What happens when road salt sticks to your vehicle?

(WTNH) — The scientific name is Magnesium Chloride, but you might know it better as road salt. It makes those wintry roads safer… but what about when it sticks to your vehicle?

Department of Transportation crews spray Magnesium Chloride prior to snowfall and icy conditions, but it lingers, and Mike Riley with the Motor Transport Association says the stuff is corroding vehicles.

“It’s nasty stuff,” said Riley. “It does a good job cleaning snow and ice off, but we found that it’s getting up into the undercarriages of trucks. It’s infiltrating itself into electrical components. It’s rotting out brake lines.”

Riley says truck components that used to last 10 years are now wearing out in just a few years. He says, it’s putting the truck drivers, and you, at risk.

“And even the body of the truck is cracking and rusting and deteriorating; so it’s a big deal for us because the safety of our vehicles is the number one priority.” said Riley. “When the products that the state puts down on the highway compromises that safety, we have a big issue.”

The state switched to Magnesium Chloride over 7 years ago because it just does the job of clearing roads better during storms.

“Winter weather treatments have always been corrosive,” said Kevin Nursick from the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “The materials that we were using before were corrosive. The materials that we are using now are corrosive. Anytime you use a chloride, and that’s really the only thing that works to melt frozen material, it’s corrosive.”

So just how corrosive is this salt? We went to find out what Magnesium Chloride is doing to your car.

“There are more and more brake lines that need to be replaced,” Mechanic Michael Palumbo said. “Brake lines, fuel lines, ABS wheel bearings, ABS sensors.”

What can this stuff eat? Your brakes, fuel tanks, radiators, electrical system. Put plainly, Magnesium Chloride doesn’t play nice with metal.

The state will tell you to wash underneath your car, but does that get everything off? Mechanics say no.

“The Magnesium Chloride does such a good job of sticking to the road it does the same thing when it gets under the vehicle,” said Palumbo.

Vehicles aren’t the only thing being put at risk. Jim Langlois with the Connecticut Construction Industries Association says the roads and bridges are corroding.

“These pedestals have basically disintegrated,” Langlois said. “The CMA, or the chlorides, or the acidity, whichever the state is being used is leaching down into those pedestals just disintegrating them.”

The Department of Transportation is doing a study looking into Magnesium Chloride and its impact on cars, roads and the environment.  The study should be completed this summer.

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