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How Does Road Salt Affect Your RV?

Can Road Salt In The Winter Damage Your RV?

If you live in an area where it snows frequently, you’re probably used to seeing road salt and sand spread across the roads. These substances help melt ice and provide additional traction for vehicles. But even though it’s helpful, road salt can create some nasty side effects for cars and RVs. 

Road salt lowers the freezing point of water, so it helps prevent icy conditions. Unfortunately, when salt mixes with water and comes into contact with metal, it creates a corrosive chemical reaction that can cause RVs to rust. If this corrosion is left untreated, various pieces of the vehicle’s undercarriage can start to break down, which is dangerous for everyone involved.

If you drive anywhere during the winter, you’re likely to encounter road salt at one point or another. It’s not a big deal in small doses, but the damage can build up over time. This is why it’s important to know the effects of this salt, how to treat your RV, and how to prevent damage before it starts. We’ll cover all of this below!

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Common Types of Road Salt Damage

Many vehicles (including RVs) are made with some kind of iron alloy. This is a sturdy material, but it is prone to rusting, especially when salt water comes into the mix. If you don’t properly prepare your vehicle for winter or clean off the salt quickly enough, various parts can start to corrode and break down. 

Stripped paint and damaged decals

This first problem isn’t the biggest deal, but it is more visible than the others. If you’re worried about your RV’s resale value, or you just want it to look nice, you’ll want to make sure that your paint and decals are in good shape. 

If you leave road salt on the surface of your RV for too long, it can start to create small cuts in the paint and decals. Over time, this will cause the paint to chip and the decals to erode. It’s pretty common to see salt-damaged vehicles because they’re covered in scratches and have dull coats of paint.

Rusted Metal Components

Rust is one of the worst problems an RV can face. It can spread quickly, especially if you live in humid areas. Rust can affect all metal parts of your RV, creating a risky situation for various parts of your vehicle.

In addition, the rust might not always be visible. If it’s on the underside of the vehicle, you may not notice the damage until it’s too late. When road salt mixes with ice/water, they create a corrosive substance that can rapidly eat through exposed metals. 

Leaks in Brakes and Fuel Lines

When you’re traveling in an RV, you need to ensure that your brakes are in top-notch condition. This is even more important during the winter months because faulty brakes can cause you to slide off the road. 

Unfortunately, road salt can sometimes damage your vehicle’s brakes. It can build up around the wheels and undercarriage, creating hard deposits. The aforementioned corrosive nature can also affect your brakes and fuel lines. If these pieces become rusted or otherwise damaged, the important fluids may leak out. 

Damaged Undercarriage

The undercarriage is the area that faces the most danger from road salt. This spot isn’t visible to the outside observer, so it’s easy to overlook it and assume that everything is fine. But the undercarriage protects a lot of important parts of your RV’s water, fuel, and electrical systems.

Undercarriage damage can be disastrous, but you need to keep your eyes open for it. Otherwise, you might not notice there’s a problem until the damage has spread and become severe.

Muffler, coil springs, exhaust, etc.

In addition, there are various other pieces of your RV that can be adversely affected by road salt. These include the muffler, coil springs, exhaust system, axles, and more. Basically, anything that’s exposed to the open air is exposed to potential salt damage. 

If you plan on using your RV throughout the entire year, you need to make sure you properly prepare it for the risks of driving on salted roads. It’s impossible to avoid road salt if you use your vehicle during the winter. Therefore, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect your vehicle. 

How To Treat Road Salt Damage

Fortunately, a bit of road salt is not the end of the world. This substance is commonly used all over the country. Although it can create issues if it’s left untreated, you don’t need to become too paranoid about this. 

It’s fairly easy to treat road salt damage and keep your RV in great condition throughout the winter months. It just requires a bit of time and extra maintenance. 

The best way to treat road salt damage is to regularly wash and wax your RV. If you clean off the salt residue before it has time to sink in, you can avoid the majority of the problems listed above. When you clean your vehicle, don’t forget to clean the undercarriage too! 

Rust is a bit harder to deal with, but there are products you can use to treat it and prevent it from spreading further. You may need to take it to a mechanic if the damage is severe or in a hard-to-reach place.

closeup of road salt
Road salt can damage your RV if you don’t keep up with proper maintenance. Photo: Shutterstock

How To Prevent Road Salt Damage

Treatment is all well and good, but it’s ideal to prevent the damage before it ever starts. There are several things you can do to prepare your RV for winter and the icy, salty roads that you’re likely to encounter. The official DMV website has a few tips for anyone who plans on driving over salted roads. 

For starters, you’ll want to pre-treat your RV undercarriage. As mentioned above, this is the most vulnerable area, so it’s important to give it a layer of protection. Treatments such as this Chemical Guys Bare Bones Premium Dark Shine Spray will help protect the undercarriage of your RV.

There are also certain waxes and coatings you can use that will provide extra protection. Vinyl coatings can be pretty effective deterrents for salt damage. The pre-winter season is also a good time to inspect your vehicle and fix any scratches, dents, or dings. If there’s a weak area in your paint, this is the perfect spot for road salt to cause a problem.

In addition, you can change your driving habits when you’re in an area that regularly salts roads. For instance, never follow closely behind a snow plow or other vehicle that might spread salt. If you’re too close, you’ll get a full blast of salt right onto your RV. You should also avoid driving through deep puddles (if possible).

Track your RV maintenance

As long as you’re aware of the dangers of road salt, you can avoid most of them. Follow along with the guidance above if you want to keep your RV in great condition throughout the winter months. 

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.

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