In the northeastern part of the country, we live under a blanket of snow from December to March. During this time, the roads are covered in 3 equal portions of snow, sand, and salt. While the sand and salt mixture does in fact do amazing things when it comes to road conditions, it also removes the structure from your vehicle. Not cool salt, not cool.
Many people ignore it until the guy at the inspection station says “I had to fail you for safety because your control arms aren’t there anymore, and neither are your rocker panels, floor pans, and rear quarter panels.”. You then look at your fresh new red “R” on your windshield and wonder where all the metal went.
Now you have four terrible options:
1) Buy the new metal panels, and repair it yourself. This will be relatively inexpensive, but extremely time consuming, and probably won’t look like a new car when you are done. In fact, it may resemble a vehicle from Mad Max, and this time, it isn’t a good thing.
2) Send it to a body shop, and spend twice the value of the car repairing the rust properly. If you love the car, it may be worth it to you, but if you don’t love the car…..well, let’s just move on.
3) Fill the rot holes with spray foam from the local hardware store, sculpt it into the proper shape, cover it in fiberglass reinforced body filler, and voila! You may be good for another year, but your car is made of foam.
4) You throw your 8 year old, rot box vehicle on Craigslist and try to salvage any value that it may still have as a parts car.
Rust Car for sale!
None of these options are very good, but you want nice things like people in warm climates have. What can you do to prevent the inevitable? Well, here is what I do, but you need to do it BEFORE your car becomes a giant pile of rust, or else your efforts will be fruitless.
1A Auto Blog’s Northern State Rust Prevention 101:
First up, don’t be a slacker, wash and wax your car on a regular basis. The “wash” removes the salt, sand, and other filth from your paint. Be sure to spray out the wheel wells with the hose, along with the bottom of the floor pans, and scrub the pinch weld area of the rocker panels with a brush. Salt absolutely loves pinch welds. Your paint itself isn’t as strong as you want it to be, so you need to protect it with something else, like wax. Honestly, any wax is better than none, so go grab some wax and spread it around the exterior of your car. If you really like your car, spring for some of the nicer wax. I personally really like Zymol, but sometimes I do cheap out and go for the $2 stuff. Remember to NOT wax a car in the sun, or it will make your life miserable, and you will never want to do it again.
Secondly, you are going to want to check all of your nooks and crannies for misc. debris. When you are cleaning your car, look for all the spots where dirt, salt, pine needles, and bugs could build up. The corners of fenders, trunks, and hoods are the most notorious spots. You will also want to check around the windshield wipers, sunroof, door jambs, and anywhere under the hood. Wherever there is a pile o’ gross stuff, there will likely be moisture, which will eventually lead to rust & heartache. Clean out all your car’s crevasses with a tooth brush, air hose, or vacuum.
Third. Now that your car is clean and still rust free you need to check out the bottom side of your car and look for anything that will potentially rust. The car manufacturers are not going to go overboard with rust prevention because by the time it rusts, it won’t be their problem. So it’s time to take matters into your own hands. You will need to grab yourself a can of rubberized undercoating. 3M brand undercoating is fantastically gooey, and my preference. This stuff is basically liquid rubber that hardens up, and doesn’t let salt, dirt, rocks, and angry bugs penetrate through to the metal itself. It is very difficult to get off, which is obviously good for your car and bad for you. Once it’s on your hands, it’s there to stay. After you spray it on the bottom of your car though, it fights off water and rust like nobody’s business. You just need to keep it FAR away from ALL moving AND hot parts. It will catch on fire if you get it on your exhaust, I promise. I like to give the pinch weld at the rocker panels a good coating, along with any steel control arms, brackets, etc. Just make sure you are spraying it on a clean surface, otherwise it will chip off in the future.
Fourth is last again. Now that you have a clean car that is protected from natures elements, you need to be prepared to handle random acts of evil. For example: You nonchalantly park your car in a grocery store parking lot and come back out to find a carriage against your door. Behind the carriage is a scratch through the paint. Awful. Next to you is a giant billboard that says that you park at your own risk, and that the grocery store doesn’t want to hear your whining. Fair enough. You don’t necessarily need a body shop to fix it, you just need to take care of it in quick fashion before it becomes a real issue. Touch up paint exists for this exact reason. Hit the scratch with touch up paint, throw a coat of wax over it, and pretend it never happened. If you decide to ignore it, rust will throw a party on your door and it will be a battle that you cannot win.
Follow these guidelines, and your car will be better protected from the elements. You also won’t have to do the walk of disappointment away from the inspection station.