The damage road brine causes to your car

I’m obliged to Eric Peters for reminding us about the damage that road brine does to our vehicles.

Last week, there was a rumor of snow. The possibility – 60 percent chance – of “up to an inch” that never materialized resulted in a hosing down of every road with a salty brine carried by huge tanker trucks … The sign on the back of the truck reads: Pre-Storm Treatment.

. . .

This liquid brine – which appears to have replaced the solid salt scattered on roads when it snows and while it’s snowing – is a guaranteed rust-enhancer. You literally drive through a salt bath, untempered (undiluted) by the melting snow … The dry road is awash with liquid salt and if you’re on the road, you have no option but to bathe your car in it.

If you don’t wash it off that day, the progression of rust will alarm you – or would, if you were aware of it.

I became aware of it this time because I happened to have the bad luck to be driving my personal truck a couple of weeks back rather than someone else’s press car when I got caught in the Brine Orgy on my way home. My truck got soaked, top to bottom.

And then it sat for a couple of weeks because I was too busy to get out the pressure washer and de-brine the underside.

I regret that I did not.

Over the weekend, I finally did. And discovered that – among other things – my rear shocks, which were still blue a month ago, were now a crusty shade of rust. Actual flaking was visible. The exhaust pipes and muffler – not made of stainless steel – looked like they’d aged five years. Brake lines and fittings were deteriorating. They looked nearly new six months ago.

There’s more at the link.

I understand that in many areas, the road brine actually comes from fracking operations, and is naturally salty – it can be “as much as 10 times saltier than typical road salt“.  Unfortunately, that causes more damage to our vehicles – and to the road – than the salt granules previously used.  I remember, when driving further north, seeing great big open shelters filled with mounds of salt for DOT trucks to load during snow season.  I understand there are fewer of them now, and more tanks for brine instead.  It’s even used here in northern Texas, where snow and ice are only occasional hazards.

I’m going to be more careful about promptly washing it off my vehicle in future, even though we don’t use very much of it around here.  I want my car to last until the mechanicals give up the ghost, not have the body rust out while there’s still useful life in them.



  1. "Studies have shown that anti-icing
    will achieve the same level of service
    on a road or highway using between
    one-quarter and one-fifth the amount
    of salt used in deicing"


    Salt on the roads is there to melt ice and create brine. It is not there to act as dry grit.

    The additives in the brine might make a small difference. None the the US car makers have spoke out against brine vs salt.

  2. Is it a conspiracy?
    I'm pretty much helpless when it comes to doing my own maintenance on my vehicles, except oil and filter changes. (And even that's difficult on our new Taurus because of ground clearance.)
    So, new car every so often, right?

    These car washes that advertise undercar spraying… How effective?

  3. I worked in Salt Lake City for a few months back in 2002. One of the most interesting things about it was how many car washes the city had. Of course, SLC also uses far more salt on the roads than most cities.

  4. He nust have been driving a Toyota.

    I was on a FB thread where they were talking about how fast frames rust out om Toyota trucks.

    "Awash with brine" Down here in San Antonio, they leave about 4-5 strips per lane of a thin coating of brine on the bridges.

  5. Heh. Anyone who has lived in New England for any length of time understands that road salt will eat your car. It's part of life in the North.

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