TÜV SÜD: Tips to protect your vehicle from road salt damage
Munich - The winter season is a tough test for car systems and technology. As well as ensuring the various fluids in the vehicle are well topped up with anti-freeze, drivers must also pay attention to the paintwork and underbody. TÜV SÜD’s experts have tips for winter car care.
Road salt is notoriously aggressive and will attack paintwork, wheel rims and – above all – car underbodies. Comprehensive prevention and careful attention are therefore paramount to protect your vehicle and ensure its technical availability. “By giving your car a thorough winter once-over at regular intervals, you can safeguard your mobility in sub-zero temperatures and help to protect your car’s value”, advises Eberhard Lang from TÜV SÜD. And winter heralds more concerns than technical problems: the car’s paintwork and underbody are vulnerable to winter moisture and road salt. Drivers with an eye to the long-term maintenance of their vehicles must therefore pay close attention to looking after their bodywork and its protective coatings.
Frequent visits to the car wash: If you drive a lot and often leave your car standing in the open air, make sure you’re a frequent visitor to the car wash. Once there, ensure the car receives a thorough pre-wash. Winter driving is particularly tough on cars, covering the paintwork with dirt and salt. “If you think the prewash was insufficient, don’t be afraid to say so”, advises Lang. If the layer of dirt is not effectively removed in advance, the actual washing process itself may drive scratches into the paintwork as tiny stones and particles of dirt are dragged over the paint by the textile rollers. Incidentally, the majority of modern car washes use textile brushes, which protect paintwork far more effectively than the brushes that were once standard. Assuming the prewash is thorough, then, there is no reason not to use an automatic car wash in winter too. Make sure that door seals are carefully dried, and regreased if required, after leaving the car wash. “Otherwise the doors may freeze shut when temperatures fall and you run the risk of being trapped in your own car!” warns Lang.
Renew protective coatings: The best protection against scratches and damage is a coating of wax, which should be applied by hand once or twice a year. In the interim, the TÜV SÜD expert recommends simply choosing the wax program at the car wash. Before winter sets in, renewing the wax layer after a thorough wash and polish is definitely worthwhile. Although anyone can do this, the best results for cleaning and preserving paintwork are achieved by professionals. As a rule of thumb, reapply the wax when water no longer rolls off the bodywork!
Check the underbody: In winter, car underbodies are the areas that suffer most from road salt and moisture. Stone chippings or bottoming out can also cause damage to the vehicle’s protective layer, allowing salt and moisture to penetrate. It is therefore essential to clean the underbody and have it checked by a specialist that will detect any weaknesses and repair them. “In fact, checking the underbody protection is even recommended for new vehicles”, advises Lang.
Removing scratches: Drivers that spend a lot of time on motorways and major roads in winter know the causes of stone impact only too well: grit, dirt and salt are whipped up at high speeds and then hit car paintwork at full force. Exposed areas such as the bonnet, wheel arches or wing mirrors are particularly vulnerable to small chips and scratches in the paintwork, so that damage like this should be treated as a matter of urgency. After every car wash, inspect the paintwork carefully and repair any damage; specialist stores sell practical mini-repair sets with integrated paintbrushes.
Ensuring access: To ensure the first frost does not see you shut out of your own car, now is the time to attend to door locks. “Graphite or silicone are the best ways of preventing frozen locks”, notes Lang. Seals and rubber sills can be treated with a grease pen or silicone spray lubricant, which also prevents doors from freezing shut. A lock de-icer spray is also an essential companion – but ensure it is kept in a coat pocket, and not in the glove compartment.