Brine Makes Roads Safe, But it Can Corrode Cars

March 6, 2015 | Transportation, Weather

By Lauren Wanko

It’s meant to keep us safe on the treacherous roads during the winter — brine, a salt and water solution combined with magnesium chloride.

“The solution is great for the road. It does make it safe, but it wreaks havoc on cars,” said Brian Youngblood of J&W Auto Repair.

AAA says brine’s ideal for clearing roads and is the most effective tool for keeping people from losing control, but the acidic compounds can eat away at parts of a car faster than rock salt. Nationwide drivers spend about $6.5 billion annually repairing damage caused by salt and brine corrosion.

“This is a 2006 vehicle. You would never expect to see the floor pans rotting out like an antique vehicle almost,” Youngblood said.

At J&W Auto Repair, owner Youngblood shows us the kind of damage drivers are often left with after a bad winter.

“You can actually see the salt is actually still stuck to the muffler in the seam and there’s significant rust in this whole area,” he said.

The exhaust flex pipe has seen better days too.

“That’s the top half of the pipe that’s not exposed as much to the salt solution. The bottom half that is clearly rotted away,” Youngblood said.

Youngblood says brake lines usually start rotting away first.

“We then replace them with coated lines to stop that from happening again,” he said.

But the parts don’t deteriorate overnight.

“It does take time for it to eat away at the metals and brake lines, things like that. So you don’t see it exactly when it’s happening. You might see the result of that a few months later,” he said.

Youngblood says salt brine can cost motorists anywhere from $300 to $400 to replace rotted fuel and brake lines or as much as $1,000 depending on the damage. His recommendation? Get your car washed a couple days after every snow storm.

“It doesn’t only make the outside of the car look good, it also takes off the salt and the brine solution on the undercarriage,” he said.

As if corroded car parts aren’t enough, the frigid winter weather causes even more problems for drivers.

“Yesterday when I was out digging my mother-in-law out of the snow I had the window open trying to get some of the ice off and it won’t go up now,” said customer David Murray.

The window came off the track. J&W Auto Repair took off the door panel and found a lot of snow and ice. This winter AAA’s seen record call volumes in New Jersey — thousands battery related.

“Batteries are susceptible to extreme cold and extreme high temperatures and when we see these 10 to 12 degree days, they just don’t have the cranking amps that they would if it was 30 to 40 degrees out,” Youngblood said.

“It’s kinda rotten. I’m looking forward to springtime,” said Murray.

It’s 14 days away, but with driving conditions like this, it’s a little hard to believe.