Treating ME Winter Roads with Magnesium Chloride?

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Beth O'Connor
Last seen: 3 years 4 months ago
Joined: 04/28/2005 - 12:01am
Treating ME Winter Roads with Magnesium Chloride?

Editor's Note: The original thread title here was "Magnesuim [sic] Chloride?" I changed it a little bit to give AMG readers a better sense of what this thread's about. It's an interesting discussion.

In a previous thread regarding vehicle inspections Melvin Udall suggested and I para phrase he would endure yearly inspections if we would stop treating the roads with what I believe to be magnesium chloride.

The bus fleet in my school district is a mess with more rust corrosion, brake repairs, gas tanks repairs than ever before and in newer buses. I estimate this is the case in many districts and in the thread previously mentioned I said this treatment is penny wise and pound foolish. I am not sure if the result of this deterioration is due to inferiority of products produced or the result of magnesium chloride.

I would greatly appreciate relative input.

Last seen: 2 years 8 months ago
Joined: 08/13/2006 - 8:55pm
I thought it was calcium

I thought it was calcium chloride?

Last seen: 15 hours 16 min ago
Joined: 09/08/2007 - 6:08am
It's calcium chloride that

It's calcium chloride that causes rust. I've used it for dust control on gravel roads; when I use a spade to handle the material the spade's steel quickly forms a light layer of rust. Calcium Chloride is mixed with water and sprayed on major roads before snow falls. Plow trucks broadcast a mix of the brine and rock salt during and after the storm.
I have the feeling that automakers had finally succeeded in building cars that resisted rust perforation of body parts for maybe five winters when only salt was used, but the addition of CaCl2 has defeated those gains and cars now start exhibiting corrosion well within 5 years. Steel under the car (brake, gas, evap. lines) and gas tanks as well form rust within a few years. Cars are built differently these days, rocker panels and sometimes lower body panels are either covered or composed of plastic, so traditional signs of rust aren't readily apparent until the damage is done. Few body shops will take on rust repair, preferring collision work instead. One writer for a Bangor shop told me that his crew would quit if he took on rust repairs.
Just yesterday I was under our winter car - a 1999 Pontiac fixing a corroded power steering line. Everything is rusted under the car; it's a rolling wreck that I hope to get through this winter with. Our next winter car will be bought in Florida; I'm already searching EBay for a $6,000 rust free car that I might get another 8 winters out of.
I don't think that there's any effective rust proofing - the businesses that did it and warrantied against rust have all gone bankrupt.

Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: 02/13/2009 - 12:16pm
I know our mechanic said that

I know our mechanic said that once they started using this brine in the roads, his garage/dealership replaced more brake lines in Jan than in the whole previous year. It is nasty stuff.

Mike Lange
Last seen: 2 years 6 months ago
Joined: 12/26/2006 - 6:23am
The DOT seems to be in a

The DOT seems to be in a state of denial about this. Everytime the problem is publicized, they bring out studies and statistics claiming that the product they're spraying on the roads is not related to corrosion.

I spent close to $400 replacing the brake lines in my wife's blazer two years ago. The repair shop said that they were swamped with similar work and clearly traced the problem to road treatments.

Doug Thomas
Last seen: 4 years 1 month ago
Joined: 08/29/1999 - 12:01am
I've been told DOT has

I've been told DOT has stopped using magnesium chloride and calcium chloride for deicing. The problem is plain old salt isn't much good below 25 degrees and the traveling public expects bare roads. What do they do?

I do get different answers depending on who and when a question is asked. When I asked person high in the Department in Committee "If the deicer we're using isn't corrosive why are we buying stainless steel truck bodies that are much more expensive"? I got stonewalled.

Last seen: 1 year 3 months ago
Joined: 12/11/1999 - 1:01am
Out in the western states

Out in the western states such as Montana many of the high passes have chain up areas and similar areas on the down side to remove the chains at. Instead of trying to defeat nature they have decided to not fight it and go with the flow. We easterners have the bare road attitude and we are paying for it big time. It turns out to be a case of, "Pay me know or pay me later!" You want bare roads then be prepared to buy a new car every few years.

