(ARA) - Winter storms are here and winter maintenance crews are working hard to clear the roads and melt the ice. Salt, sand and liquid deicers are applied routinely to improve road conditions. As you drive your car on those products, you can be thankful that they are readily available and working hard to keep you safe. But does this safety come at the expense of your car?
At extreme cold temperatures, sometimes the only thing that can add traction to a slick road is sand. Although beneficial, sand can create tiny chips in a vehicle's paint and undercarriage. Deicing products
can get into these exposed areas and accelerate rust and corrosion. Fortunately, additives are available that reduce the corrosiveness of winter deicing practices. In some areas, state departments of transportation and public works agencies use deicers that are 70 percent less corrosive than regular salt. These deicers contain corrosion inhibitors made with molasses, corn syrup and other organic agricultural products, as well as some inorganic products. When deicing products come in contact with steel, oxygen is needed for rust to form. Sugar molecules are oxygen scavengers, and by reducing the oxygen, corrosion is reduced substantially. Even beet juice has been used in some cases, but its low sugar content makes it less effective than most other products.
North American Salt Company
, a leading provider of highway deicers, recognizes the need for corrosion inhibited products and offers a treated salt, Thawrox, a liquid magnesium chloride deicer, FreezGard CI Plus, and a salt brine additive line, ArctiClear, which lower the corrosiveness by 50 to 75 percent compared with regular road salt. "We are constantly developing products that meet the needs of our customers," says Jason Bagley, business director of the Highway Specialty Products Division at North American Salt Company. "Corrosion inhibition is beneficial for both winter maintenance staffs and the motoring public."
The Pacific Northwest Snowfighters
(PNS) have led the charge in their respective states to use corrosion-inhibited deicing products whenever possible. Although a little more expensive, these deicers not only minimize the corrosion on citizen vehicles, but also extend the life of their snow plows, bridges and guard rails. "The PNS develops uniform specifications that emphasize safety, environmental preservation, infrastructure protection, cost-effectiveness and performance," says Ron Wright, chemist supervisor for the Idaho Department of Transportation. "We understand the value of corrosion inhibited deicing products, both for citizens and our own vehicle fleets."
Other PNS members agree. "The added cost of corrosion inhibited products is made worthwhile by the prevention of corrosion to state equipment and infrastructure, and to vehicles which travel state highways," says Monty Mills, maintenance operations branch manager of Washington State Department of Transportation.
Governments face the hefty challenge of balancing cost with benefit. Those that have invested in treated salt and other inhibited deicers have documented savings that clearly show the value of using them. These products extend the life of vehicles, including salt spreaders belonging to government agencies and cars belonging to local constituents. Those who choose not to use inhibited products may need to replace vehicles and transportation structures sooner than normal.