3 On Your Side: Protecting Your Car From Salt On The Roads

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As this latest winter storm heads our way, transportation crews will be working through the night to keep the roads free of snow and ice. But one of the tools they use could actually, over the long-term, pose a risk to you and your vehicle!

It’s one of the last things that a driver wants to experience: a spin-out on the ice. Salting the roads helps prevent this type of situation, but could that very same road salt and brine be corroding parts of your car and you not even know it?

Robert Sinclair recalls the day his brakes failed. “This woman ventured out into the street against the light and I went for my brakes and the pedal went to the floor,” he said. Sinclair learned that over-time road salt has corroded his brake lines, cracking them and allowing the brake fluid to leak out.

Mechanic Tim Dietz says, “When they will pop is when someone pulls out in front of you and you hit the brake hard that’s when they’ll fail.”

While there’s no specific study linking road salt and brake line corrosion, mechanics say it goes hand-in-hand and they’re seeing more of it. Mechanic Michael Huffert says, “Its become an industry joke. How many brake lines did you do this week?”

“I could push the brake all the way to the floor and nothing happened,” says Christine Lowthert. She had all four of her brake lines corrode and fail. “They were so rotted and rusted, and cracked and chipped that when you push the brake the fluids just go onto the pavement underneath the car. Nothing is going to the brakes,” she says.

Road salt has been linked to recalls involving the corrosion of the metal straps that hold up fuel tanks and the supports for under-mount spare tires too. Car manufacturers paid for those repairs, but in the case of brake lines that may corrode, you’re pretty much on your own. The repairs can run from a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand dollars.

To avoid that, have your mechanic look closely at your brake lines during routine maintenance checks. Washing the undercarriage of your car will help too, hopefully providing some peace of mind when you’re behind the wheel. Because as Robert Sinclair points out, “There’s never been a more frightening situation in my driving experience.”

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