Connecticut drivers were warned that the products being used to de-ice roads could be costing them billions in rust damage repairs each year.
American drivers are paying an estimated $15.4 billion to repair damage to the vehicles, which was caused by “de-icing methods over the last five years,” according to a recent conducted survey by AAA.
AAA Spokesperson Amy Parmenter said that drivers are paying about $3 billion per year. During the past five years, Parmenter added that “22 million U.S. drivers have experienced rust damage to their cars due to salt and liquid de-icers.”
“In addition to the safety risk, repairs to fix these problems are often costly, averaging almost $500 per occurrence,” AAA Spokesperson Amy Parmenter said in a statement on Tuesday.
In Connecticut, AAA said highway departments for municipalities and the state “have shifted from using rock salt to liquid de-icers to combat ice and snow on the roadways.”
AAA added these “newer alternatives are more effective than traditional salt” because they “have a lower freezing point and melt ice and snow faster,” especially during a snowstorm.
But, AAA stated these chemicals “can be even more damaging to vehicles” since they “remain in liquid form longer and are more likely to coat components and seep into cracks and crevices where corrosion can accelerate.”
The Connecticut Department of Transportation said though some rust damage is possible, they only judicious about how much they use compared to other states.
"We tend to use less material per lane mile than other winter states are. In fact, an unnamed neighbor to our north uses about three times more material per lane mile than the Connecticut DOT" Connecticut DOT Spokesman Kevin Nursick said.
Because the concentration is lower, it will take a little longer to work. However, Connecticut cars should have a longer lifespan than those coming into contact with higher concentrations of the salt.
"If there was a better product to use to make roads reasonably safe with the least amount of corrosive impact, we would be using it," Nursick said. "There is no other option out there."
The I-Team has been following this issue since 2013. Connecticut mechanics blamed the winter road treatment for damage to cars.
"Sometimes you can take a screwdriver and just tap around the area where you see it and sometimes it'll just go right through," Tyler Rook, who is the owner of Victor's Auto Body Works in Middletown, said.
Rook said he has a garage full of cars. Some of them were at Victor's Auto Body Works not because of crashes, but because of the normal wear and tear of winters in New England.
"The rust starts on the inside and works its way out," Rook said. "But with these chemicals, it's doing both."
In the end, Parmenter said the rust damage “much more than a cosmetic issue, it’s a safety issue.”
“Rusting caused by road de-icers typically affects brake lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and electrical connections critical to a vehicle’s performance,” Parmenter said.
Sal Milardo, who is the body shop manager at Victor’s Auto Body Works in Middletown, said he has seen his rust damage on vehicles “all the time.”
“And it’s gotten worse over the years,” Milardo said in a statement on Tuesday. “The damage done by de-icing solutions is extensive and expensive.”
Drivers are being advised to check their brake lines, fuel tanks, exhaust systems and other critical vehicle components for rust damage. Drivers were also advised to take their vehicles off the road if there are any “malfunctions.”
While AAA said some rust damage was “unavoidable,” the company is recommending drivers to take the following steps:
"You could lose a trailing arm off your under body on the back wheel," Rook said. "Car goes off the road because it's rusted, hit a pothole and the next thing you know it breaks free from the car and you lose control of the car."
To see the extent of the salt damage, drivers need to look at the undercarriage of their car. Experts said if it's seeing some damage, sealants can be applied and it could protect your car and give it several more years on the roads.
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