The Effects of Road Salt on Your Car’s Paint

the effect of road salt on your cars paint

Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a part of the world that doesn’t drop to bitterly cold temperatures for three to five months a year, you’re incredibly familiar with road salt. The pleasant whirl of salt trucks on a snowy evening is a staple of northern life. Road salt is obviously quite helpful—no one likes spinning out on a turn—but it comes at a cost to your car.


Corrosion is the biggest danger salt poses to your car. Metal reacts badly to water, especially with prolonged exposure. Because salt mixes with snow to lower its freezing point and melt faster, it also creates free ions, which bond to metal and oxidize it. In other words, it causes rust. Plus, because snow tends to stick to your car in chunks, the salt and water are held up against your car’s surface for longer, causing more rusting.

Rust affects the visual appeal of your car, and if left unchecked it can eventually cause full blown holes in your car’s metal. Unfortunately, once your car—or any metal, for that matter—starts to rust, it becomes incredibly difficult to stop. Most quick “solutions” simply trap the materials causing rust on the surface of your car, and at best slow the damage. So, the only way to truly free your vehicle of rust is prevention. Rust affects not only your car’s paint but also the undercarriage. It can start to break down parts of your engine, which are much more important to safe driving than your paint job. Because of this, preventing rust damage is extremely important.


Fortunately, preventing damage to your car’s paint from road salt is relatively simple. Before the winter season hits, get your car waxed. A good wax should last for three to six months, depending on environmental factors like where you store your car and how often you drive it. The wax provides a barrier to the road salt and your car’s paint, protecting it from excessive damage. Another important solution is car washes. During the winter, you should wash your car frequently to remove all salt. A good rule of thumb is to wash it every month, but you should also hit the car wash a few days after a snowstorm. A car wash with an undercarriage option is ideal. Another preventative option is a clear vinyl wrap. This is by far the priciest option, but it lasts longer than a wax coat and requires less upkeep. Plus, it keeps your car’s paint looking as good as new all year long.

Even though road salt is a helpful tool for winter driving, it is not a friend to your car’s paint. However, with a little forethought and preventative measures, you can keep you and your car’s paint safe this winter. If you have any questions regarding waxing or other car paint maintenance, feel free to contact us here. We look forward to hearing from you.

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