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Liquid Salt - whaddya think?

Discussion in 'Ice Management' started by MaineMike, Nov 28, 2006.

  1. MaineMike

    MaineMike Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 48

    Here's a story from a newspaper here in Maine.
    Any opinions?

    * * *

    Using liquid salt to keep roads clear of snow and ice may be reducing collisions, but it’s rusting out brake lines and the undercarriages of vehicle bodies, some area mechanics and auto body repair technicians believe.

    Brian Burne, the state Department of Transportation’s chief highway maintenance engineer, doesn’t agree and says the liquid salt includes corrosion inhibitors to reduce damage to vehicles.

    But mechanics like Walter Ash, owner of East Side Garage in Belfast, and others are convinced the liquid calcium chloride is to blame for the upswing in rusting they have observed.

    "I don’t think it — I know it," Ash said last week when asked if the liquid salt were responsible for rusting out brake lines, brake rotors and other parts.

    Area shops have replaced miles of brake lines in recent years, he said, far more than in the past, coinciding with the beginning of the appearance of liquid salt in winter road maintenance.

    Buddy Saunders, general manager at Harmon Tire in Ellsworth, agrees with Ash’s assessment.

    "I’ve seen a tremendous increase in brake line failure due to what I have to assume is the liquid salt," he said.

    Sepp McGinn, owner and operator of Alternative Auto Body in Bangor, said the mixture is keeping his shop busy.

    "That’s some bad stuff," he said of the liquid salt. "It’s beating up a lot of cars. It’s good for business," he said, but McGinn would rather not do rust repair work because it’s often a losing battle.

    For decades, highway crews have responded to snow on roads by plowing it and dropping salted sand, often applying the salted sand as they plowed. Icy road conditions, from rain or melting snow that refreezes, also were treated with salted sand.

    The salt mixed into the sand tends to attract moisture, but it also lowers the freezing temperature of the mix, allowing it to be spread. The sand provides traction, and the salt combines chemically with the packed snow or ice on the road surface, again lowering its freezing point and turning it back to a liquid.

    Both Ash and Saunders believe the liquid salt, which began being used about five or six years ago around the state, quickly coats the underside of a vehicle, working its way into brake rotors and other wheel parts and covering the steel brake lines that follow the vehicle’s frame rail. Salted sand may accumulate on some parts of a vehicle’s underside, they said, but much of it bounces off.

    McGinn dismissed DOT’s contention that the substance contains corrosion inhibitors.

    "I think it is stronger [than salted sand], and I think it sticks. It’s hard to wash off," he said.

    Burne has heard it all before and maintains any increase in corrosion observed by mechanics is not connected to the liquid salt. The product the state uses is certified to meet certain anti-corrosion standards, he said.

    Use of the new mixture came with a change in road maintenance philosophy, he said. Salted sand was used as a de-icing method, but now the approach is "anti-icing," or preventing the snow and ice from building up on the road surface.

    "We used to wait until the snow built up on the road surface," Burne said, then crews would plow it and lay down a coating of salted sand. Now, a liquid "brine layer" of calcium chloride or magnesium chloride is spread just in advance of the snow, or just as the snow begins to fall, which prevents any packed snow or ice from adhering to the road surface.

    Any falling snow melts on contact, preventing the snow pack that often lasted for days after a storm.

    With this approach, "They actually plow more. We tell them to stay right on top of it," Burne said.

    In addition to reducing icy road surfaces, using the liquid calcium chloride reduces the state’s need to purchase, mix and store salted sand and the problems that come with it.

    "We used to use a half-million cubic yards of sand a year," Burne said, while this year, some 50,000 cubic yards will be readied.

    By using less salted sand, the need for the huge storage buildings has been reduced, as has the threat of salt leaching into area water supplies and sand clogging drainage ditches.

    The cyclones of dust that appear on dry winter days, the pulverized remnants of salted sand, are now deemed health threats. Burn said the fine silica, when breathed, has been found to be abrasive to lungs. By limiting its use, a better air quality is achieved.

