The Detroit Post
Tuesday, 19 October, 2021

How Long Can A Rusty Car Last

Ava Flores
• Saturday, 24 October, 2020
• 9 min read

In fact, if a vehicle’s structure gets rusty enough, there could be a catastrophic failure even in routine daily driving. First, moisture and carbon dioxide in the air mix to create a weak acid that starts to dissolve the iron.

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Think about how easy it is to crumble a flake of rust between your fingers, and then imagine that stuff trying to protect you and your loved ones during a car crash. Additionally, automakers are moving away from rust-prone iron-based metals to more rust-resistant surfaces such as aluminum and carbon fiber.

A stray piece of gravel or a minor fender bender is all it takes to chip a car ’s paint, and any iron in the body panels will start to rust as soon as air and water reach the metal beneath it. That means rust spots can be fairly common on used vehicles, particularly if they’ve been driven in a northern U.S. state that uses chemicals and salt to device winter roads.

But if the rusting process goes on too long, it can eat right through the metal, causing holes and allowing body panels to fall to pieces. This is where problems go from cosmetic to dangerous, because modern cars and SUVs rely on these body panels for their structural integrity.

Rust-free body panels boost a vehicle’s structural integrity, but the parts doing the heavy lifting lie under the car ’s skin. Unfortunately, this area of a vehicle is often susceptible to rust-causing chemicals and water, which can accumulate there when a car drives down wet or icy roads.

Rust only needs a tiny crack in a car ’s structure (or truck frame) to do its work. Most customers should avoid used vehicles that show strong signs of structural rust.

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CARFAX also recommends getting an expert inspection that includes putting the vehicle up on a lift, to give your mechanic a better view of under body components. You can apply touch-up paint to stone chips, small scratches, and other minor nicks and dings, but truly repairing rust can take several steps, a variety of tools and materials, and quite a bit of skill.

Depending on the size and severity of the rust, blending the repaired area with the surrounding paint may require wet sanding or buffing the surface. Dirt can retain and trap moisture, and road salt, bird droppings, and other corrosive materials will eat away at paint if they’re left unattended on metal surfaces for long periods.

Waxing it on a regular basis (twice or more each year) will add a protective surface to the paint and clear coat. Wash and wax more frequently if you live near an ocean or in an area where highway crews spread salt on the roads to melt snow and ice during the winter.

Also, frequently check the fender liners and other areas under the hood, along the sides of the engine bay, for any standing water. Check the trunk or cargo area to make sure water isn’t seeping past the seals.

Stone chips and other nicks and dings that are left unrepaired can develop into rust spots over time, so it pays to buy some matching touch-paint to cover those imperfections. There is nothing worse than seeing rust on our cars because that's a signal that we are not paying attention to the important details.

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To find a brown spot on the fender, a bubble in the paint on the bottom of a door, floors soaked suddenly after hitting a puddle, these are situations that scare us because they imply that something is not right and that we should invest money to solve it before it's too late. This process is commonly evident on door hinges, bike chains, and padlocks especially when exposed to outdoor weather conditions”, meanwhile, How Stuff Works explains that “Because rust only needs an anode, cathode, and electrolyte to form, cars are susceptible to it.

There are two types of people with regard to this problem, those who believe that it is not necessary to apply a rust proofing to our vehicles and those who believe that it should be done too often. The important thing is to get a company and qualified personnel to perform this type of procedure on our vehicle.

Luckily, rust proofing is a procedure that can be applied to any type of vehicle, and even though most cars built these days aren’t going to completely rust out like you’d see decades ago, in any case, is always important to give the necessary care to our car at home with the right products. At the moment when we begin to notice signs of corrosion, we can apply this type of procedure.

But this is a common myth in the streets, the reality is that although the car has signs of oxidation, it can be fixed. We must also remember that there are different types of rust proofing, so depending on how severe our case is a specialist can tell us what the best option is.

Small details matter and the first sign that surface rust can occur is when the paint is broken down by mechanical damage or otherwise. Start by using an abrasive wheel or sandpaper to cut through the paint and corrosion until clean, bright metal is visible.

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If your vehicle has already developed rust in various parts of the body, do not panic, you still have several solutions available to solve the problem. Also, when we apply this type of techniques in our car, even when there are already rust features in the body, we help to protect the parts that are in better condition.

And although winter can become one of the most complicated seasons for rust proofing our vehicle, there is no evidence that will affect the results regarding the quality of the process. Mighty Auto explains that “the real culprit when trying to rustproof is salt, dirt, and buildup.

A common myth is that oxidation always occurs on the surface of the body where we can notice it instantly. The truth is that rust travels through the body of the car, and if we are negligent, and we do not pay attention to the signs of early rust (in addition to taking care of our vehicle with the right products) we'll face severe problems that will not only affect the look of our car, but also, will cost us a lot of money.

What happens is that most of the cars we see today on the market have plastic covers around the body of the chassis to reduce wind resistance and improve fuel economy. However, that does not prevent large amounts of moist dirt from accumulating between the vehicle's undercarriage and the plastic covers, which helps encourage the creation of corrosion over the years.

Besides, it is essential to remember that in the early stages of oxidation it takes less time and money to fix the affected area, and in this way, we will prevent it from expanding throughout the vehicle. Technically, yes we can, there are products on the market, such as rustproofing kits, specially designed to apply on our vehicles and prevent rust from the comfort of our home.