Beth O'Connor
Last seen: 3 years 4 months ago
Joined: 04/28/2005 - 12:01am
The lead mechanic in our

The lead mechanic in our school district said the chemical is MgC12 commonly referred to as MAG and many think it is calcium chloride. According to Automotive International Inc, the molecular side of this chemical is about half the size of salt meaning it penetrates where normal salt does not. It also attracts moiture from the air making it more aggressive than salt because it is active even when dry. The federal highway administration estimates that corrosion costs the nations transportation industry and it's infrastructure about 30 billion per year. There is also a chemical compound called Cadminium in the street de-icer and it has been directly linked to breat and prostate cancer, it also has pulmonary toxity and causes lung cancer in fact it is the principal killer in cigarette smoke. The agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry says "breathing air with cadmium can severly damage the lungs and may cause death. Breathing air with low levels of cadmium for long periods of time results in a build up of cadmium in the kidneys and may result in kidney disease." There are numerous studies that show it linked t lung disease and fragile bones.

It seems to me that this needs some serious looking into. Since last night I have gone through about a 1/2 dozen studies and reviewed about 50 pages of information. The more I read the more concerned I have become.

I have also been told, but can not confirm that the majority of MAG is being imported from China.

I am now convinced beyond reasonable doubt that this chemical compound is really penny wise and pound foolish.

Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: 02/13/2009 - 12:16pm
Do people really demand dry

Do people really demand dry roads or have some become accustomed to them? I would rather have salt and sand used and leave a little earlier to get to where I need to go. Studded tires help also.

Last seen: 7 years 4 months ago
Joined: 08/15/1999 - 12:01am
With Augusta getting

With Augusta getting something on the order of 22% of their sales tax revenues from vehicle sales, there isn't a whole lot of incentive for them to make changes. Don't forget that Comrade Libby wanted to tax auto repair labor to make sure you cheap SOBs that refused to replace vehicles fork over your 'fair share'.

If by some chance you are successful, be prepared to listen to a variation of the same whine you heard over at MeDOT. ---- "With new cars getting better fuel mileage, we just HAVE to put the gas tax increases on auto-pilot so we can protect all the gold-bricking, featherbedding, patronage, and make-work jobs."

Last seen: 6 years 10 months ago
Joined: 04/01/2005 - 1:01am
Beth, check your pm's.

Beth, check your pm's.

Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: 02/24/2003 - 1:01am
"It seems to me that this

"It seems to me that this needs some serious looking into. Since last night I have gone through about a 1/2 dozen studies and reviewed about 50 pages of information. The more I read the more concerned I have become."

Beth, will you post links to the approximate 1/2 dozen studies you reviewed so as others can take a look?

Last seen: 6 days 1 hour ago
Joined: 04/18/2005 - 12:01am
I just searched my deleted

I just searched my deleted messages since I received an email about this a while ago. Here's the part relative to this topic -

Calcium chloride has been around forever. The problem now, is magnesium chloride mixed with a cane sugar malt. The theory is that it sticks to the road to allow for pretreating. The problem, it also sticks to the bottom of your car and works its way into hard to clean places. It cannot be washed off. It must be neutralized using a chemical that, in 2005, cost 1500 bucks for a 55 gallon drum. The mixture of magnesium chloride, cane sugar malt, and road debris, becomes hygroscopic in nature, and has unbelievable wicking abilities. Once this mixture dries out and becomes airborne, the problem spreads to power lines, tranformers, and other electrical components that have attributed to rolling blackouts in the snowbelt.

Beth, thank you for looking into this since it's costing us too much in $$ and possibly even our health.

Last seen: 4 years 4 months ago
Joined: 10/06/2004 - 12:01am
As a cost-saving measure, our

As a cost-saving measure, our town reduced their use of salt and brine two years ago, and returned to using more sand, and doing less plowing. The result? Loads of complaints from residents who've gotten used to dry, black roads -- even after storms.

We have an entire generation of people who have grown up expecting this kind of road-manicure service, and they aren't happy with any change to the usual program. Mind you, they probably have no idea what the brine is doing to their vehicles, either.

When I learned to drive, it was expected that during winter, you dropped your speed, and a gear (or two), and just planned your commute to take longer. It seems as if more folks these days expect clean pavement, no matter the time of year.

BTW - I was recently told that there's a new rule saying replacement brake lines have to be made of a certain metal, and the job will now cost some $1K per vehicle. Can anyone shed light on this issue? Thank you.

Last seen: 4 years 10 months ago
Joined: 05/08/2006 - 10:52am
My wife's cousin had to

My wife's cousin had to replace the brake lines on his pickup two years ago on his 13 year old Ford pickup. He had to replace both lines and it cost him $1100.

As for the salt and sand with the bare road issue. Our town concentrates on the steep hills with salt, sand, and plowing constantly. Side roads get plowed after about four or five inches have fallen or when the storm has ended ... which ever comes first.

