What can I do about the rust being caused by all the salt I'm getting from New York winter roads?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2003

Dear Tom and Ray:

I moved to upstate New York from California this past winter, and I've already noticed two problems with my Toyota Tacoma pickup: 1) a dearth of bikini-clad women in my truck, and 2) an abundance of rust and salt buildup on the undercarriage. The salt has completely encrusted the padlock I have on my spare tire (which is mounted underneath the bed), so I wouldn't be able to get at it in an emergency. Is there anything I can do to avoid this rust buildup, or should I just sell the truck before I move back to California? -- John

RAY: Well, I'm much more concerned about the lack of bikini-clad women than about the rust, John.

TOM: Rust is an unfortunate byproduct of winter in the great frozen North. Snow falls, and then the local towns and cities dump enough salt on the roads to raise the blood pressure of the inhabitants of several former Soviet nations. When the water from the melting snow and the salt from the roads mix with the metal of your car, the result is rust. And there's not a helluva lot you can do about it.

RAY: If you live where it snows occasionally, you can take your car to a car wash after a storm and wash the undercarriage to get rid of the salt. But if it snows a lot, there might be salt on the roads for most of the winter, making it almost impossible to keep up with.

TOM: So, I'd just plan to sell the truck before moving back. Upstate New Yorkers will expect to see some rust on any used car they buy, so you shouldn't have trouble selling it. And in fact, since it spent part of its life in California, it might be in better shape than many others.

RAY: But get under there and cut off that padlock, John. You need to have access to your spare tire in an emergency. And don't worry about anybody stealing your spare tire in that part of the country. Would you lie down in all that slush and salt muck to get under a truck to steal a spare tire? I didn't think so.

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