For those of us in the colder regions of North America (and Atlantic British’s headquarters in Upstate New York is certainly smack dab in there), the coming of winter means only one thing: the sheer terror that is the salt truck. While our Land Rovers are some of the best and safest vehicles to be in in a blizzard, when the snow subsides and turns into slush at the curb, it’s time to think about taking care of your vehicle – and think about getting the salt off of it as soon as possible.
Indeed, salt has been the killer of many an otherwise healthy Land Rover. Whether it’s a Defenders with a bulkhead that rotted from the bottom up, a Discovery 2 that lost the rear quarter of its chassis, or a Range Rover Classic that lost its sills, it has always been the silent killer. Newer Land Rovers have better rustproofing (and many of the latest vehicles are largely aluminum, which reduces the immediate risk of perforation). Still, a winter desalination routine can prevent rust and degradation on bolts and electrical parts and makes repairs easier.
Getting the salt off is even more important as many regions have switched from traditional rock salt to a liquid brine solution, sprayed onto roads. While the brine is incredibly effective at keeping roads clear, it has a far higher sodium content than rock salt and permeates the vehicle more by being a liquid. It can make extremely quick work of your bodywork, creating major rust headaches in just a few years.
First off, if there is absolutely no other option, at a minimum get yourself to a commercial car wash and get a wash package with an undercarriage spray. While driving over the jets won’t be as effective as a full nook-and-cranny power washing, it will still remove the bulk of the issue and is better than nothing. An automatic car wash might not be great for your paint, and might not be as easy if your vehicle is modified with bolt-ons, so the next consideration would be a self-service car wash, where you can also use the wand to get into more corners of the vehicle. If you can get access to outside water in the winter at home, a home wash once the weather breaks warmer also works.
When washing the underside of the vehicle, make sure to get inside the frame as much as possible, putting the hose in the holes and crevices in the chassis to flush out any salt or brine that may have made it inside – the chassis can easily rot from the inside out. Get the hose all around the wheel arches, trying to get water behind the fender liners as much as possible – if the salt and brine can get in, water can flush it out.
While it’s not a great idea to willy-nilly wash the engine bay of newer, electrical-heavy Land Rovers, make sure that everything is as clean as can be. Salt and brine that splashes up on the engine will eventually cause rust on lower components.
You can't take your vehicle apart every time it snows, but it's not the worst idea to remove aftermarket body armor every few years to clean up and check underneath for rust. These areas are metal on metal, and if they capture moisture it's a prime place for rust to grow. You can also avail yourself of the large variety of waxes, lanolins, and other rustproofing sprays that can repel water. Some northern areas, and much of Canada, offer rustproofing services where this coating can be professionally applied. There are many options, and there are pluses and minuses to them all -- both based on their own merits and depending on who you're asking. (Personally, I am a fan of Formula 3000, a popular Canadian spray preventer that I buy in bulk at Canadian Tire on trips across the border.)
A little bit of work this winter will go a long way to keeping your Land Rover happy in the long term. Sure, it might be nice to have a beautiful Southern or Southwestern truck, the frame the same hue of black it was when it rolled off the line at Solihull. But there's also a lot of joy in flipping the Terrain Response knob to Grass Gravel Snow and being the first one to lay down tracks in fresh snow on a back road.
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