Henry Simmons
Last seen: 1 year 11 months ago
Joined: 11/14/2010 - 11:37am
My uncle has been a Ford

My uncle has been a Ford mechanic for more than 20 years. I talked with him about options for brake line replacement on my truck.
He told me they do make better grade brake lines, if I recall correctly, stainless steel, and some type of zinc coated copper lines. I know I'm going to have issues with this pretty soon, just like last year.
Naturally, changing the brake lines alone does nothing for the other exposed parts under my truck, but being able to stop is a priority in town.

Melvin Udall
Last seen: 1 hour 55 min ago
Joined: 05/01/2002 - 12:01am
I paid $700 for new brake

I paid $700 for new brake lines this spring; I'm confident a dealer would have charged way more than $1,000.

I also spent $450 to have a rusted ABS sensor hub replaced on my wife's SUV. It's so common, my independent shop keeps them in stock.

This is total crap. Sand on packed snow....learn to drive on it.

Stephen Carmichael
Last seen: 2 years 9 months ago
Joined: 06/19/2008 - 8:05pm
Anyone recall the old Maine

Anyone recall the old Maine rust proofing method of painting used motor oil under the trucks and running them down dirt roads to build up a layer of gunk prior to winter? lol

I’ve driven down 295 and I95 in mid winter, when the roads are bone dry, and the dust from the brine gets sucked into my air intake and nearly chokes everyone out of the car. The stuff is nasty! Just don’t expect me to drive with an N95 flu mask on to save my lungs.

I’ve also driven on washboard roads when the ice and snow form a 3” layer of frozen surface that can only be chipped away at with a grater blade. The brine is the solution to the roads icing from mixed storms. You pick your poisons. 1) Harsh brine with rust and rot. 2) Washboard roads with busted struts and blown out tires. 3) Traditional salt and sand with a short waiting period for warmer temperatures.

I would take option #3.

Beth O'Connor
Last seen: 3 years 4 months ago
Joined: 04/28/2005 - 12:01am
LMD, here is a little lite
Last seen: 4 years 2 months ago
Joined: 04/18/2009 - 3:43pm
The combo of plowing less,

The combo of plowing less, using whatever they're using on roads, seems to create very slippery roads. Driving through that on flat roads is one thing. Driving windy two-lane roads with steep hills is something else. At times I wish the trucks would plow and forget the "sanding" (or whatever it is) or do nothing. Better to drive through a couple of inches of snow than through a couple of inches of oily, slippery use-to-be-snow.


Last seen: 2 years 11 months ago
Joined: 02/22/2005 - 1:01am
I was a child in the 1950's.

I was a child in the 1950's. Local towns and small cities used sand, and then it was just coming the practice to put some salt into the sand pile to keep it from freezing so it could be loaded into trucks. Mainly what got sanded was hills and bad corners, and that happened often, after the storm was over. Plow trucks routinely used chains on the rear wheels. Everyone I knew that travelled in the winter kept a set of tire chains in the trunk of thier vehicle.

I went to school at NMVTI in Presque Isle in the mid 60's and drove back and forth often (Haynesville woods!) and had the best set of chains I could get. I could put them on, in a raging snow storm, in about 5 minutes. It is amazing how much better a rear wheel drive vehicle goes in snow with chains.

The trouble today is that everybody has to travel to work, some people 4 or 5 miles, others 50 to 100. People are used to going down I-95 at 75 mph. They aren't going to let a little thing like snow slow them down any.

I used to live in Beddington, just off of Rt 9. We were sitting in the Snack Bar early one morning when a state trooper stopped in to get a coffee. He said there was a Jeep cherokee down the road a mile or so sitting on its roof in the ditch. He said it was something to behold. There was a splendid 4 whl drive vehicle and not one of the wheels was touching the ground!

I spent years plowing on my hometown road crew. I am very used to being out in very bad snow conditions and can go about anyplace I need to go whenever I have too. It does not intimidate me. What does intimidate me is all the idiots that have no notion of how to drive in it and want to still travel at road speed in 6 inches of snow. I am not too afraid of going off the road but rather pertified that one of these ballistic missles is going to broadside me. Most heavy truckers are used to it and can go in it but will tell you the same thing.

Since, as Ron White says, you can't fix stupid, then we have to clean the roads the best way we can.

I was told, by several guys from DOT when in Beddington, that the DOT had figured out that salt was quite a bit cheaper than sand and that it was a matter of economics as much as anything. Perhaps someone with connections here could tell us if that is so.

