If you live in an area where snow is part of your normal winter driving, you’re probably already familiar with the use of salt to melt snow and ice, and help keep roads from freezing up. Salt melts snow at lower temperatures, so the roads thaw and avoid icing.

But, that salt can be deadly to your car. It’s highly corrosive and can work its way down to bare metal, causing your car to begin to rust. And that rust can become extremely difficult — and expensive — to eliminate.

So one of the easiest and cheapest ways to protect your car from rust is a thorough wash early in the spring. Just soap and water can wash those salt deposits away, and give your car a chance at a longer life.

But washing that salt away requires more than just taking a hose and sponge to the painted surfaces. You need to get down into the wheel wells and under the fenders and body panels with a spray nozzle, to loosen and rinse away the salt from under the car.

Don’t stop there: Open the doors, trunk, and hood, and use a damp rag to wipe salt and dirt away from the doorjambs, weatherstrip seals, and the edges under the hood and trunk. Even the carpet could use a good rinse with a steam cleaner to pull out any salt residue you tracked in when you slid into the car from a salted roadway or parking lot.

Don’t forget the wiper blades and window seals: They’ll last longer if you rinse that salt residue off them and the windows.

Not sure how to wash away salt effectively? The folks at your nearby Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care center will be happy to answer any questions you have, to help you wash that salt away and keep your car rust free.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort — just a thorough wash and rinse with a hose — and you can add years to your car’s appearance and prevent rust… before it takes hold.