Road Gritters: How Do They Work And Will They Damage Your Car?

It’s winter, which means local authorities across the country are unleashing fleets of road gritters. But how do they work and do they pose a risk to your car?

How Road Gritters Work

We’re in the thick of winter, which means fleets of road gritters will be taking to streets and highways all across the country. Their job? To stop you and other motorists from skidding all over the place. Historically, the ‘grit’ they used consisted of a mixture of sand, salt and small stones. Nowadays, however, they use rock salt. This is a relatively soft material and is less likely to damage other vehicles. Some authorities use rock salt in combination with a material called ‘Thawrox+’. This combines a food-grade agricultural by-product with rock salt to create a more efficient spread pattern; it’s also less bouncy. Sometimes, this ‘grit’ is ‘wetted’ before use, again to make it less likely to damage traffic. Most rock salt is sourced from mines in the UK.

Highways England is responsible for gritting motorways and major A-roads; with councils handling local roads. Most road gritters need to drive at relatively high speeds in order to ensure a road is completely gritted. Most road gritters today use automated systems, meaning that they cease gritting when they’re stationary. Whilst gritters are large, cumbersome vehicles there were 40 instances of drivers colliding into them last winter. There’s also being a rising number of drivers (illegally) using hard shoulders on motorways in order to avoid them.

But Will They Damage Your Car?

Naturally, spreading rock salt over a road (and at speed) can be a source of concern for some motorists. We all know how dangerous even a small chip on our windscreens can be. If you’ve ever been behind a road gritter, you’ll be familiar with the horrible sounds they make; no doubt fretting about your car’s paintwork. Fortunately, thanks to modern technology, your vehicle is unlikely to be damaged by rock salt. Nevertheless, it makes sense to keep your distance from them when possible and to overtake as soon as it’s safe to do so.

If you think a road gritter has damaged your car, the government advises you to contact your car insurance provider. It states ‘you can’t claim compensation if debris from another vehicle caused the damage. Contact your insurer instead’. In which case, it might make sense to submit dash cam footage or photographic evidence of any damage you’ve experienced. Frankly, it’s unlikely that your claim will be accepted – but it can’t hurt to try.

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1 Comment
  1. […] for signs of damage like chips, as the grit that comes up off the road in the winter can cause damage to the windscreen of a […]

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