My hometown used to stock pile 20,000 yds of sand each fall and often that was not enough, all of that for 57 miles of road! Figure it out at $9/yd.

I would vastly prefer to drive on sanded snow covered roads than 2 inches of salty slush. The traction on the sand is much better. As the editor has noted there is a stage in the melting process, using salt, where what is on the road is sort of like Kayro syrup. I have stood in the middle of Rt 9 in an inch of two of snowy slush, and could barely stand up. There is definitely a stage of this salt/melting process when the road is a far greater danger than if they had put nothing on it. That is the only circumstance that makes me nervous drivng on it myself these days. There was a fatal accident on RT 9 during my time there and using salt rather than sand was the cause of it in my book.

Re brakelines, I think stainless steel is the best. It will rust, but much slower. The coated is junk as my experience is that and it always rots out at the fittings. The whole line will look perfect but the nut at the end falls off.

All of the chlorides are "salts" of one kind of another, and all corrosive to metal. I think our plastering the roadways with this stuff 6 months out of the year is insane. Another titbit is that the biggest reason that moose hang our along Rt 9 is to get the salt that has washed off the pavement and collected on the shoulders of the road. Lots of car/moose collisions on Rt 9.


Last seen: 2 days 11 hours ago
Joined: 03/09/2004 - 1:01am
What does it cost to fix your

What does it cost to fix your bumper and fender when there is a collision at an icy intersection?
Just sayin'.

Last seen: 2 years 11 months ago
Joined: 02/22/2005 - 1:01am
The same as it costs when

The same as it costs when this happens in the summer. Season doesn't have anything to do with it.

It takes considerably more skill to drive safely on winter roads than it does summer roads. I would say, just from observation over the years, that quite a number of folks that end up in the woods and ditches are lacking in these skills.

I have been driving on snow covered and icy roads since 1964 and have not been involved in any serious incidents in that time. I have driven tens of thousands of miles in some pretty poor conditions and have been able to do pretty well with it.

But we were taught how to drive in it even before getting a license, by observing our parents. First rule is you have to slow down! I have been on I-95 between Newport and Bangor, travelling along at 30 mph or so on snow covered roads and been passed, repeatedly by folks going 50 to 60 mph. Those are the ones they pull out of ditches and trees.

I stay off of winter roads, during storms, as much as I reasonably can, not because I am intimidated myself by the conditions, but due to the fact that I have no control over those who choose to drive like its a July day.


Butch Moore
Last seen: 3 weeks 3 hours ago
Joined: 11/20/1999 - 1:01am
"Anyone recall the old Maine

"Anyone recall the old Maine rust proofing method of painting used motor oil under the trucks and running them down dirt roads to build up a layer of gunk prior to winter? lol "

Yes! I remember an "old timer" growing up who had the most beautiful old trucks that he used in construction that he did this to every year. These days though, the enviros would have a fit.

Speaking of Rt. 9, it's been closed today. Can't say as I remember that ever happening before, but they say there are trucks off the road all over the place. My wife says the TV mentioned something about Rt. 1A in Hamden being closed too. So much for "de-icing"...

I'm surprised the enviros aren't all over using the crap they put on the roads now. The only thing I can figure is that they'd rather force older vehicles off the roads in favor of the newer, smog "control" laden ones built today.

Mike G
Last seen: 21 hours 4 min ago
Joined: 02/17/2000 - 1:01am
The worse thing is following

The worse thing is following one of these brine trucks when it is applying the rust mites. I did this on a couple of occasions and was rewarded with a rusted-out frame and brake lines in two years time on my PU. A duh, never again, I'll drive the other way rather than follow a brine truck.

Roger Ek
Last seen: 1 month 2 days ago
Joined: 11/18/2002 - 1:01am
It's been nearly 2 hours

It's been nearly 2 hours since a vehicle came by the house. Either people are being sensible or the road is physically blocked. My old scanner quit so I don't have accurate reports.

We had to replace a front wheel brake hub and sensor on my wife's AWD van. The other one will probably be done this winter. The only thing we ever replaced on suspension parts in years past were shocks. Now the whole underside has to be replaced on a regular basis.

The new salts melt ice. Then the runoff goes into cracks in the road. More water rinses the salt away and the water freezes in the cracks and under the skinny coat of pavement on top. The pavement breaks up and the road falls apart. with the salt rinsed off the road is susceptible to freezing rain or just frost on the surfaces where the sun doesn't hit the road. Black ice is much more dangerous with no sand on the road. Sand mixed with ice is gritty and provides pretty good traction. This new salt mix turns ice into slush. It causes hydroplaning. You can turn off a road with salt and sand onto a state road with this greasy combination and be in for a very dangerous situation.

