Salt is essential to keeping roads safe during wintertime in Central New York, but the damage it can do to your car can cost you hundreds, even thousands of dollars in repairs.

The national average cost of repairs related to rust or corrosion is just under $500.

Fehlman Bros auto technician David Kowell says putting off repairs will only lead to more problems.

“Most of the issues that cause your car to break are from rust,” Kowell said. “Brake lines rotting out, transmission lines, oil pans, transmission pans. There are all kinds of stuff. Especially now, a lot of the newer cars – most of the components are aluminum. Aluminum doesn’t rust, it corrodes.”

Kowell says power-washing the undercarriage of your vehicle a few times a year will help remove salt and brine build-up. However, he says it’s important to use clean water for the wash so you avoid spraying water with leftover salt or debris back on to your car.

“Aluminum starts to swell and corrode and ends up cracking. Mounts break that way, control arm bushings have issues. Sub frames rot out,” Kowell explained. “Anything that can trap the salt and moisture is gong to rust at a much higher rate up here than say in the southern climate where they don’t have those issues.”

In addition to keeping wheel wells and any crevices on your car’s body free of salt and dirt, Kowell says that tracking snow and salt into your car can also cause damage.

“Over time, that salt and water will permeate through the carpet and can damage the wiring that’s in here just because it’s sitting in a salt-water environment and it really has no way of drying out,” Kowell said.

Checking your car for damage from pot holes is also recommended, along with checking your tire pressure as temperatures change.

“The average lifespan of a vehicle up here before it starts giving you rust issues is about 7 to 8 years,” Kowell said. “After that, that all depends on how well you take care of it.”

People new to Central New York quickly learn the importance of a good power wash.

Growing up in Georgia, Kielan Whitner didn’t see much snow, but now he’s been living in the “Official Home of Winter” for the past few years as a student-athlete at Syracuse University.

“If you let it build up, it just ruins your car. Even my rims right now are a little bit rusted out because I let the salt stay on there a little bit too long, so just trying to keep everything nice,” Whitner said. “I try to keep a coating on there now that I’ve experienced the rusting and stuff like that, but overall just keeping it clean.”

To keep his truck as rust-free as possible, Whitner says he uses his Delta Sonic unlimited monthly pass as much as he can.

Reminders from AAA:
– When possible, limit driving immediately before, during and after winter storms when salt and de-icing solutions are being applied and are at their highest concentrations.
– Frequently wash your vehicle, paying particular attention to the undercarriage. This will loosen, dissolve and neutralize road salts. Many drive-through car washes offer an undercarriage rinse as an option.
– Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent that will strip the wax from your vehicle.
– Repair any body damage and touch up paint scratches and chips that expose bare metal which could lead to rust.
– Thoroughly wash and clean your vehicle prior to the start of 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 corrosion year-round if not properly removed.