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Semi trucks are constantly exposed to hazardous materials that can affect your truck’s uptime. Aside from road dirt, dust, and snow, one of the major enemies of semi trucks is salt, which is used in many Northern states during the winter. This blog will discuss the salt belt and how it’s eating away at our semi trucks.

What Is the Salt Belt?

The Salt Belt is a region in the US in which roads are filled with salt during winter to control snow and ice. States located in Northern United States and Canada are prone to a harsh winter climate, and one of its significant effects is rendering major roads impassable due to thick snow and ice.

salt-road-winter

Salt on roads during winter. (Source: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies)

To understand the need for winter road treatment, let’s explore some key facts about the use of salt on roads.

  • Road salt isn’t the same as the regular salt used in food. It contains unpurified halite, the mineral form of sodium chloride, which gives it its gray or brownish color. 
  • It doesn’t melt snow on the road. Instead, it just inhibits the water molecules on the snow from transforming into solid ice, which makes roads slippery and unpassable. 
  • The regular freezing point of water is 32° Fahrenheit, but when mixed with road salt, its freezing temperature becomes lower than this threshold. This change forces the snow to maintain its naturally loose composition despite its environment’s low temperature, which means it could easily be shoveled away from the road.
  • Road salt must melt with ice and create a saline solution to be effective. Because of this, it also relies on the sun’s heat or the friction of vehicle tires driving over it.
  • Salt should be used on the road before ice forms, otherwise it is an uphill battle to keep the ice under control. 

Where Can We Find the Salt Belt?

The Salt Belt can be found in the Northeast region of the USA, where winter is considered the heaviest. This includes the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Washington DC

Aside from these states, there are also some areas that use road salt, but in fewer amounts and in a less corrosive form: 

  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Utah

What Happens When Semi Trucks Are Exposed to the Salt Belt?

Prolonged exposure to road salt can cause rusting and corrosion in critical areas of our semi trucks. As we all know, this shortens the overall lifespan of trucks and diminishes their overall riding performance. 

rusted-kenworth-heater-box

A rusted Kenworth heater box

Semi trucks and conventional cab trucks spend more time on the road than the average vehicle during winter. The average driver will tend to minimize their driving to and from work when the roads are bad. However, semi trucks and delivery vehicles continue despite the harsh weather causing corrosion on many of your steel parts found on your truck.

What Are the Effects of Corrosion on Semi Trucks?

Corrosion and rusting have numerous adverse effects on semi trucks, such as tire damage and HVAC problems. Let’s take a look at these:

1. Tire Damages

It’s not uncommon to find rusted parts laying on the side of the interstate in the salt belt. Some of these parts have simply fallen off due to corrosion. Sometimes these road hazards are totally unavoidable. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about this.

2. HVAC Problems

Most HVAC boxes in semi trucks are made of steel which as we all know does not win the battle with moisture and salt. We typically see the most HVAC problems on certain models of Kenworth trucks that have the heater box on the outside firewall.

These boxes corrode so much that the boxes can no longer do their job properly. Heat and AC is escaping everywhere making the cab temperature uncomfortable.

3. Coolant Leaks

We scratch our heads trying to understand why manufacturers make their coolant tubes out steel when they are destined to corrode.

sample-rusted-hvac-box

Rusted HVAC box

3. Leaking Coolant Tubes

The picture below shows a return coolant line that is starting to experience corrosion at the joints. After awhile the corrosion will take over, causing leaks. No one has time for this stuff. Not only does it look bad, but you have to spend time to replace your coolant tube. This is why we began to manufacture stainless steel coolant tubes.

sample-rusted-coolant-tubes

Sample of rusted coolant tubes

How to Reduce the Negative Effects of the Salt Belt on Semi Trucks?

Washing with fresh water, applying a metal coating to your truck, and getting stainless steel aftermarket replacement parts can help lessen the negative effects of the Salt Belt. Let’s take a closer look at each of these strategies:

1. Washing Your Truck

Using fresh water to remove salt from exposed metal surfaces can slow down corrosion. This is specifically true for your undercarriage. However, it’s important to ensure that your car wash uses fresh water, as recycled ones may contain residual salt from other vehicles.

2. Applying Metal Coating

Applying wax and oil to your vehicle can create a protective barrier against salt and other road debris. For this reason, it’s highly recommended to apply a metal coating to your semi truck before the winter season. 

However, remember that wax and oil may not be able to resist snow and dirt when applied to a wet surface. So make sure you clean and dry your truck first before applying any coating. Furthermore, when working on your under chassis, it’s important to get rid of all dirt and residual oil buildup before application.

3. Getting Stainless Steel Truck Parts

Most importantly, the best way to make your semi trucks “salt belt ready” is by getting stainless steel aftermarket truck parts. These components will not just make your vehicles corrosion-resistant but also extend their overall lifespans.

For Kenworth semi trucks, it’s best to secure a stainless steel HVAC box that will protect your AC system from harsh weather conditions and harmful road debris. This will ensure that all your AC components maintain an optimal riding climate within your cabin during winter.

upgraded-hvac-units-kenworth

Upgraded HVAC units for the Kenworth W900, T800, T600, T400

Aside from this, we recommend getting high-quality stainless steel coolant tubes. This will ensure the full functionality of your engine. And since you will be using your heater during this season, getting a stainless steel APU box will also allow you to enjoy the comfort of your HVAC system without sacrificing fuel efficiency.

Make Your Semi Trucks Salt-Proof with Stainless Steel HVAC Boxes

The Salt Belt can have a significant impact on the lifespan and safety of semi trucks. Despite this, avoiding these places during winter is almost impossible. Don’t wait until it’s too late and salt exposure has caused irreversible damage to your semi trucks! 

Upgrade to our high-quality stainless steel HVAC boxes and ensure your trucks are protected against corrosion and rust. Contact us today to learn more and start making your trucks more salt-proof!

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