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Author Topic: Alan Wesson's "how to spot salt" advice.  (Read 1495 times)
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« on: 23 February, 2012, 10:52:51 AM »

Having spent a while looking this advice out (from last March in the thread "Appia or Fulvia as an everyday car?") I thought it timely and worth sharing again having been alarmed at the salt coating I picked up from what I thought was a dry road.



Meant to say - I don't know how well up you are on how to identify if the roads are salty (most people aren't!), but I spend most of my time fixing rust damage that was caused to Lancias because people didn't know how to recognise it! I am going to do a session on preserving cars at the AGM (I have two, one from 1937 and one from 1954, that are almost all original; the 1937 one is almost all perfect too, and neither has been restored, and I have my work cut out if I want to keep them like that!).

So if you want to keep your classic rust-free it is a useful skill! It is often not obvious, especially at times like now when the salt has been there a while and people tend to think it has gone away. But it doesn't go away by itself - the only thing that makes it go away is LOTS of rain.

Here are some things to look for:

a) random 'wet spots' on the pavement or at the sides of the road when it is otherwise dry (these are bits of grit or salt lying uncrushed by car wheels, and attracting moisture from the air)
b) the road looks wet or damp at night even when it hasn't rained for ages (this is the salt attracting mosture from the dew)
c) the main roads are 'wet' and the side roads are dry (this is because there isn't any salt on the side roads and so they don't attract moisture from the dew!)
d) when you begin a journey your tyres look as if they have just been done with rubber dressing (all shiny) - this is because the salt has attracted moisture and it has made a glossy-looking film all over the rubber. As soon as you drive off and the wheels heat up from the brakes, they begin to look all white, which is the dry salt. But as soon as you stop and the dew falls again it all happens all over again, because the moisture in the atmosphere searches out the salt and reconstitutes it (which is why it is so damaging and corrosive - it does this EVERYWHERE on the car, inside and out, underneath and on top).
e) on a damp road, cars make wet tracks instead of dry ones. Usually, when the road is damp, cars going along it tend to make dry tracks, as the heat of the tyres evaporates the moisture. But when there is salt present the opposite happens. The car's wheels crush the salt granules and spread them, and they form a film where the wheel tracks are, and this film attracts moisture. So you tend to get the odd effect of a quite dry road with two wet strips along it, even when there is no water for the cars to spread.

That's what it is like here (Dartmoor) tonight - I just went to Okehampton Services to get a pint of milk, and the road was like it the whole way there (needless to say, I am in a scruffy old Mk 3 Golf rather than a nice classic).

The other way to identify road salt is one I discovered by mistake, many years ago. I had driven my Fiat Uno, which was then nearly new, to Derby, and when I got there I saw that, although it hadn't rained, the car was all wet and white down both sides (this was the salty film that had got thrown up from the road). As I got out I accidentally caught a 'dirty' (which was what I though it was) bit, and then I caught my lip with my finger - and it tasted of pure salt.

I was appalled (I hadn't realised they were even salting!), and ever since then (1985) I have made sure that I know if the road is salty or not. And if it is, I don't go anywhere near it with a nice car if I can help it. And if I absolutely have to, I wash all the salt off very thoroughly afterwards and then dry the car with the compressor.



David Laver, Lewisham.
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