Are Road De-Icers Causing Car Rust Damage?

With the end of winter still far off, millions of Americans will face pricey vehicle repairs from car rust damage caused by chemicals used to de-ice roadways. According to a AAA survey, U.S. drivers paid an estimated $15.4 billion in rust repairs caused by de-icing methods over the last five years.

Many transportation departments now use liquid de-icers to combat ice and snow on the roadways. These newer alternatives are more effective than traditional salt because you can apply them before a snowstorm. They also have a lower freezing point and melt ice and snow faster. However, these characteristics make them more damaging to vehicles: The chemicals remain in liquid form longer, are more likely to coat car parts, and can seep into cracks and crevices.

While some rust damage is unavoidable, take the following steps to help reduce the possibility of vehicle damage:

  • Try to limit driving immediately before, during and after winter storms, when salt and de-icing solutions are being applied.
  • Wash your vehicle frequently, paying particular attention to the undercarriage. This will loosen, dissolve and neutralize road salts.
  • Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent.
  • Repair body damage and touch up paint scratches and chips that expose bare metal.
  • Thoroughly wash and clean your vehicle before winter and apply a coat of wax to protect the finish.
  • Give the entire vehicle and undercarriage one last cleaning in the spring. Any deposits left over from winter can continue to cause car rust year-round if not properly removed.

Treat your car to a tune-up after winter’s harsh conditions. Visit to find a AAA Car Care Plus or Approved Auto Repair facility near you.

Ensure your vehicle is winter-ready by scheduling time with our automotive experts for routine inspections before you hit the road.