from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

Sport Utility Vehicles or more typically SUVs or Sport Utes and pickups are much like brains, although often not used daily most folks have one. Some SUVs are practical and efficient while others are highly impractical and inefficient but one thing they all have in common is the way they’re used begs for special maintenance.

Designed to allow their drivers to travel under conditions or in places that would be difficult or impossible for a regular car, SUVs and trucks are uniquely different. They’re particularly capable in snow and sand because most SUVs and a significant percentage of “personal-use” pickups are equipped with four-wheel drive. That’s great but both snow and sand lead to negative long-term consequences.

Operating a vehicle during snowstorms leaves a vicious buildup of salt and de-icing chemicals on its underbody. Left in place, this leads to body corrosion, weakened brake and fuel lines, parking brake cables, brake rotors and numerous other rusted parts later in the vehicle’s life. So, as soon as it’s practical, thoroughly clean the outside and more important, the underside of your dirty, salted vehicle.

But perhaps you never drive your 4X4 in the snow, you only use it in the summer and it stays at the beach house. You only go off road for a little beach cruising or surf fishing so there are no salt problems! Aw come on, actually vehicles that stay near salt water, are used on the beach or off road are usually more prone to rust than those from deep in the snow belt.

Salt picked up around the ocean attacks areas of your vehicle never touched by road salt. That’s because there’s a fine mist of salty moisture in the air around the ocean. This salty mist finds its way all over, under, and through your vehicle. It seeps into every crack and crevice throughout the entire car; it finds its way into everything! So cleaning after beach excursions or being parked at the beach is also recommended to help slow the ravages of corrosion. Same with off road mud which holds moisture causing corrosion.

But how do you clean the underside of a vehicle? The easiest way is a professional car wash where they offer high-pressure underbody cleaning as part of their service. Second is a pressure washer but more practical for most drivers is their rotating lawn sprinkler. Position the sprinkler under the front of the vehicle and turn the water on full blast. Allow the sprinkler to thoroughly rinse the underside of the front of the vehicle for about an hour then move it to the middle and finally the rear. Also rinse the engine bay to remove salt residue that devastates aluminum parts and electrical components.

Because doors are not sealed they must also be flushed with fresh water. Doors are designed to allow water to enter around the base of the window, flow through the door, and out through drains in the bottom. If water can get into doors so can salty water from roads or the beach. Using a garden hose aimed at the bottom of the window spend several minutes flushing water through each door to help wash away salt residue. Most rust on doors and body panels happens from the inside out so flushing these areas with fresh water dramatically decreases the possibility of body rust.

SUVs need some special lubrication as well. Door hinges and latches, and hood hinges and latches should be lubricated with white lithium grease. Also don’t neglect applying a liberal coating of marine corrosion inhibitor to brake lines, fuel lines, parking-brake cables and adjusters, and other rust-prone parts under the vehicle. Out of sight is where most salt related damage occurs. Of course all the same rules apply to your car that has been used at the beach or in the snow.

Clean, salt free and well lubricated helps preserve the utility of your Sport Utility. Pat Goss