Snow, ice and salt on the roads are absolutes in winter. Road salt damage is the No. 1 threat to every car on the roads around Madison WI. There’s nothing you can do about snow and ice. Nor can you avoid the heavy layer of salt and de-icer that builds up on the roads. You don’t want to drive on roads that haven’t been salted, sanded or treated to get rid of ice, do you?

Unfortunately, the same chemicals that help keep you safe when traveling threated the paint and bodywork on your car, truck or SUV. There is a silver lining. All these corrosives take time to work. They don’t lead to immediate rust and corrosion. That means you have time to protect your ride from road salt damage.

The corrosives have to work their way through layers of clearcoat, paint and primer before hitting bare metal. Advances in modern paints, clearcoats and primers make it less likely for salt to get through. But it isn’t worth the risk betting against it, right? Especially when taking regular steps to protect your ride is easy.

You can see salt building on roads. The trucks are out early and stay late when a storm is imminent. Afterward you can mark their progress with the buildup of residue on your vehicle. Salt sludge and grime are not just ugly. They’re signs something needs to be done. Getting rid of these unsightly stains makes your ride look good and you feel good. Regular cleaning is long-term protection. Unfortunately, damage from road salt often gets its start in places you cannot see.

Road Salt Damage – Prevention Beats Repair

Road Salt Damage | Auto Body Repair | Madison WI | AutoColor

Wheel wells and rocker panels are prime targets for road salt residue to take hold and eat away at your vehicle.

Anything you can do to keep salt and other corrosives from taking hold anywhere on your vehicle is worth the effort. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more appropriate.

Throughout Southern Wisconsin early season snow is often followed by warmer, fall-like days. Just because there is no snow visible on the roads doesn’t mean salt residue at work.

Do you drive streets covered with leaf litter? Are nearby trees shedding their fall colors onto your car? Wet, soggy leaves release corrosives, too. Auto paint professionals recommend getting them off as soon as possible. A coating of leaves generates heat that holds in moisture and salt residue. It gives these chemicals a place to take hold – and “cook” you car’s paint and clearcoat.  When you get rid of the leaves don’t overlook inside wheel wells.

You park your vehicle in a nice warm garage where the sludge and ice melts and fall off, right? Does that make it safe? Not completely. Rust forms on metal when moisture and oxygen combine. Salt speeds up the process p. Parking in a garage warmer than the outside temperature causes condensation on auto body surfaces. Keeping a vehicle out of the cold is great for its engine and transmission, but not necessarily for its body parts.

Steps To Protect Your Car’s Paint In Winter

What steps can you take? Regular, frequent car washes are your best weapon against salt damage. High pressure sprays, especially underneath the vehicle, flush away salt residue before it takes hold. Around the Madison area you have several options for washing your car, truck or SUV all year-round. As you formulate a plan, remember not all types of car wash are equally efficient. You have the quick, do-it-yourself wash bays and several full-service facilities plus ride-through washes.

In many cases taking time to do the work yourself in one of the self-service bays is the best option for frequent washes. Environmentally-friendly advances in car wash technology use “reclaimed” water – using water from previous washes to do the next car in line. Unfortunately, in the middle of winter this reclaimed water can include traces of road salt and ice-melting chemical. Your vehicle is actually washed with salt water. That’s what a clean rinse is so important.

If you opt for a DIY wash, take care to avoid anything that might scratch the clearcoat or paint. That includes brushes and clothes used to dry the car. Warning: Never us a hard, sharp-edged tool to knock ice off a painted surface – a sharp-edged ice scraper can scratch paint. Even a small scratch opens the surface to road salt penetration.

When you’re serious about protecting clearcoat and paint, the next step is a good coat of wax. Wax makes your ride look good, but it’s more than a shine. It’s a protective layer between road salt, corrosives and the sun’s UV rays. Wintertime UV is intense. Protecting against road salt damage while the paint fades isn’t a good tradeoff, is it?

Road Salt Attacks Trim, Too

Road Salt Damage | Auto Body Repair | Madison WI | AutoColor

Don’t overlook the special metals – restoring corrosion is a lot more difficult than protecting your wheels and trim

Small areas of polished aluminum, chrome, stainless steel and anodized metals need special attention. Stains are the No. 1 complaint when it comes to trim. The most common are water spots, but beneath them lurks potentially dangerous corrosion. Dirty, salty water splashed over and under your vehicle are threats. Car washes remove the bulk of it with overall and under-body sprays. Some blast water onto wheels but that’s a hit-and-miss solution. The water flow is consistent but the size of wheels isn’t so one size does not fit all.

Just like paint and clearcoat, protecting chromed and polished surfaces is a lot easier (and cheaper) than restoring it. Most of these metals are found in bumpers and wheels – areas on every vehicle that get the worst of road salt spray.

Once this “brightwork” gets tarnished, corroded or discolored there’s little you can do on your own. It takes special, pH-balanced cleaning agents and buffing tools to make the surface look like new. If chrome gets pitted or scratched making is look new again is expensive and difficult. So making an effort to protect it is a great way to protect your investment isn’t?

Professionals Deal With Road Salt Damage

Vehicle detailing professionals have specialized tools and training to keep body paint, clearcoat and trim materials looking showroom new. Is professional vehicle detailing in your future? Make it part of your pre-winter routine. There’s good news, too – you probably don’t need complete detailing more than once, maybe twice a year. That’s work it to protect your vehicle’s value isn’t it? Cars, SUVs and trucks lose value fast enough without accelerating the process if you can avoid it, right?

Protecting and restoring vehicle paint, clearcoat and trim is an AutoColor specialty. DIY options offer a quick preventive action. But do they get to the heart of the problem? Or is having the work done by a team of professionals you trust and one that stands behind it’s workmanship worth it?

Call AutoColor or stop into one of our local auto body shops:  on Madison’s West Side in Middleton on Parmenter Road; on Madison’s East Side on Stoughton Road near Buckeye Road to schedule an appointment. Make AutoColor your choice for professional auto body services from body repair, painting and detailing (inside and outside). You’ll always get an honest evaluations of all your options. Put our skilled, trained professionals to work on your car, truck or SUV to protect your investment from road salt damage in the Madison WI area.

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