For any car enthusiast, the Winter is the most deadly of seasons. The hostile environment of a cold Winter’s day can wreak havoc on the underside of a vehicle. Its exposed hardware getting torn to pieces by snow and ice, and other hidden obstacles. Black ice becomes a thing of nightmares, and the pressing of that ‘snow mode’ button on your dash becomes part of your morning routine.
I’m writing this on the 1st of January. It’s very early in the morning. Too early. Too cold. And I can see the patterns of ice starting to crawl over the car cover encasing my soon-to-be-salted Lexus. Last year, the onslaught of the Winter months on my car kept me up at night, but this year the IS200 is surely destined for either a renovation or the scrap yard, so I don’t go to bed worrying that in the morning, it will simply be a pile of oxidised Japanese steel.
Because yes, that is the number one terror this time of year: Rust. Some bright spark at the Highways Agency decided that dousing the roads in a chemical that eats away metal, and therefore cars, was a good idea. It’s not a good idea. It’s about as good an idea as asking Hammond to reach for something on the top shelf in the supermarket. Both don’t work, and quite frankly, someone may get hurt.
I wonder sometimes if the government does this on purpose to increase the rate at which we buy new cars. Because salt isn’t the only way we can get rid of ice, is it? Look at Japan for example. They use de-icing chemicals and electric wiring and hot water dispensers, and that’s why when you buy an old import you don’t have to even think about bubbling under the paint. There won’t be any, because Japan’s government is neither money grabbing or stupid. Unlike our own.
Canada? They just hope people use their common sense and buy studded snow tyres. If they really have to, they’ll put down sand. Last resort, they’ll put down salt. But that’s the very last resort and will consciously try not to. Unlike our road agencies who scatter salt like it’s going out of fashion if they have a slight suspicion that a few snowflakes might make it onto the ground overnight.
To my amazement the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has finally taken a look into this issue. Finally! No need to crawl under the car every Autumn to apply Waxoyl. That stuff by the way, if you get it on your clothes, is not coming off. I can finally drive my car without hearing the dreadful sound of salt hitting my wheel arches and without the worry that my arches and sills are going to one day separate themselves from the rest of the car.
So what are they doing? They’re using brine instead. That’s right. Salty water. They call it ‘pre-soaked salt’. They say if they pre-soak it, it reacts faster so less has to be used…. I don’t think they quite understand. If it reacts faster with ice, it reacts faster with metal. The problem is now even worse than it was before.
They’ve spent £45 million on gritters than can spread this ‘pre-soaked salt’. But it’s ok, because they’ll make it back with all the VAT we will be paying when we replace our rusted, broken cars.
That’s it. I’m moving to Japan.