Salt and your wheels

Posted on December 27th, 2018 by Rob Marshall

Salt and your wheels 

While our minds may be distracted from our cars over the Christmas and New Year holidays, spend a little time considering the damage that salt does to your car and, in particular, its road wheels.

Road salt accelerates corrosion. While modern car bodywork protection has improved significantly since the early 1980s, corrosion can still strike down an older car. Yet, even newer models are showing corrosion on their expensive alloy wheels, where moisture creeps past the clear lacquer paint and becomes trapped against the metal, a situation that causes white lines to appear, prior to the coating flaking off.

While diamond-cut alloys seem to be especially vulnerable, due presumably to the highly polished surface being a more challenging surface for the lacquer to adhere, several alloy wheel reconditioning companies revealed to me that the aluminium-alloy wheels from Japanese and Korean-branded vehicles seem more prone than those from other makes, in their experiences. However, wheels of the premium brands, BMW and Mercedes-Benz included, are not immune.

Apart from being unsightly, corrosion can creep behind the seal between the tyre and rim, causing a slow puncture. Corrosion is accelerated further in areas where the paint has been chipped off by damage, such as ‘kerbing’.

Despite renovating your alloy wheels being a sound idea, prevention is better than cure. While washing your car regularly helps to preserve the bodywork, it is especially relevant for the vulnerable wheels, to remove as much salt, road grime and damaging brake lining residue, all of which encourage corrosion.