Your rig may be safe from corrosion, but washing it will really help

I moved away from the Upper Midwest years ago and thought I'd seen the end of salt on the roads. I remember cars from my youth that were so rusted you could see through the floor. When I moved to the West Coast, I was amazed to see 20- or 30-year-old vehicles with absolutely no rust. I guess I'm a little paranoid driving my car over the Siskiyou Pass in the winter because of the plan to salt the roads. Is there anything I can do to minimize the salt damage?

— Jeff S., Medford

The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to put salt on Interstate 5 along an 11-mile stretch leading up to Siskiyou Pass. ODOT will try the rock salt out for a five-year test period.

Rock salt is more corrosive than the magnesium chloride ODOT has used for years.

This might sound bad Jeff, but guess what? California has been using rock salt on the other side of the Siskiyou Pass for years. Your car may have been bombarded with salt, and you didn't realize it.

ODOT decided to use the rock salt so driving conditions on the Oregon side were similar to the California side.

One sure-fire way to minimize salt damage is to wash your car after a long trip, particularly during the winter.

We decided to check out what other counties in other states have done to address the problem of vehicle corrosion.

King County, Wash., for instance, points out on its website that newer vehicles use more plastic, fiberglass and stainless steel, all materials that are less subject to corrosion.

In addition, the King County Department of Transportation states the wet weather in the Pacific Northwest helps wash away corrosive salts.

However, to be safe, the transportation department recommends washing your vehicle periodically to remove any residual chemicals.

Some automotive experts recommend that motorists hose out wheel wells and underneath vehicles to wash away any corrosive chemicals.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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