It used to be that you could look around any parking lot and find at least one real “rust bucket” of a car – a victim of dirt, salt and years of neglect. That car was a great reminder to go get your car washed to keep it free of the mud, the leaf debris, and the salt that would promote rusting. These days rusty cars aren’t so easy to find. Car exteriors are better protected right from the beginning, since modern car manufacturers perform a zinc electroplating process on the entire chassis of the car. As long as the zinc protection is complete, the car won’t rust.

But car owners can’t rest easy, because the salt that is spread on roadways during snowy weather still causes real harm to cars. First, if there is any chink in that zinc armor, the body of the car can and will still rust. And second, salt that becomes trapped in the undercarriage of the car can corrode vulnerable parts like brake lines.

The type of salt on the roads has become a little nastier over the past several years, too. Increasingly, state transportation departments have been replacing plain road salt with brine solutions, and the brine is apparently doing some serious damage. Brine is just a mixture of salt and water, and brine solutions are getting more widespread use because they are cheaper than road salt. Brine does the same kind of damage as plain road salt, but the liquid mixture seems to be much more aggressive at getting up in the undercarriage and sticking there. In Pennsylvania, for example, auto mechanics are reporting a dramatic increase in the number of brake line repairs. Up to five times the repairs are being performed annually since the state switched to using brine solutions to treat the roads. And the repairs are expensive, typically ranging from $200 to $600 per car.

A Pennsylvania Department of Transportation representative by the name of Steve Chizmar was recently quoted on the use of brine on the roadways, saying “We recommend that everyone washes their cars, especially the undercarriages, after every storm to help fight the effects of it.”

That’s great advice – I think I’ll go get the car washed right now.

Laurie Sherman is Co-owner of Blendco Systems, LLC. Blendco manufactures a full line of detergents and waxes for the professional carwash industry. You can contact Blendco at: