Have you recently moved to the New England? Are you getting ready to shop for your first used car since your move? If so, you should know that all Northeastern states lie in the salt belt -- a geographic region that relies heavily on the use of road salt for winter driving safety. You can find some perfectly lovely used cars in the salt belt, but you need to know what to look for in order to protect yourself from buying a vehicle that has sustained salt damage.
How Salt Damages A Car
Road salt is a highly corrosive material, and it also aids in the chemical process of electrolysis. As vehicles drive down slushy New England roads that have been treated with salt brine, much of that brine splashes upwards toward the vehicles. Not only can the corrosive brine damage vehicles' paint jobs, but it can get trapped in their undercarriages causing all kinds of rust and even brake and electrical failures.
Proper vehicle maintenance can protect against damaging road salt, but without it, a vehicle can succumb to rust damage in just a couple of years. Here's what to look for on a vehicle to determine whether or not it has been protected from road salt corrosion.
Look For Documented Undercoating. Once you've found a vehicle you're interested in, start your inspection in the glove compartment. If the previous owner has kept maintenance records, look at them to see if there is any record of the car having been oil-undercoated. This process involves spraying a protective barrier of lubricant over all exposed areas of the undercarriage. It limits the amount of salt that comes in contact with the vehicle, as well as promotes the rapid drip-off of any that does. While knowing that a vehicle has been undercoated provides peace of mind, it doesn't necessarily mean you're in the clear. You'll still need to look for signs of physical damage.
Check For Bubbles And Blisters. Oftentimes, the rust on salt-damaged vehicles is hidden on the underside of the vehicle. Sometimes, though, you can spot a rust problem just by examining the paint job. Look for any spots on the vehicle where the paint has bubbled up or blistered. If you don't see any of these tell-tale spots, your inspection is still going well and you can confidently move on to the next step. Keep in mind, though, that paint blisters aren't necessarily a sure sign that you should walk away; sometimes they're nothing more than surface damage that can be sanded over after you purchase the vehicle and painted to prevent the damage from spreading.
Get The Car On A Lift. Most used auto dealers will allow you to take the car to your mechanic for an inspection before purchase, but if the dealer you're working with won't, request that they put the car up on their own life so that you may have a look underneath it.
With the vehicle elevated, take a look at the entire length of the frame, the wheel wells, and the strut tower mounting area (the strut tower mounting area is the top of the big metal coils under the vehicle). A small amount of rust can be expected on any used vehicle from New England, but if you see any holes or any spots where rust is actually flaking off of the metal components, the vehicle has likely sustained too much damage to be considered reliable.
Now is also a good time to examine the brake lines. Brake lines are often the first part of a vehicle to rust. If the vehicle has flexible brake lines, this may not be a big deal because the damaged section of line can be cut out and replaced. If the brake lines are metal, however, the entire lines would need to be replaced and repair could cost upwards of $400.
Every New England state is part of the salt belt, so if you're buying a car there, make sure you know what to look for to ensure you're not purchasing a car with extensive corrosion. Use the above list to ensure the vehicle you purchase was well-maintained and protect against road salt by its previous owner.
For more information about pre-owned and used cars, contact a company like Welsh Motors.