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What Can I Do to Prevent Rust on My Vehicle from Winter Salt?

Car on winter road.

Winter can be a difficult time for drivers. Not only are roads a lot more dangerous, but the plowing, sanding, and salting of these roads have effects on your car.

Of course, it’s necessary for roads to be treated so they’re usable, but as drivers with respect for their cars, we have to take steps to prevent rust damage.

Why Does Road Salt Lead to Rust?

There’s a simple reason for rust forming after roads have been treated with salt, and it all comes down to science. The metal and steel parts of your car come into contact with precipitated water that is full of nasty carbon dioxide and oxygen. 

You see, there are free-radical ions in road salt, and they can come into contact with the water. Eventually, after being exposed to oxygen for long enough, you’ll find that iron oxide forms. This is what brings on the dreaded rusting process.

Fortunately, we’ve searched the internet archives for ways to prevent rust on cars, and will now list them here for you. You’re welcome!

1. Use Wax

Worker waxing the red car.

Preventing rust is way better than treatment, which is why you’re reading this, and the best way to prevent rust from road salt is by using wax. Give your car a thorough and good waxing before the winter season strikes.

Make sure you use high-quality wax so you have a layer of protection on your car that will protect it against that harmful salt.

2. Wash Your Car Regularly

Hand washing the black car using soap and cloth sponge.

Even if you have coated your car with a good wax product, you still need to wash it regularly. Clean all the salt off your car whenever the winter weather gives you an opportunity.

While the wax will protect your car, it’s best not to give the salt any time to gather or spend too much time on your car’s exterior.

When washing your car to rid it of road salt, use the highest pressure nozzle setting you can and blast it off. Scrub the wheels and wheel wells as well, because salt can hide there pretty well.

Avoid using dish soap, it will strip the coat of wax off your car. Instead, use baking soda to tackle the stubborn salt stains. Make sure you dry your car well and apply more wax. 

It’s especially important to wash your car after a snowstorm to prevent damage. Most importantly, stick to a regular washing schedule.

3. Don’t Forget Your Undercarriage

The undercarriage of hanging red car in auto shop.

One of the spots most likely to be affected by salt-related corrosion is one of the toughest to reach, unfortunately. Typically, the saltwater will splash up into areas in your undercarriage and get stuck.

You should either head to a car wash service so they can steam clean and take care of your undercarriage, or visit a car dealership to give you full detailing.

4. Take Care of Your Carpets

Man hand cleaning the carpet of car using vacuum cleaner.

You might not think that the interior of your car will be affected by road salt and rust, but it’s very possible, actually.

The road is full of salt and brine and it gets sprayed up onto your car by everyone who passes. And sure, the interior will be okay for the most part, but your carpets won’t.

Even with precautions like kicking snow off your shoes, enough salt will find its way in to seep into your car’s carpeting and stain it. It would be great if you could get all-weather floor mats, the kind made from heavy-duty rubber. 

However, if you already have stains, don’t despair.  Mix a solution of white vinegar and warm water and put it in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on your stained carpet (you can also pour it directly if necessary).

Scrub your carpet gently so the brine will come to the surface. Don’t scrub too hard or you’ll end up pushing it deeper.

Using a towel and laying it over the stains and pressing down, absorb the salt. Repeat this step until you’ve gotten rid of all the salt. Be patient, though, and if you don’t see immediate results, simply repeat until you’re happy.

5. Use Rust-Proofing Spray

Hand of man spraying rust-proof spray on car parts.

Another good way to protect your car against winter salt is to use rust-proofing spray annually.

This is a solution that is used to oil cars and protects them against cars. You should be able to find this option at automotive shops that will take care of the task for you.

6. Steer Clear of Puddles

A white car is driving through a puddle on the road.

Finally, do your best to avoid puddles of standing water. The salt tends to collect in these small bodies of water, so if possible, drive around them or you’ll essentially be giving your car a salt bath.

Protect Your Car This Winter

Winter doesn’t have to be the worst time of the year for your car. As you’ve now learned, there are many good ways to protect your beloved ride against winter salt and avoid rust. You just have to be willing to spend a bit of time outside, cleaning and applying wax.