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A Winter Affair… Your Car’s Opinion on Loving or Leaving Rust and Corrosion

A Winter Affair…

Your Car’s Opinion on Loving or Leaving Rust and Corrosion


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If you live in Colorado, or any other mag chloride-loving state, you probably

already know that this chemical improves traction and can replace sand and gravel on icy and snowy roadways.  Magnesium chloride helps to bind the fine dirt particles that are present on all streets and highways, to create a hard, stable surface. This, in turn, helps your vehicle’s traction.

Mag chloride is not only a road de-icer, it can also be used to control dust and lessen erosion.  This can contribute to less potholes and expensive road maintenance…and that’s another plus for auto owners!

Sounds good, so far…but what does it do TO your car?

First, you need to know that rust and corrosion are not the same.  Rust is a type of corrosion. Rust is the oxidation of the iron found in metals.  Corrosion can occur on both metal and non-metal surfaces.  

Sodium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are salt-based compounds and have been found to be highly corrosive to metals due to their ability to retain moisture. And, all of these agents are used on this nation’s roadways to break through the snow and ice that has formed on pavements creating unsafe winter driving conditions.  While your vehicle’s paint job itself may not experience problems with these anti-ice and de-icing agents, know that if you have small dings and dents that have made it down to the metal’s surface, these may rust prematurely when exposed to these road chemicals. 

Many claim it’s a simple fix to stop this metal corrosion caused by road chemicals by simply washing your car after every wintery venture out.  But again, if you live in Colorado you know that this is not always easy or advisable when the temperatures are consistently below freezing for weeks – or months – on end. Nor will it help the metal parts subjected to corrosion unless you open up your hood and clean the engine and its compartment thoroughly.  Plus, to remove the oiliness present after mag exposure, you’ll need soap, warm water and something that is a little acidic, like vinegar. 

How bad is it? Engine compartment corrosion can weaken your mounts and in worst case scenarios, can cause water leaks in areas that should be protected from moisture (like the trunk).  The worst thing is that rust and corrosion is not reversible; you can only try to prevent further damage once it has occurred. 

But INTERNAL engine corrosion is very bad. 

Brandon Pickering of Pickering’s Auto Service in Colorado states, “Corrosion can occur when metals react with a number of other substances: oxygen, dirt and electric current are all corrosive in the right – or wrong - environment. If auto owners want to manage and prevent engine corrosion, the best place to start is by following the manufacturer’s suggestion on mile-by-mile maintenance. Additionally, always make sure that you are using quality coolants and be sure to flush the system when needed.”

He continues, “Your car’s fuel system can also be a major contributor to engine corrosion, so be sure to keep the filter clean and don’t make a habit of driving your car until the gas gauge hits “E” – this practice can cause deposits found at the bottom of your fuel tank to be sucked into your engine.”

There are a number of causes of engine corrosion and each affects different components.

High Temperature Corrosion – This occurs when your vehicle is running too hot.  It is often caused by friction and is seen when low quality engine oils have been used.

Crevice Corrosion – This corrosion can be found in small openings around your car’s engine but it’s often first noticed on your car’s seals and gaskets. This corrosion is caused by dirt, debris and deposits which naturally degrades a car’s components over time.

Chemical Corrosion – Much like the de-icer we talked about previously, chemical corrosion occurs when damaging compounds are generated with the introduction of non-desirable chemicals such as when fuel and/or oil become mixed with water. Galvanic Corrosion – This is what it is called when an electrochemical reaction occurs when two different metals come into electrical contact with each other.   

If engine corrosion is not managed properly, like in your annual car check up, it can lead to expensive repairs and breakdowns. It can also limit the lifespan of your vehicle. Here is a short list of some of the damage engine corrosion can cause:


Reduced Fuel Efficiency

Clogged Fuel Injectors

Blocked Filters

Reduced Engine Oil Efficiency

So now that you know what you can do to help prevent and manage the possibility of internal engine corrosion, there’s still the issue of metal corrosion caused by road chemicals. No, they won’t harm your paint. Yes, they could cause your car’s untreated metal surfaces to rust and corrode over time but overall, the chemicals that they put on the ground probably do more good than harm.

One more thing to consider in your love / hate relationship with corrosion, you should also know that de-icers and anti-icers and their corrosive personality can cause damage to your asphalt or concrete driveway, as well as your garage floor, so keep those clean during the winter driving season, as well.

If you have been told you have rust or corrosion on your vehicle and want a certified technician to take a look at it to see how bad it is, call Pickering’s Auto Service to schedule an appointment today!



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