Winter Road De-Icers Like Salt Cause $3 Billion in Car Rust Damage Per Year

Rust is no myth—and a new study proves just how much of it salt and other winter weather-fighting road measures can cause. 

The Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area's snow fall
Marvin Joseph—The Washington Post/Getty Images

If you're one of those folks who is addicted to cleaning the road salt off the underbody of your car after a nasty winter storm, you're probably already aware of how seriously rust can hurt a vehicle. But nothing shows danger like throwing up some shocking dollar figures to get the point across. Data released by AAA on Tuesday reveals roadway de-icing substances cause $3 billion in rust damage to cars each year. 

The data concludes that over the past five years, American drivers have spent an estimated $15.4 billion (or $3 billion annually) on fixing damage to their cars caused by rust.

“While the application of de-icing salts and solutions is critical to keeping our nation’s roadways safe every winter, it’s important that drivers pay attention to warning signs that their vehicle may be suffering from rust-related damage,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair, in a press release. “This can be much more than a cosmetic issue, it can also create serious safety issues for drivers by impacting brake lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and electrical connections.”

AAA said the rust issues affect 70 percent of American drivers. Over the past five years, 22 million motorists in America have dealt with rust damage on their cars caused at least in part by de-icing chemicals. According to Nielsen, fixing that damage costs an average of $500 per incident. 

The travel association claims liquid-based de-icing methods that have become more popular over recent years have played a significant role in causing automotive damage. These new substances are more likely to get trapped in body panel cracks, where rust can grow more quickly.

Rust isn't always completely avoidable, but cleaning your car after driving in wintery weather and fixing any body damage as soon as possible will help prevent unnecessary corrosion.