Though northeast Ohio escaped with a mild winter this year, blizzard conditions, freezing rain, snow squalls and cold temperatures can wreak havoc on the roads we travel.
Little thought is given, however, to the damage that may occur to a car while negotiating winter's unpredictable behavior.
With the coming of spring, getting winter-ravaged cars in shape can be of most importance to gear up for the summer travel season.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Gary S. Angelo
Road salt in winter can lead to rust damage in your car. According to Jeff Payne of Payne Autobody in Cortland, “Salt eats brake lines and eats out gas tanks, making the tanks rust out. Salt gets up in between the tank and the straps that hold it in place.”?
Two of the biggest causes of winter car damage in Ohio are potholes and road salt.
Potholes seem to be unavoidable during Ohio winters. Though it's not always easy to avoid them, it is important to drive with caution and steer around potholes if possible.
"Potholes open due to plowing, and that can cause damage to struts, ball joints or shocks from hitting a pothole or a chuckhole," said Rick Hern, owner of Rick Hern Motors in Hubbard. Hern has been in the auto business for 43 years.
The following are guidelines for reporting potholes to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Make note of where the pothole is located. A motorist should only report a pothole or damage from a pothole to the state if the pothole is on a state-maintained roadway. State maintained roads include all interstates and state and U.S. routes in unincorporated municipalities, such as villages or townships.
ODOT's webpage can be accessed at www.dot.state.oh.us. A pull-down menu is available for reporting potholes or similar damages to vehicles under Damage to Vehicle/Report a Pothole.
If a motorist encounters a pothole on a state or U.S. route in a city or other incorporated municipality, he or she must contact the city or governing authority directly (for example: city, county, township, etc.).
SOURCE:?Ohio Department of Transportation
"Drivers can break belts in tires through hitting a pothole or a chuckhole," Hern said. "Drivers will feel a vibration or clunking when the struts in their cars are damaged."
Jeff Payne, president of Payne Autobody in Cortland, said that salt on roadways is a huge damage factor when looking at the outer body of a car.
"Salt eats brake lines and eats out gas tanks, making the tanks rust out," Payne said. "Salt gets up in between the tank and the straps that hold it in place. Cars with plastic headlight lenses are damaged by salt. The salt fogs the lenses of the headlight, which is more common among newer cars, since they have plastic headlights."
Payne said that salt also can eat up a car's muffler and other areas underneath the car.
"Salt deteriorates the boards and everything underneath the car," Payne said. "It's best to take the car to a car wash that has an under body rinse bath system or chassis rinse system, which sprays water up from underneath the car. This washes the junk out from underneath the car. Overall, this rinse keeps the salt from accumulating underneath the car."
Payne also said that the tell-tale signs of a car's body rusting due to salt damage include rusting on the rocker panels, rusting of fender wells or wheel wells, and rust on the bottoms of the doors.
Wyatt Moadus, general manager of American Auto Painting in Warren, said that if rust damage on a car goes untreated for a long time, the situation can get worse.
"The rusted section of the car can get holes if it goes untreated for a long time," Moadus said. "Car owners would have to re-fabricate the metal panel depending on the circumstance of the situation."
Moadus said that the areas of a car that are most likely to rust are the rocker panels and wheel wells.
"The majority of the vehicles I am currently working on are vehicles that succumb to rust," Moadus said. "It's not always limited to just winter."
Moadus noted that Ohio has a moist climate year-round.
"If a car owner wants to avoid rust, then they should just move to a dry climate like Arizona," he said.
Moadus said rust spots can occur in places of a car where it's least expected.
"Car owners should run their hands across the surface of their car to feel for rust spots," Moadus said. "If a car is rusting, they will feel a bubbling on the surface. It's easier to feel the rust than to see it sometimes."
Moadus said that it is best to take a proactive approach when it comes to rust on a car.
"It's best to treat rust earlier," Moadus said. "It will cost a person less if they get the problem treated right away."