Does the new pre-wetted winter gritting technique wreck cars? Motorists could certainly see an increased risk of car corrosion this winter.
ROAD SALT DAMAGE: It is due to new gritting techniques used by many of the UK-wide Highways Agency salt spreaders.
They claim the pre-wet deicing method is more effective than traditional salt gritting.
But strong evidence suggests that spreading brine is more corrosive to vehicles and road furniture.
The Highways Agency will mix brine with salt in their winter gritting services. To say it has alarmed the motor industry would be an understatement.
Road salt damage accelerates corrosion on alloy wheels and the underside of vehicles. Many car dealers have concerns that pre-wet gritting will damage paintwork even more so.
The usual gritting season starts from November onward in the United Kingdom. Fears of road salt damage to cars became intensified after a wave of warranty claims in Central Europe.
Volkswagen found the pre-wetted gritting technique caused serious damage after its introduction in Austria.
The Highways Agency bought a fleet of 430 new salt spreaders and gritters. The cost was close to £45 million.
The new version of road gritters will contain two tanks. One tank will have salt inside and the other tank will house a mixture of salt and brine.
The brine mixture is a pre-wet solution of salt and water. Using it enables the Agency to use raw less salt. They claim it is more 'friendly' for the environmental. It is also expected to save the Agency money on its road gritting budget.
Engineering experts commented on the back of the comprehensive study by VW. They said:
"This is a big worry. I'm convinced people will be deeply concerned by the cost implications of this. It is vital we make UK roads safer during tough conditions. But what if this particular technique used to grit the roads is potentially leading to corrosion of vehicles and street furniture? Something is quite clearly wrong."
It is not only rusting that reduces the value of a car. Paintwork blemishes and alloy wheels damage also affects resale values. The research by Volkswagen Autos shows that pre-wet gritting causes real problems for vehicles.
After all the criticism and concerns the Highways Agency responded. They remained steadfast and defended their decision to use the new pre-wet de-icing technique.
"We have a wealth of evidence behind us. That's what resulted in our decision to adopt pre-wetted salt. There is extensive usage of pre-wet salt across Europe and other parts of the United Kingdom."
"Pre-wet does not work any different to dry salt. It is the application that is different. Pre-wetting the salt accelerates the traditional process that occurs with dry salt. That means the new fleet of winter vehicles will use less salt. That's better for the environment, for road users' vehicles, and for metal road structures."
Perhaps the take home message is that salt is a corrosive material by its nature. Maybe by using pre-wet de-icing techniques they will use smaller quantities of salt?
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Pre-wetted Winter Gritting May Speed Up Damage to Cars in the United Kingdom