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Does Living Near The Ocean Affect Your Car?

Published: February 2018

Living near the ocean can offer a lot of perks. You get the cool ocean breeze, the calming sound of the waves and beautiful views of the sparkling sea. But, while life along the coast may seem ideal, it may not be easy on your car. In fact, certain environmental factors present in coastal locations may cause or accelerate vehicle corrosion and damage.

Aerial view highway road along the sea.

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Ocean Air and Paint Damage

The coastal environment can affect a vehicle’s paint. According to Steve Ford, The Car Guy, the combination of the sun and salt air near a coast can destroy a car’s finish. That’s because the hot sun increases the pores in the paint, which results in greater absorption of salty moisture — and ultimately, more corrosion.

Humidity, Dew and Corrosion

Other parts of the vehicle, including brake calipers, nuts and bolts, can corrode as well, according to John Rintoul, an engineer and lifelong resident of San Diego. He lives less than a mile from the ocean and works on cars, motorcycles and scooters in his free time, giving him an inside look at the damage caused by the ocean environment. He says salty humidity and dew are among the largest factors in progressing corrosion, particularly during certain times of the year.

“Winter is the worst, since summer has much less dew during the nights and mornings,” Rintoul says. “The water droplets create sites where corrosion can occur, and salt helps to accelerate the corrosion.”

Rintoul also notes that the longer his cars have been exposed to the ocean, the more damage he notices. “There is a honeymoon period of about three to five years where you probably won’t see much damage,” he says. “Then, in five to seven years, minor rust spots can develop on the car.” If you can replace the rusty parts, like the bolts and nuts, he adds, you should do so before corrosion weakens the parts to the point of failure. If the body of the car is extremely corroded, however, Rintoul says that in his experience, it is sometimes cheaper to replace the car rather than try to fix and repaint it.

Preventing Ocean-Related Car Damage

If you are moving to a coastal location or have recently purchased a new car that you want to protect from the coastal elements, there are steps you can take to help slow salt damage to cars. If you are just a few blocks from the beach, Rintoul suggests the following practices to help you prevent ocean-related damage to cars:

  • Park in a garage or use a vehicle cover, particularly in winter.
  • Wash and wax the paint regularly.
  • Don’t drive on sand or into ocean water. If you do, rinse the underside of the car with a hose after it has cooled off.

Living near the ocean may have negative effects on your car, but if you understand why the damage happens and take the appropriate steps to help limit or prevent it, you can enjoy coastal living with minimal corrosion to your vehicle.

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