Salt is bad for your health

Posted on April 18th, 2017 by Rob Marshall


With spring here, I hope that the worst of the cold weather is behind us and that various councils up-and-down the British Isles are packing away their gritter lorries.

Although cars are far better protected against corrosion these days than those of the 1960s and 1970s, for example, rust can still bite hard into modern cars. In most cases, corrosion tends to cause the worst damage to brake pipes, unions, nuts and bolts, radiators and alloy wheels. Yet, bodywork oxidisation still can present a major headache and my ‘brown gongs’ for the rustiest modern cars should be awarded to various Jaguars and Mazdas, the first generation Ford Ka and Citroën’s Xsara Picasso.

As most GCSE chemistry students will testify, salt accelerates steel corrosion markedly, which is why regular washing of exterior bodywork and hosing the underside during wintertime is critical to reduce the risk of corrosion taking a hold, which will result in an expensive body repair bill, if left unchecked.

What is not so commonly-known is that dried-on salt crystals are not easy to remove completely. According to Rustbuster, after a sample of salt-contaminated steel was boiled in water for one hour, 10% of the salt remained. Therefore, as springtime provides an ideal opportunity to give your car a post-winter clean, consider buying a suitable surfactant to apply beneath your car, to remove as much salt as possible. This can be sprayed-on and rinsed-off afterwards, using a garden hose. Be wary of using a high-pressure jet wash either beneath the car, or within the engine bay. The main risk is that you might damage the vehicle’s sensitive Electronic Control Units, as water ingress will corrode the internal circuits.

Finally, on the surface, find a dry, overcast day on which to wash and apply protective wax to the paintwork. Seek out wax, not polish – there is a subtle difference but I shall reserve paintwork care advice for another blog…