

These six steps will protect your car this winter, but it’s the first one that matters most and is quite simple:

Wash & Wax Your Car’s Exterior Every Two Weeks

If you do nothing else, keep your vehicle clean during winter. It does the most for preventing salt and sand damage to your vehicle. Do it every two weeks if you can, especially the undercarriage where salt gets stuck. After a snowfall, wash your vehicle each time if possible. Idaho winters mean cold temperatures. If it’s below freezing, hold off on your car wash until the temperature warms. Otherwise, water may freeze on your car’s surface and cause damage, too.

And wash where the sun don’t shine – your undercarriage! Most of the road salt is going to hit your vehicle’s nether regions. If you can undercoat that undercarriage with some good spray-on protection – from rubberized undercoatings and rust inhibitors to oil solution pre-treatments. That’s always your first line of defense when it comes to keeping salt-rich water from penetrating a vehicle’s underbelly.

Be sure to get your car protected or waxed before the first snowfall and consider adding ceramic protection such as Armor Shield IX. Wait for the cold to let up and make it part of your winter hygiene along with shoveling snow and checking your roof’s ice dams. If not, we can point you to great DIY (do-it-yourself) and touchless car washes around the Lake Pend Oreille region. Believe us, it’s worth the $9 or $15 to get it right and save you time. That’s a sacrifice of two café lattes to protect a vehicle worth tens of thousands – right? Let’s get something straight: choose touchless and go to:

Not finished! We’ve got six other strategies that prevent serious salt damage:

1. Target Your Tires

Snow and ice stick and freeze in your vehicle’s wheel wells – taking salt, sand, or bits of dirt or asphalt with them. Over time, your car’s undercarriage and wheel wells become damaged So be sure to clear debris from around your wheels before you hit the road and target the tires when washing your vehicle.

2. Keep an Eye on the Interior

It’s important to care for your car’s interior too, especially after a day on Schweitzer! Salt and grime will track on your shoes (well, actually your kids’ snow boots!) during the winter. To prevent carpet staining and dampness, invest in plastic weather floor mats to protect your car’s inside. You can get weather mats at your dealership, retail stores such as Costco, or online such as WeatherTech. If you do track in any salt, vacuum, and clean the carpets or seats promptly to help prevent staining.

3. Touch Up Paint Chips

Salt can corrode metal quickly, especially on paint that’s already damaged. If your car has any paint chips or scratches, repair them promptly – ideally, before the first snowfall. You ultimately want to protect the body of your car from damage and prevent the paint job from deteriorating further. Buy affordable touch-up paint at places like AutoZone with locations in Athol, Bonners Ferry Coeur d’Alene, Oldtown, and here in Ponderay.

4. Protect Your Paint with ClearBra

If you are from a mild or sunny state, you may have never heard of preventative services like ClearBra® which acts like an invisible mask over your car paint. In snowy, icy climates like North Idaho, paint protection films (PPF) protect car paint from road debris, rocks, and salt – so there are no paint chips to touch up in the first place. While you still need regular washes, PPF products such as ClearBra, 3M Scotchgard™, XPEL® and LLumar add about six millimeters (6 ml) of invisible coating. You’ll want this little extra when you’re buying a new vehicle or getting a part repaired and repainted. After months or years, it might be too late. The damage is done, and reputable technicians won’t install a new protective coating on chipped or scratched surfaces. In 2022, Anderson’s began offering PPF on site to save you the fuel and time down to Coeur d’Alene where you may spend a day waiting. Your car doesn’t need to be a wreck first – apply PPF as part of your preventative maintenance plans. The cost runs by part ranging from $200 to $1200 depending on how much coverage you want. Most folks go for the hood, front panels, and back of side view mirrors where salt can do its worst.

5. Avoid Puddles and Deep Snow

In winter, puddles and potholes transform into miniature pools of saltwater and corrosion forming slush. Dodge puddles if you can and avoid driving behind or near snowplow trucks that kick up some pretty dirty, salty slush.

6. Plan Your Drive Around Weather Forecasts

In Idaho, many roads are pre-treated ahead of an expected snowfall or ice storm. That means salt is on the road even before the first snowflake falls. You’ll find that at the first sign of flakes, the snowplows are out at 5:00 a.m. to clear the roads before school buses. So, plan your travel accordingly. Opt out of driving the day before, during or after a snowfall if you don’t need to physically be at work, the airport, or an appointment, just opt not to drive to minimize salt on your car or truck.

If you do have to drive, just avoid those potholes and puddles! They can collect dirt, salt, and other random stuff that could damage your car. And steer your wheels to the nearest car wash!

That’s the one thing that protects your car the most from salt - a good car wash. But again, the most long-term protection will come by investing in ClearBra or a comparable PPF product. Ask us about getting your vehicle treated with PPF from our local tech - it's affordable and well worth it.