Dear Car Talk:
I’m on a six-month visit to the East Coast from my home in the Pacific Northwest and brought my 2008 Toyota Tacoma with me.
While driving the Massachusetts Pike and the Taconic Parkway might give me the boogaloos, I’m actually more scared of all the salt on the roads and what it might do to my NW virgin undercarriage.
Everyone (including my new mechanic here) stares at my Tacoma and says it’s in really great condition, which only makes me worry more.
So, here’s a two-part question: How do I prevent the salt from settling in and doing its oxidizing worst to my pick-up beauty? And, is going to those fancy carwashes I see here sufficient to keep my “Silvie’s” under-regions tidy? Thank you! -- Tami
Don’t worry, Tami. For six months, I think you can keep your pickup truck’s nether-regions from being completely despoiled.
You’re absolutely right that the salt they use on the roads in the Northeast during the winter wreaks havoc on cars. It causes the cars and their parts to corrode more quickly than they would otherwise. Being in the car repair business, I very much appreciate that.
But given the brief length of your stay, and that at least part of it is not in the winter, I think you can minimize the effects on your truck with a few precautions.
When there’s a snowstorm, the roads get salted immediately. In fact, it’s not unusual to be driving behind a salt- scattering truck while it’s snowing, and having salt actually sprinkled all over your car as if you were driving a baked potato.
The salt’s job is to melt the snow, and it does that. But it creates a salty, slushy gruel on the road that gets efficiently splattered all over your truck -- particularly the undercarriage and fender wells.
It’s the gruel that’s most worrisome. So that’s what you want to get off your car.
The best plan of action is to wait a few days or a week after the storm. By then, the roads have often dried out, and while there’s still salt on the roads, your tires aren’t slinging a wet slurry of salt all over the bottom of your car.
At that point, go to a carwash, and pay for the optional undercarriage cleaning, which I think you can get now on a 30- year mortgage for about 4%.
You’ll still get some salt on the underside of your truck after that -- you can’t avoid it all -- but the worst of it collects during those first few days after a storm when a high concentration of salt is mixed with slush.
If you wash off the worst of it soon after each snowstorm, and then every few weeks in the winter to get any residual salt, you ought to minimize the East Coast seasoning your Tacoma gets, Tami.