Q: "Winter highway maintenance is tearing up my truck. What can I do to fight the new road chemicals they are using?"
A: In the past decade, corrosion issues have dramatically increased due to the use and application of new, aggressive snow-fighting chemicals. The use of calcium and magnesium chlorides, among other acetones, has led to a major change in procedure for road maintenance crews.
With the use of these new chemicals, pre-emptive strikes with heavy salting have helped prevent hazardous driving conditions before snowfall even occurs. While these new procedures may make driving conditions safer, they also drastically increase metal exposure to these corrosion-causing materials.
Equipment manufacturers who recognize the problem are already using more corrosion-resistant materials in the manufacturing process, such as adding chrome plating, paint or preventive coatings to metals especially susceptible to corrosion.
Keeping trucks clean and dry is another preventive step that can assist in the corrosion battle. Unfortunately, driving routes and conditions may make this more wishful thinking than anything else. The use of power washers can also lead to more corrosion problems, not less, due to high-pressure blasting which can allow water to permeate truck bodies or blow seals, so care should be taken when they are in use.
Regular, consistent maintenance is really the key to avoiding serious corrosion problems. The use of corrosion preventives to block and prevent salt exposure may be one of the easiest and most cost effective methods to prevent rust from taking root in metal crevices and underbodies. A solvent-free corrosion preventive and lubricant will not evaporate or get tacky. It leaves a soft, self-healing coating that actually imbeds into the pores of the metal, creating a barrier that cuts off all oxygen, blocking moisture. It also will not freeze, continuing to work in sub-zero temperatures. Soft coatings traditionally provide better protection than paint for underbody applications, which can chip and trap moisture.
Electrical connections and trailer wiring are another big problem from calcium and magnesium chlorides, which can infect the entire wiring system, leading to shorts or failure if left unprotected. A higher load is placed on the electrical system during the winter months, and if batteries are not taking a charge, the end result could be premature alternator failure. The use of a non-conductive grease to fully encapsulate connections, plugs, battery terminals and sockets is critical to prevent rapid corrosion throughout the system.
The continued use of aggressive snow-fighting chemicals will eventually lead to more aggressive changes in the fleet manufacturing process. Until that day arrives, though, the most cost-effective method to combat corrosion is with a highly refined maintenance program. The use of corrosion preventive materials can drastically cut down on damage caused by the added exposure to new chemicals.