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Road Salt Causes $3 Billion In Vehicle Damage
AAA survey estimates that road salt damage affected 22 million drivers over the last five years.

Deicing truck
AAA, one of the nation's largest automobile insurance companies, raised alarms last month about the overuse of salt and de-icing chemicals used on roads during winter. The brine solution used to treat roads in advance of a snow or ice storm or the road salt used once the bad weather hits accelerates vehicle corrosion.

"In the last five years, 22 million US drivers have experienced rust damage to their cars due to salt and liquid deicers," AAA's John Nielsen said in a statement. "In addition to the safety risk, repairs to fix these problems are often costly, averaging almost $500 per occurrence."

AAA derived the figures from a survey of one thousand motorists, 70 percent of whom lived in regions with winter climates. Fifteen percent of these respondents had repaired their vehicle within the last five years because of rust caused by road chemicals.

"Rust can attack components of the car that keep us safe," Nielsen said. "So things like our brake system, exhaust or fuel tank -- all of those things can become rusty. And when they fail, they leave us stranded -- or worse, the brakes don't work and really put us in jeopardy."

Many municipal and state transportation departments have embraced newer deicing chemicals that are more powerful and remain on the road longer. This makes them particularly destructive, because they are more likely to coat automobile components and begin eating away at the anti-corrosion coatings applied to new cars.

On top of the salt damage, drivers also must be vigilant to dodge the potholes that form as the ice melts and the road surface cracks. The survey estimated that 30 million had to pay between $250 and $1000 to repair their car after hitting a pothole last year.

The insurance company recommended motorists avoid driving after a storm and to take advantage of the undercarriage wash provided at most drive-through car washes. To avoid rust, paint should be kept freshly waxed, and body damage or paint chips should be promptly repaired.

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