OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Using salt to melt icy roads is a common practice, but it could mean disaster for your car.
Salt has proven to be the most effective form of road treatment in Overland Park, according to city spokesman Sean Reilly.
“We typically use salt, especially when it’s going to be icy,” Reilly said. "That’s when we put down about 400 pounds per lane mile.”
Reilly said the approach is very measured.
“Our system is driven by a computer," he said. "So when the trucks hit a certain speed, the salt comes out at a certain rate. If the truck slows down, the spread rate slows down. If they go faster, it goes faster.”
Although treating roadways is practical, it could mean disaster for your vehicle.
“We see a lot of salt damage,” said Jerry Huerter, owner of Overland Park Automotive.
Huerter has 40 years of experience as a mechanic.
“If you see a surface rust, that’s the first sign you have an issue with corrosion,” said Huerter, pointing to a rust spot on a car inside his shop.
Huerter said rust and corrosion are the biggest problems connected to road salt and vehicles. The undercarriage of a vehicle is most vulnerable, including the exhaust, muffler and coil springs.
However, the most concerning issue is what salt can do to your braking system.
“The braking system is one of the first to go,” Huerter said. “The brake rotors, brake calipers -- if the calipers rust, they don’t operate properly. It will prematurely wear your brakes out. The brake lines -- if they rust through, they could lead to a leak, and you could lose your braking ability and wouldn’t be able to stop.”
Repairs to your braking system could also be a costly fix.
“If you had to replace, let’s say, the pads, the rotors and brake lines, you’re probably spending a thousand dollars,” Huerter said.
Huerter admits car troubles, due to road salt, aren't something that will happen overnight; it can take months, even years, before you notice that there’s a problem.
The most important thing is to stay ahead of it. Huerter suggest regularly taking your vehicle to a car wash during the winter months and be sure it sprays under your car.
For other ways to protect your car from road salt, click here.