Ownership: Americans spent over $15 billion in the last 5 years on damage caused by road salt and de-icers

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  Americans spent over $15 billion in the last 5 years on damage caused by road salt and de-icers © Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to a new study from AAA, drivers in the United States spent $15.4 billion over the last 5 years to fix rust damage caused by road salt and de-icing solutions. That averages to roughly $3 billion per year. The damage wasn't cheap on an individual level either, with an average cost of $490 per vehicle repaired. The organization notes that damage can affect vital vehicle components, including brake lines, fuel lines, and exhaust. AAA recommends that drivers immediately have their car serviced if warning lights come on, the scent of fuel or exhaust is present, or the brake pedal becomes soft.

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AAA provides some recommendations for how to prevent rust damage, or at least reduce it, and they all boil down to keeping de-icers off the car, the worst of which is apparently liquid de-icer. AAA says this is because liquid de-icers, which remain in liquid form even at low temperatures, can work into vehicle crevices that salt might not reach. To keep the nasty stuff off, make sure your vehicle is clean and waxed before winter. Wash it frequently through the winter, especially the underside, and do a thorough wash at the end of the season. Furthermore, the organization says drivers should try to stay off roads as much as possible before, during, and after storms when salt and de-icers are distributed, and to make sure any exposed metal from rock chips or other damage gets touch-up paint applied.

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Of course, all of this excessive corrosion could be reduced if we didn't use road de-icers. However, that would mean everyone would pretty much be required to have winter tires, and that's not going to happen. Besides, as this editor learned on the Volvo V90 Cross Country test drive, even Sweden uses de-icer, despite having a law that drivers have to use winter tires during certain times of the year.

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