Vehicle rust damage costs motorists billions annually

Feb 22, 2017

Motorists across the nation have been shelling out $3 billion annually in recent years to repair rust-related damage to their vehicles, according to a new survey released by AAA.

As Western New Yorkers know firsthand, much of this damage is caused by salt and liquid de-icers that are used to prevent roads from becoming snow-clogged.

Credit AAA of Western & Central New York

Drivers in the U.S. have spent an estimated $15.4 billion dollars on rust repairs over the past five years,according to the data. More than 22 million motorists have experienced rust-related problems, requiring repairs that cost an average of $500 per occurrence.  The problem is most severe in regions affected by snowy conditions – regions that are home to 70 percent of drivers.

Brian Dadswell, fleet operating manager for AAA of Western & Central New York, noted that road salt is commonly used in this region.

Brian Dadswell, fleet operating manager for AAA of Western & Central New York
Credit AAA of Western & Central New York

“The Thruway Authority alone over the past 10 years has utilized approximately 180,000 tons of rock salt,”Dadswell told WBFO.

Salt and liquid de-icers can cause major rust-related damage to fuel tanks, brake lines, exhaust systems and other critical components. While some rust damage might be unavoidable, Dadswell said motorists can take precautions to minimize damage.

“Do a visual check. When you start seeing chips and scratches that are exposing bare metal, you’re going to want to get those resolved as soon as possible, because that’s really going to allow the rust a foothold…to start really creating damage to the vehicle.”

Limiting driving during a major snowstorm and immediately after storm can also help to reduce damage. Vehicles should be washed regularly, with special attention paid to cleaning the undercarriage.

“We have to make sure as the motoring public that we’re doing everything that we can to remove those chemicals and that salt off of our vehicles,” he said.

Experts advise motorists to immediately remove cars from the road if they’re experiencing soft brake pedals, dashboard warning lights or the smell of fuel.

Meanwhile, this is also the season when pothole damage becomes a major issue in Western New York and other regions.  In 2016, more than30 million U.S. drivers experienced pothole damage to their vehicles. Repairs typically ranged from less than $250 to more than $1,000.