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Posted at: Mar 18, 2017, 2:29 AM; last updated: Mar 18, 2017, 2:29 AM (IST)GOOD MOTORING

Salting the earth

Shimla MC maybe using salt on the roads to melt the ice. However, it may corrode your car’s under-body as well
Salting the earth
The people living in hills of Shimla, especially the upper reaches, may be facing a new problem. A recent news item said that salt was being sprinkled on the roads to melt ice. Yes, it will do that. However, salt has another property,too. It is extremely corrosive.

H. Kishie Singh

The people living in hills of Shimla, especially the upper reaches, may be facing a new problem. A recent news item said that salt was being sprinkled on the roads to melt ice. Yes, it will do that. However, salt has another property,too. It is extremely corrosive.

I know. I have lived in Montreal, Canada. Montreal receives huge quantities of snow and overnight temperatures can drop to minus zero. The snow turns to ice and the roads are not safe for driving.  The city administration then sends trucks carrying tons of salt which is sprinkled liberally on the streets. 

I thought nothing of it and drove my brand-new Mustang joyfully through the slush mixed with salt. A couple of years later holes started appearing under the mudguards, mostly where the wheels were throwing up slush. What it was doing to the under-body of the car I had no idea. I took it to the Ford agency. “It’s normal!” said the French-Canadian staff working there. “We will give it a thorough wash. It will delay the corrosion but the damage has been done.”

Very few service stations in India give cars a really proper wash. It’s a hurried job referred to as top wash. The car is not raised and the under-body is not washed. That is where most damage is done. In India, mud and cow dung can be quite corrosive. A good under-body car wash is a must.

So the car owner has solved his problem. So, what next then?

The melting snow, mixed with salt, will flow into the drains or over the edge into khuds, where there could be some sort of cultivation, certainly some vegetation.

What about the farmers living in lower reaches? They may have not anticipated what the salt-laced water will do to their crops. Storm-drain water may be used to irrigate their fields, which could be really detrimental to the crops. If ingested deep into the soil, it could adversely affect next year’s crops as well.

The salt-laced water will also find its way into streams, rivulets and finally the rivers.

The government has rushed into this snow-clearing exercise without taking into consideration itsfar-reaching consequences. 

The world’s greatest conqueror Genghis Khan’s territories stretched from the Pacific to the Danube, the size of the African continent. After looting, plundering and razing, his army salted the earth. Nothing grows on soil that has been salted. This made sure the inhabitants moved out. Nobody to oppose him on his return visit!

Since it is the first time, to my knowledge, that this salting experiment has been carried out in Shimla, the government must keep a sharp lookout in the spring. Where did the salt-laced water end up?

If this was the first time salt was used to clear snow-covered roads, not much damage has been done to your car.

As a preventive measure give the under-body a thorough wash. At the service station have the car lifted. Remove the wheels and make sure every square mm of the car is washed with a high-pressure hose. Take special care under the wheel arches which is where the maximum damage is likely to occur. As a positive measure you can have a rust-retarding chemical sprayed on the under-body after hoisting the car on a lift. It will preserve the car.

Happy Motoring!

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