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However, it is always advisable to visit a specialized center in our town that can offer a quality result with professionals trained in this type of problem. The products mentioned above are ideal as a precautionary measure but when oxidation is already seen, it is best to go to a specialized center.

This idea may have never crossed your mind, but depending on where we live our car may be more likely to develop oxidation. Some people argue that this type of procedure is a complete waste of money, but the reality is that when we talk about rust proofing there are no simple answers, it is not black or white and by this, I mean that each case is different.

Moreover, Reader's Digest explains that we need to take into account the length of time we will own our vehicle. “Those, with a short-term lease, won’t see much benefit in rust proofing save for a slightly higher residual value.

It is better to invest at an early stage in products that help us take care of our vehicle than wait for the rust to appear and try to solve it. If we invest time in taking care of our vehicle, we do not expose it to changes of severe climates without the necessary protection, wash it when it is due and with the necessary products, we will be able to expand its useful life and save a few thousand dollars.

Some people have the mistaken perception that washing a car regularly is not a good idea because it can cause damage to the paint and corrosion problems, but in reality, it's the opposite. By washing our car we eliminate all those impurities that stick to the body and can cause corrosion over time.


Mike Quincy, an Automotive Analyst at Consumer Reports, explains, “wash a car regularly, especially in the winter after you’ve been driving on salted roads” is a good way to keep our car as rust free as possible. This means that dirty or salty water trapped somewhere in our car's body makes that spot rust faster.

Control Direct suggests that “your vehicle should be inspected every year to check for corrosion damage and repair any small areas that have become exposed due to the under body coating layer becoming damaged from road debris.” It is true that the external pollutants that face our vehicles daily help to wear them faster.

Of course, avoid exposing to the sun for long hours and routes with salt to make the vehicle's life longer, but don't expect even that will prevent it from developing rust at some point. They aren't just to transport us from one point to another, so we must take care of every detail from mechanical performance to aesthetic.

Rust is like cancer for vehicles and if we do not take care of the small details it will not only cost us more than buying a new vehicle, but at the moment we decide we want to sell it, the value will decline, and this is because nobody will invest in a car that has corrosion problems because the investment of money to fix those problems will be more expensive than what they paid initially for the car, and that's why sometimes prevention is better than a cure. Not long ago, to keep a car running beyond the 200,000-mile mark would have seemed about as likely as driving it to the moon.

Still, many motorists may not realize the long -term financial benefits of keeping a car for 200,000 miles. Our research shows that reaching that milestone (which would take the average motorist about 15 years) could result in savings of $30,000 or more.

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Sure, there will be more maintenance and repair bills along the way, but the key to the savings is limiting the impact of depreciation. You can coax any vehicle to 200,000 miles with enough patience and cash, but that doesn’t make doing so a good idea for everyone.

The best way to minimize visits to the shop is to start with a model that has a reliable track record. Consumer Reports compiles comprehensive reliability information from our Annual Auto Survey of members.

In addition to choosing a reliable model, make sure to pick a car you’ll want to keep for a long time. So choose a vehicle that will fit your lifestyle today and tomorrow, and pick one that you’ll enjoy driving.

While you’re shopping, keep a sharp eye out for cars that have the latest safety features. Remember to research how well any vehicle you’re interested in performed in government and insurance-industry safety tests.

A mildew smell, discolored carpeting, and silt in the trunk are indicators of water damage. Check the fluids and watch out for damp areas in the engine compartment and under the vehicle, which might point to leaks.

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When you’ve found a vehicle you’re interested in, take it to an independent mechanic for a diagnostic inspection, which costs about $100 to $150. Even missing one oil change can contribute to premature engine wear, or cause damage and reduce the chances of your car remaining reliable for long.

Have a mechanic inspect your vehicle and take care of any apparent problems, no matter how minor. Following the maintenance schedule has become easier over the years because longer-lasting components and fluids have increased service intervals.

Most drivers who need to follow such a schedule do a lot of city driving; live in a very hot or cold climate in mountain regions or near the ocean; make a lot of short trips; tow a trailer; or drive in dusty conditions. Watch out for dealers or repair shops that add maintenance work not called for in the owner’s manual.

Tom and Ruth Bus haw of Kennewick, Wash. Their 1990 Lexus LS made it past 350,000 miles; the 2004 Toyota Sienna went over 200,000. Trying to save a couple of bucks on cheap parts and fluids could cost you in the long run.

The wrong type of oil or transmission fluid, for example, could cause damage leading to expensive repairs, voiding your warranty and diminishing long -term reliability. Some engines won’t perform correctly without higher-octane gasoline, and using regular or even mid grade fuel might cause damage.

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If premium fuel is recommended (but not required), you’re fine using lower-octane gasoline because the engine-control system has sensors that will compensate for it. The manual might say how often to inspect belts and hoses, for example, but when to replace them can vary greatly by climate and other factors.

Look for evidence of leaks, and check the level and condition of coolant and brake and power-steering fluids. By catching it early, you could reduce repair costs and increase long -term reliability.

Cleaning inside and out will keep your car looking fresh, and the routine will also make it a more pleasant place to be as the miles roll up. Washing and waxing can help preserve the paint and prevent rust, and vacuuming sand and dirt out of carpets and seats can minimize premature wear that leads to tears and holes.

And while you clean, you might spot small problems that you wouldn’t notice otherwise, such as scratches that need to be painted over and loose or broken parts that should be repaired or replaced. No matter how well you choose and care for a car, someday it will be time to move on because it’s costing too much or is no longer safe.

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