If you don’t wash winter off your car, costly repair bills could clean out your wallet instead. AAA is reminding motorists to get their cars washed after every significant storm – especially the undercarriage – in order to reduce the potential for rust damage and the corrosion of brake and fuel lines caused by winter road salts.

Previous AAA research indicates Americans spend $3 billion a year on repairs from rust damage caused by de-icers.

“Taking the time for a quick car wash now could save motorists both time and money down the road,” says Bob Kazmierczak, Director of Roadside Assistance and Approved Auto Repair for AAA. “Corroded brake lines, often the result of road salts and de-icers, can cost hundreds of dollars to replace, or more, depending on the vehicle.”

AAA Car Care estimates the minimum cost to repair brake lines is around $150, but the fix could cost up to $1000 or more depending on the vehicle.

Safety Concerns

Washing winter off your car is not just about savings, it’s about safety as well. The National Highway Traffic Association previously issued a safety advisory linking road salt and de-icers to the corrosion of brake components that could, eventually, lead to brake failure, especially in older vehicles.

“Given the shortage of new vehicles, drivers are now keeping their cars longer so it is critical that they understand that keeping them clean is not just a matter of vanity,” says Kazmierczak

AAA recommends motorists take the following preventative steps to minimize damage and risk:

  • When possible, limit driving immediately before, during and after winter storms when salt and de-icing solutions are being applied and are at their highest concentrations.
  • Frequently wash your vehicle, paying particular attention to the undercarriage. This will loosen, dissolve and neutralize road salts. Many drive-through car washes offer an undercarriage rinse as an option.
  • Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent that will strip the wax from your vehicle.
  • Repair any body damage and touch up paint scratches and chips that expose bare metal which could lead to rust.
  • Give the entire vehicle and undercarriage one last cleaning in the spring. Any deposits left over from winter can continue to cause corrosion year-round if not properly removed.

AAA strongly urges drivers who experience any of the following vehicle malfunctions to immediately move the vehicle off the road to a safe location and have it towed to a trusted AAA Car Care Center or AAA Approved repair facility:

  • In-dash warning lights for brakes and other critical systems.
  • A “spongey” or soft feeling when applying pressure to the brake pedal.
  • An unusually loud exhaust sound or the smell of fumes in or around the vehicle.
  • The prominent smell of gasoline or diesel fuel when the vehicle is running or parked.

Find more tips about winter car maintenance at exchange.AAA.com.

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