Spit and Polish!

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey | Feb 08, 2016

Snow, ice, and the salt applied to roadways in response to inclement weather surely does a number on the limo’s exterior.  Of course, one can periodically hose off the gunk but who wants to stand outside in frigid February turning the driveway into a skating rink?

So much nicer to sit inside by the fire with a hot toddy and leave car care to your personal chauffeur.  However, if the need to trim your family budget ever so slightly has meant letting go of the live-in staff, never fear.  Help may be on the way from the unlikeliest of neighbors.

(Photo: Dan Dwyer, CCL)
(Photo: Dan Dwyer, CCL)

In moose country, drivers can park and head indoors for a steaming cup of joe while an ungainly, prehistoric-looking creature carefully scrubs away every last speck of salty slush with a gentle pink tongue. Sometimes a whole detailing team will swarm the vehicle.

Why? As everyone knows, moose are total neat freaks who simply cannot abide the sight of a soiled vehicle against a sparkling snow-covered forest vista. Plus, they find the rock salt irresistibly tasty.

Herbivores can’t always get their RDA of minerals such as sodium (Na), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), and phosphorus (P) from the foods they eat. In addition to the nutritional benefits of salt, researchers suspect some of these minerals may provide defense against the toxic chemical compounds found in many of the plants herbivores consume. Domestic cattle, horses, and other livestock are commonly given salt blocks that contain these and other trace minerals.

Moose can't shop for vitamins online so they make do.
Moose can't shop for vitamins online so they make do.

Wildlife will gather at natural clay deposits called “licks" when available. Often, though, the salt found on roads and vehicles is a more convenient and reliable source. The jury’s still out on whether some of the ingredients suppliers add to rock salt are beneficial, detrimental, or neutral when consumed. One thing is certain, though—licking salt off a stationary Subaru is a lot less dangerous than darting out into traffic to taste the tarmac.

And these creatures don't need to tempt fate. The North American moose population has been in sharp decline since the 1990s… meaning the  "Canadian car wash," as it’s called, could disappear like soapy water down a drain.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One