Road Salt

Road Salt
Welcome to the first edition of “Wash Science” with one of our “Wash Scientists”. Dr. Super Suds. Our topic today is Road Salt, how it works and what it does to your vehicle.

Let’s begin by understanding the term salt. When people refer to salt they are talking mostly about Sodium Chloride or NaCI. This is one of the oldest harvested minerals in the world. Some of the earliest evidence of salt processing dates back over 8,000 years. Salt is essential for life on earth to happen. So salt is a big shot in this world. Salt is used in more ways than we have time to discuss today so we want to focus on how and why salt is used on the roads as well as the effects it has on your vehicle.

Most municipalities use a mixture of Sodium Chloride NaCI, Sodium Ferrocyanide [Fe(CN)6]4-, & Magnesium Chloride MgCI2. These are mixed together in a ratio of 77% water 23% salt. The minerals in question are then mixed in varying quantities based on expected road conditions.

You may ask why the need for salt on the roads. It comes down to the simple fact that salt water freezes at a much lower temperature than regular water. Water H2O freezes at 32 deg Fahrenheit. This means that in Colorado where it sometimes feels like the arctic that the snow when it melts freezes right away to the roads. This creates a problem unless you are at an ice skating rink then it makes total sense. The roads become very dangerous to drive on. This leads to a ton of accidents and injuries not to mention all the damage to your vehicles and property.

Salt is used to change the freezing point of water to -6.02 deg Fahrenheit. That is a huge difference. It has to get 38 degrees colder to freeze the water. So now the salt water actually melts the snow and ice until temperatures reach the extreme low of -6.02 deg F. This makes the roads much safer to drive on then they would have otherwise. Marquette University did a study of salted vs unsalted roads. They found that accidents were REDUCED by 88% and injuries by 85% on roads that were salted instead of unsalted!!! That is amazing. Now comes the flip side of the equation.

While salt is great for helping navigate the roads in the winter, we must now navigate those roads on our vehicles which are made of metal. Metal and salt don’t get along. Here is how that works: Specifically, when calcium chloride is exposed to moisture, it dissociates into calcium (Ca2+) and chlorine (2Cl-) ions. The chlorine ions are what causes metal corrosion: together with the moisture in the air, they form hydrochloric acid by pulling one H+ ion from the water molecule. This acid dissolves the iron by stripping it of electrons. Since the iron is now short a few electrons, it becomes a positive ion, which then reacts with the remaining hydroxide (OH-) group from the water molecule to form rust, or Fe(OH)3 and other hydrated iron oxide compounds.

In other words the salt pulls moisture from the air creating a compound called hydrochloric acid. It’s this compound that begins to break down the metal in your vehicle. So this creates a situation where the critical components of your vehicle are now being broken down on the molecular level. This can lead to failure of components like brake system damage to even subframe damage. The same salt that makes it safer for you to drive in the winter time makes your vehicle susceptible to damage that can make your vehicle UNSAFE to drive.

Stop by 95th Street car wash and let us use wash science to blast the salt away.

Different types of paint protection


There are a myriad of wax options on the market, but they all fall into 3 categories.

1. Natural car wax.
Carnauba: It comes from the leaves of the Copernicia Cerifera plant in Brazil.
Pros: It gives a deep shine that synthetics can’t.
Cons: It comes in natural form (very expensive) or mixed with oils or other petroleum products (less expensive). Natural comes in paste form which is very difficult to apply and remove. Mixed carnauba comes in cream form making it easier to apply and remove. Being that it is a naturally based product it has a short life on the vehicle typically 1 to 3 months.

This wax is used at 95th street car wash for our express details. It costs less, gives a deep shine for up to 3 months and can be put on in 15 minutes or less. This should be done 3-4 times per year to maintain proper paint protection.

2. Synthetic car wax (sealants).
Most of what you see on store shelves is this type, sometimes with a little carnauba mixed in. They offer the same protection but are chemical based.
Pros: Very easy to apply and remove. Cost less than natural waxes. They last longer because of chemical engineering typically 3 to 6 months sometimes even up to 12 months.
Cons: They do not produce the type of deep shine you get with natural waxes.

3. Ceramic Coatings (semi-permanent)
These are several different brands all affording similar protection. Most have a minimum 2 year guarantee. These coatings differ drastically from traditional waxes/sealants. The vehicles must go through and extensive preparation process to ensure proper adhesion to the vehicle paint.

Pros: Longevity. They will last a minimum of 2 to 4 years if properly applied. Durability. These coatings have anti-scratch properties. That means that the normal light scratching you see in vehicles today is prevented. Shine. It has a high gloss finish second to none. Your car will look better than it did brand new. It’s also hydrophobic. Meaning it repels water very well. This means that if it rains or you run through a puddle the water beads and easily rolls off the vehicle. It’s also self cleaning. That means that just rinsing the vehicle off will remove dirt and grime from the vehicle.

Cons: These products are very time consuming to prep and apply. This means taking it to a professional. They can range in price from $700 to $3000 depending on the product being applied.

Here at 95th street car wash we use Jade Quartz/Ice as our coating of choice. It allows us to be at the lower end of the pricing structure. This helps make it affordable for the average customer without sacrificing the quality, durability, longevity of the coating. We apply a GREAT coating with a written 2 or 4 year warranty that stands up to all other coatings on the market. So stop by and see us today to get your vehicle protected.