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Friday, 12 December 2014 00:00

Pass the Salt: Winter Road Treatments in NJ Can Cause Costly Automotive Damage

For the last few years throughout the state of New Jersey, a brine solution pre-treatment has been the method of choice for guarding roadways against winter weather, as a proactive approach to keeping motorists safe in the ice, sleet and snow. But a hidden danger of wintry roadways may be lurking under your car: rust.

The guys at Streamline Auto Body in Tuckerton say the unfortunate downside to anti-icing measures is accelerated erosion of vehicles’ undercarriages, to the point of major rust holes and rotted rocker panels, according to Assistant Manager Chris Mack.

Stafford Township’s brine system has been in place since 2011, according to Township Administrator James Moran.

“Our salt shed is full as we head into winter, and we maintain higher levels than we think we’ll need. … We budget for the worst-case scenario.”

The crews use dump trucks outfitted with tanks and sprayers, to apply the liquid salt solution to roadways in advance of a forecasted storm. The solution dries and bonds to the asphalt, preventing snow and ice from adhering, which saves on manpower and overtime costs associated with snow removal. The township mixes its own brine solution, at 23 to 25 percent, and even sells it to other towns, which helps offset costs further.

After the brine solution is laid, the crews continue to salt and sand as needed, in addition to plowing.

“We have a significant and well-planned plowing program,” Moran said, which uses Public Works and Water and Sewer crews to get the job done.

Likewise, at the county level, the maintenance yards are stocked and ready. Ocean County Roads Department Director Tim Curcio said 10,000 gallons of brine solution are kept on hand, plus 25,000 tons of salt, to which calcium-chloride solution gets added to enhance the salt’s melting ability by lowering the freezing point. Last year the county went through its whole supply twice, totaling $3.5 million. Some less conventional ideas, such as using beet juice on the roads, tend not to fly, Curcio said, because they would require costly equipment modifications that don’t appear, at this point, to be cost-effective.

At the New Jersey Department of Transportation, winter readiness is the same story, with the three-pronged approach including the brine pretreatment, salt and calcium-chloride, which means every local, county and state road are getting heavily salted all season long.

But as Mack explained, all that salt on the roads, before, during and after every weather event, is corrosive, especially if it is allowed to accumulate. (Good news for the car wash business.) Moreover, auto manufacturers’ undercoating seems not to be as protective as it once was, in Mack’s opinion. All of which spells higher expense to vehicle owners, either at the car wash, or in automotive bills when repairs out-price the value of the rusted parts, he said.“In our business, rust is not a friendly thing,” Mack said.

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