This does not happen on town roads that have plain old sodium chloride and sand.

WC above is exactly right on this one.

Last seen: 4 years 2 months ago
Joined: 04/18/2009 - 3:43pm
Editor's Note: This was

Editor's Note: This was posted as a new thread. I think it - and its two replies - fits great in this ongoing thread..

Winter road maintenance; Economics of salt vs sand
Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:54am

There are other threads that have addressed some issues around the vast amounts of salt that DOT uses on the roads. I created this thread in order to hopefully gain an answer to a very specific question re salt vs sand.

I used to live in Beddington and spent some time at the Airline Snack Bar as there is not a lot to do in Beddington. Used to be friendly with all the MDOT winter maintenance crews. They told me that MDOT saved a lot of money by using salt rather than sand and that the main reason they had a "no sand" policy on Rt 9 was because of this.

So how about it you AMGers with MDOT connections/access. Does it cost the MDOT less annually to use salt on the road as opposed to the way they used to use sand?

Not interested in the economics of damage to autos from corrosion or other side issues. Just looking to find out if maybe the salt policy is driven by costing MDOT less than sand and that is the primary reason for its use.



Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:35am

If the cost savings is true then someone should be able to point to a sharp decrease in the MDOT budget at the time the new salt policy was introduced. I would be very interested in seeing that budget.


Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:40am

Our town had the salt vs. sand discussion, with regard to cost-savings. The sand has to be swept up and removed in the spring, and in particular, the effect on storm drains and those systems can be considerable. The cost to equipment wear and tear was also addressed. In the end, the town weighed all the numbers, and went with more sand, and less salt and plowing.

It would be interesting to know whether the DOT does show a cost-savings, from the sand vs. salt policies.


Last seen: 5 years 5 months ago
Joined: 01/18/2006 - 10:19pm
I have complained about the

I have complained about the treacherous roads in my part of Washington County for the last two years. I have taken it to Commissioner Cole, Dale Doughty, and Brian Burne, all who criticize me and my dad for asking the tough questions. They refuse to put sand down on these treacherous spots, and each of those people I listed contradict each other in email responses as to reasons and if they use sand in other parts of the state. I have pressed the Washington County delegation on this issue but it has fallen on deaf ears.

Last seen: 2 years 11 months ago
Joined: 02/22/2005 - 1:01am
There was a statement made a

There was a statement made a few years back that this "no sand" policy on rt 9 was due to the fact that there are rivers there with endangered species (Atlantic Salmon) and that they did not want the sand runoff to go into the rivers. This is ridiculous because the rivers in that area are all running in beds of sand. There was sand 50 ft deep under my property as it took three lengths of well casing to hit bedrock.

But if this argument is anything at all, how much harm, if any, is all this salt doing that runs into the rivers. Salt, in the brine state, flows a hell of a lot better than sand does.

I think the economics of salt is cheaper than sand is the story but I would like to hear it from DOT people or someone connected to them.

Several years back in an accident at the foot of the hill, just west of the Amherst General Store, the Passamaquoddy tribal rep to the leigislature(I hope I have that right) lost his life, in a single vehicle accident, right at the bridge that spans that branch of the Union River. I recall he was on his way home from Augusta at the time. Black ice happens there often and DOT absolutely will not put sand on it, ever. It is a very well known spot for black ice. It is no secret. Every single time I pass that spot I think about what happened to him and why, because of some official silly policy maybe?

Whose hands is that blood on?

This is an extremely serious issue and I sure hate to see anyone else die because DOT can save a few bucks with this chemical attack process and absolutely will not use even one grain of sand.

So tell us why the "no sand on rt 9" policy exists MDOT.

Edited to add this: It is a well known fact that salt readily kills trees. As you drive rt 9, especially east of Aurora, notice along both sides of the road, where the vegetation is not too far from the road, how many brown and dead spruce, fir and pine trees you see. More victims of the salt attack.


Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: 11/13/2003 - 1:01am
De-icing chemicals will

De-icing chemicals will probably be the environmentalists next mission. We'll be back to using sand before you know it.

Michael Vaughan
Last seen: 4 years 3 weeks ago
Joined: 10/22/1999 - 12:01am
What was wrong with studded

What was wrong with studded tires? You couldn't possibly hurt those roads.


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