By Dan Strumpf, AP Auto Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Got a scratch? You wouldn't put salt in that wound. And if your car gets a ding, you'd be wise to follow the same advice.
With snow and ice falling, trucks are spreading ice-melting salt to keep cars from skidding.
That same salt can corrode your car's body and undercarriage, turning nicks into nasty rust spots, even with protective paints and coatings.
Here are some simple, cost-effective ways to prevent corrosion during the season of road salt.
THE CHEAP SKATE
A garden hose and a pair of rubber gloves are enough to wash salt from your car. Simply reach underneath your car and spray thoroughly and deeply. Water alone won't get out all the dirt and grime, but enough of it will dissolve any salt and prevent corrosion.
"Your garden hose can be the best game," says Bill Moss, a longtime auto mechanic who owns a shop in Warrenton, Va.
The most important part of the car that needs protecting is the underside, where the brake line, fasteners and other rust-sensitive components are housed, he says.
"Rinse around the wheels and as much of the undercarriage as you possibly can."
Moss says signs of corrosion begin to show between five and 10 years of driving in winter weather.
One good clean at the end of the winter should be enough, he says, but several rinses throughout the winter can't hurt.
THE BARGAIN HUNTER
You wouldn't take a bath without soap, so it's understandable if a water-only car wash doesn't feel right. For those with a winter car care budget — but not a big one — follow the two Ws: wax and wash.
Before the winter weather strikes — or during a lull — give your car a thorough waxing, which protects your car by causing water to roll off the body rather than accumulate and cause corrosion.
An inexpensive option is a jar of Turtle Wax, which sells for between $5 and $6 at many automotive retailers. Ideally, you'll want to wax your car four times a year, says Moss, but less often is OK.
Once you've waxed your car, a regular trip to the car wash is a good idea. Your cheapest bet: An automatic drive-through wash. Just swipe your credit card and go — but be sure to pay the extra few dollars for an undercarriage wash.
THE BIG SPENDER
So you just bought a new Cadillac CTS with all the trimmings — and you want it to glow. There are some high-end washes and waxes that will protect your car from corrosion and make it the shiniest car on the highway.
Enthusiasts and dealer showrooms favor waxes by top-shelf names like Meguiare's, Griot's and Mothers, Moss says. Such high-end products can retail for as much as four times the cost of a jar of Turtle Wax, however.
And for the most thorough car wash, a run through a high-end machine with detailing and an undercarriage wash will make your car stand out — though premium detailings can set you back hundreds of dollars, so shop carefully. Such high-end treatments are by no means crucial to prevent corrosion.
A final note: Although automobiles today are built to withstand corrosion, scratches and dents can damage that layer of protection. If you get in a fender-bender, be sure to have a detailer fix any blemishes and reapply any damaged protective coating.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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