    Burn dismisses the explanation that liquid salt is more likely to coat the underside of a vehicle and seep into parts.

    "I don’t buy into that theory," he said. In fact, Burn said he often finds salted sand building up on surfaces under his car.

    "I’m not seeing what they’re seeing," he said of mechanics and auto body repair technicians.

    Saunders at Harmon Tire said some vehicles use polymer-coated brake lines, with some success, in reducing corrosion.

    McGinn at Alternative Auto Body said the way to fight the corrosion is to keep the underside of a vehicle clean.

    "My advice is a lot of car washes," he said.
  2. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,256

    I think the mechanics are idiots.

    Liquid salt is what we've always used for melting snow and ice. It just so happens that it is now being applied as a liquid instead of granular.

  3. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    wow, I couldn't believe what I was reading, 1) The mechanics think they are chemical engineers and 2) The paper actually reported what the mechanics said as if it was an informed source.:dizzy:

    MainMike, have you had any liquid training? I did this summer and it was very informative. I learned how sand is very bad for watershed zones. It coats the stream bed and prevents fish from laying eggs, and clogs the storm drain systems.

    Public awareness is key, the states need to educate its citizens about our "new" anti-icing techniques and technology's.
  4. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,256

    Actually, the whole article is ridiculous. What is salted sand? Are they using salt brine? Or are they using Calcium chloride as a liquid? Even the guy from the state doesn't know what he is talking about.
  5. MaineMike

    MaineMike Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 48

    Well the article did seem kind of odd to me, and it is pretty inconclusive so that's why I posted it.

    I don't have any experience with salting (liquid or granular) so it is interesting to read through the comments here.

    The mechanics think they are seeing an increase in corrosion cases and they're making a connection between this increase and the recent use of liquid salt. But there is no method involved to confirm this suspicion. Just a SWAG (Scientific Wild A**ed Guess), eh?

  6. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    Another thing I learned this summer was about the corrosion factor and how the good liquids really do cut down on it, this had to be tested in order for the port authority to approve its use on the bridges in ny.

    I have another explaination, vehicles are just made with cheap @ss parts now!
  7. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,256

    Actually, in theory there could be more corrosion due to an increase in the amount of salt applied compared to previous years when 'salted sand' was applied. Still doesn't mean that the liquids are causing more corrosion, though.
  8. Dano50

    Dano50 PlowSite.com Addict
    from CA
    Messages: 1,270

    Sounds like job for Fluid Film! :D

    Fluid Film will keep the undercarriage of a car rust proof for a full year with one application. It will protect wheel wells and battery terminals, lubricate hinges, locks, and will help keep snow and ice from sticking to augers and chutes on snowblowers.

    If you haven't yet tried a can and live within the Continental United States, just pm me and I'll get one right out to you.
  9. MaineMike

    MaineMike Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 48

    Good point - and they didn't touch on that in the article. At all.
  10. MaineMike

    MaineMike Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 48

    To add to your thoughts, let me mention that any self-respecting Mainer would tell anyone who would listen that we did not have a real winter in 2005/2006. Seriously!
    Very little snow accumulation overall and the mildest temps since the 1950s, as I recall.
    I do not know how much salt was spread out on the roads during this period, but I would have to guess that it was far less than what you would expect in a typical Maine winter.
  11. Grader4me

    Grader4me Member
    Messages: 44

    Probably they were using more salt when using the "salted sand" than they are using now with the brine. Not to mention the sand (and the salt that was mixed with this to prevent freezing) that they was using as well.
    Salt & sand mixed does not work well for a deicer. The salt breaks the bond, but all the sand does is hold the moisture and the road does not dry off as well, and refreeze(black ice) is possible.
  12. BDB

    BDB Senior Member
    Messages: 124

    Perhaps those people should was there stuff more often! And this guy is complaining that he has to work more replacing brake lines and such??:cry:
  13. Surfside

    Surfside Member
    Messages: 44


    Dont know what they are spraying for liquid but liquid Magic-O hasn't taken out any of my brake lines!!!