You know that grayish, brown film that coats your vehicle every winter?

That coating, a mixture of dried road salt, dirt and other materials, is doing more than just making your car look filthy.

It's eating away at your undercarriage, rotting the frame, rusting bolts shut and causing other issues with vehicle performance.

But salt is just one of many issues vehicles face every winter.

Elaine Leaser, owner of Leaser's Garage in Mahoning Township, explained that all mechanics are dealing with a number of cold weather problems that are a result of potholes springing up like unwanted weeds in a garden; salt being put down to help keep roads from icing up; and just the extreme cold temperatures that happen in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Pass the salt!

Road salt and brine found on every road during the winter is the worst when it comes to creating vehicle problems.

Leaser explained that not only does the salt create a film on the vehicle body that you can see, it causes numerous, and dangerous problems under the hood as well.

"The biggest problems are fuel and brake lines," she said, adding that they are made out of steel and corrode.

"If you get a pinhole in the brake line and then have to hit the brakes hard, they can blow out and then you lose the brake fluid and can't stop," Leaser said.

"It's a very dangerous situation when you lose your brakes."

She said that the garage has seen a lot of these issues over the years, more so since road crews began using the liquid salt brine to treat roads.

The fix isn't cheap either.

If you want to replace just the broken part of the brake line, it won't cost that much, but Leaser said, there are newer, better lines that are made to withstand the salt that drivers should consider.

Replacing all the brake lines with this coated or copper line will cost a few hundred dollar up front, but she said that it will save a lot of headaches, as well as possibly your life, in the long run.

Salt has also been the culprit of rot and rust on a car frame and on anything metal on the vehicle.

Leaser's Garage has seen major issues of rot on vehicles less than a decade old.

"When you pick up a car and look underneath, it's awful to see all the rotting," she said.

"You can stick your fingers through some vehicle frames and they are early 2000 models. You can't fix rot because it's dangerous to weld onto a frame because it could harm the integrity of the car during a crash."

Lug nuts, bolts, shock mounts, tire pressure sensors and rotors are also all victims to the salt because they begin to rust and corrode, causing them to lose strength, break and not work as efficiently as they should.

"Anything exposed under the car that is metal can rot and rust because of the salt," Leaser said, adding that the average cost for new brakes, rotors and replacing the brake lines if damaged by salt, could run a person upward of $600 or higher.

She and mechanic Ross Smith recommended washing the salt off your car after storms to help cut down on rot and rusting. This will also help mechanics to do their job more efficiently.

Car washes will help with this, but Leaser noted that they won't get everywhere under the car.

Smith pointed out that it is important to get down on the ground with a hose or power washer and pressure wash everything under the vehicle frame because salt will get into "every, little crevice that it can find."

A "growing"

epidemic

Leaser explained that there are a few issues that drivers face when it comes to potholes.

They include the car getting out of alignment, as well as popped tires.

She noted that tires have been a big seller in the winter because depending how the tire pops, it may not be repairable.

"Once a tire blows out on the side, you can't repair it," Leaser said. "You have to replace it."

Ron Young, district press officer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 5, said the weather patterns this year have been "conducive for creating potholes."

"We had precipitation with freezing temperatures, and then thawing," he said. "The moisture gets in below the road, freezes and expands, pushing the road up; thaws, creating a void under the road, and traffic traveling over it causes deterioration."

Young added that January and February have been "unusually busy" in terms of potholes needing to be filled.

PennDOT crews have been out trying to patch as many potholes as possible, but the weather has contributed to more potholes opening up after a specific roadway was already patched.

Recently, we asked readers about potholes in a post on Facebook.

Some responded that "there are too many" and "everywhere."

Heather Urquiza said there is a monster pothole near the Burger King in Tamaqua that "almost ate my entire front end."

Lisa Macalush said there are "lots and lots of potholes on Park Avenue in Nesquehoning."

Phil Coniglio said the Sgt. Stanley Hoffman Boulevard bypass in Lehighton pothole cost him $350 in repairs.

Readers said problem areas included Route 248 between Lehighton and Walnutport; and throughout East Penn Township.

Other cold

weather problems

In addition to salt and potholes, the temperature has been known to cause leaks, creaks and breaks in vehicles.

Leaser said that many garages hear about vehicles having antifreeze and radiator leaks, alternators and batteries dying and wiper blades breaking as a result of the wintry conditions.

She explained that temperature changes affect the engine, causing gaskets to deteriorate and cause leaks.

Older batteries can also die because they do not have enough power in the cold weather. They should be checked regularly and replaced when needed.

Tire pressure can be affected in extreme cold weather as well.

Leaser said that the cold has a tendency to reduce tire pressure, causing tires to deflate slightly and the car to use more gas because of it.

"Put air in when you see a tire is low," Leaser said. "Running on low tires will use more gas. If it looks low or the (indicator) light is on, check it. Always run at the right poundage."

She added that you should always clean off wiper blades and make sure they are not frozen to the windshield before using them.

Not doing so could cause the arm to break or the assembly to twist.

Preventing

problems

Leaser said that the easiest way to make sure your car is prepared for winter is to get regular maintenance.

"Preventive maintenance is best," she said. "Have your mechanic check the tires and the tread to see if they will last the winter. Check the antifreeze to make sure it is good in subzero weather to prevent other engine problems. Check the air filter, oil and transmission fluid."

Leaser added that you should also always start your car and let it warm up during the winter because otherwise it could create other problems with the vehicle down the road.

"Cars don't like the cold weather," she said. "They develop problems."