The weather is warming, leaving clear roads ahead. The risk of damage caused by corrosive de-icing chemicals seems to be behind us, but don’t let your guard down. Most people don’t know that corrosion-causing de-icing chemicals used on winter roads can still wreak havoc on your vehicle during the upcoming summer months and throughout the entire year.
The Science Behind Festering Corrosion
Increased demand for better winter road maintenance has led to the use of de-icing chemicals like magnesium chloride and calcium chloride. These chemicals are dispersed on roads before storms hit and stay on the road long after the months have passed. These de-icers then come into contact with vehicles through road dust and debris, leaving vehicles vulnerable to these chemicals year-round. In contrast to ordinary road salt, which is corrosive in wet conditions, these chemicals are hygroscopic. Hygroscopic chemicals can pull moisture from the air even in dry and low humidity weather conditions, causing corrosion during the summer months. The molecular make-up of these chemicals are about 50% smaller than that of ordinary road salt, giving them the ability to migrate deeper into tight crevices.
Preventing Corrosion During the Summer Months
Steps to preventing corrosion are the same no matter what time of year. The only difference between seasons is awareness and maintaining the persistence of continued prevention. Since corrosion can’t be removed once it has developed, preventative maintenance is the best method to combat against it. Ensuring that the vehicle is thoroughly cleaned throughout the year is a great way to prevent corrosion. Another cause for concern is chipping paint and other areas of damage, which are highly vulnerable to corrosive chemical buildup. Fixing damaged areas quickly can prevent the process from starting and spreading.
The back-of-cab system is one of the most frequently cited violations in CSA inspections annually. So don’t overlook the below during your inspection:
- Condition of the pins in the socket – Look for signs of degradation and discoloration, which lead to poor contact.
- Condition of the ABS plug – Look for signs of discoloration within the pins at the front of the plug or any other signs of corrosion or damage.
- Inspect all cables, and air lines for nicks, cuts, or kinks – Nicks and cuts in electrical lines are open doors for moisture and contaminants. Kinks in air lines block airflow.
- Examine gladhands to verify the integrity of detent plates, seals, and connections – Deteriorating gladhands lose their ability to couple properly.
Electrical connections can be irreversibly damaged by corrosion buildup and are the main gateway for corrosion entering the electrical system. Every tiny bit of corrosion is an obstacle for current to overcome and works against the proper operation of your truck. Cleaning plugs and sockets with electrical cleaner and a plug and socket brush and then applying dielectric grease to their pins help to prevent corrosion from forming and spreading. To further prevent corrosion caused by de-icing chemicals from entering your vehicle’s electrical system, choose anti-corrosive molded nylon plugs and sockets that create a water-tight seal to keep moisture from entering the electrical system, such as the Phillips QCS2® sockets and QCP™ plugs. The electrical system is not the only system exposed to the pitfalls of corrosion. At the coupled connection, the air brake system can also experience deterioration from these chemicals and require replacing. Anodized gladhands offer excellent protection from corrosion.
If anything of significant concern is found during inspection, we recommend replacing those components. Now might be the time to consider starting fresh with an all new back-of-cab system, especially if there is a continual domino effect experienced with repairs and replacement. The Phillips premium QWIK-CHANGE™ PAK (Power Air Kit) is an all-in-one back-of-cab solution ready to install right out of the box. Highlighted by our QCP™ (Quick-Change Plug), the plug end is field-replaceable in about 2 minutes using only a screwdriver. With an inner molded plug design protecting the back of the plug from moisture intrusion, and a plug-in cartridge insert, the most vulnerable component in this setup is protected from corrosion and easily serviceable for longevity. Pre-installed gladhands are anodized, and the QWIK-CLAMP™ hose holders are corrosion-resistant. Major fleets are adopting this solution all across the country to increase uptime.
Corrosion caused by de-icing chemicals may seem like a winter problem, but the risk follows your vehicle all year round. Staying on top of your vehicle’s preventative maintenance and catching problem areas before corrosive buildup has a chance to start will keep your equipment safe and corrosion-free.