The Detroit Post
Tuesday, 19 October, 2021

How Much Rust Is Too Much

author
Earl Hamilton
• Thursday, 31 December, 2020
• 7 min read

If rust gets into a vehicle’s frame or body structure, it can become a safety issue for drivers. In fact, if a vehicle’s structure gets rusty enough, there could be a catastrophic failure even in routine daily driving.

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Contents

First, moisture and carbon dioxide in the air mix to create a weak acid that starts to dissolve the iron. 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.

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.

The most serious problems occur when rust gets beneath the car’s surface and within its underlying components. 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.

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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. I am possibly looking at a used truck but the frame underneath is rusted, and so is some body.

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When searching the internet, many people from the rust belt states act like some rust is no big deal, but just how much are we talking where I shouldn't worry, and when should I walk away? Check around the rear shock hangers and the front frame boxed section.

Body rust can be replaced, repaired or to an extent ignored. I say walk away, you should be able to find a decent truck that only has mild surface rust on it.

That looks like it spent a lot of time in the rust belt. Sure, that's not the worst I've seen coming from a rust state... but you're in Burbank, you can do better.

I almost guarantee if you go digging you'll find perforation and some loss of structural integrity. Speaking of which I still think Toyota should be shot in the nuts.

Some that are Trucks going from point A to B see the quickly mart for oil change are much worse. I am possibly looking at a used truck but the frame underneath is rusted, and so is some body.

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When searching the internet, many people from the rust belt states act like some rust is no big deal, but just how much are we talking where I shouldn't worry, and when should I walk away? It's actually on a 3rd gen 4runner, manual trans, one I have been looking for about 5 years, and at a decent price, but now I know why.

Being a rust belt person, just from your pics it doesn't look that bad. In this case, say I feel the frame/vehicle will last 5 years without much investment other than routine maintenance.

You're definitely better without the hassle of working on rusted parts, especially if you aren't used to that complication on your routine stuff... bleeder screws twisting off, any bolt less than 14 mm rounding or twisting off, brake/fuel lines rusting through, fuel filter fittings, parking brake equalizer rusted solid, fuel tank shield falling off, ... @BartMaster1234 tried to bill me for a tetanus shot he got after the first time I posted this pic.

Being a rust belt person, just from your pics it doesn't look that bad. But I know we have to think/view things a bit differently here if we want to own +20yr old vehicles.

In this case, say I feel the frame/vehicle will last 5 years without much investment other than routine maintenance. You're definitely better without the hassle of working on rusted parts, especially if you aren't used to that complication on your routine stuff... bleeder screws twisting off, any bolt less than 14 mm rounding or twisting off, brake/fuel lines rusting through, fuel filter fittings, parking brake equalizer rusted solid, fuel tank shield falling off, ...

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@BartMaster1234 tried to bill me for a tetanus shot he got after the first time I posted this pic. I keep offering those fine people from the Mild drier climate to come for a visit and work on rusted trucks.

It's the one I just rebuild the entire rear frame and added a flatbed and overhead rack this Summer. Man am I stupid.....if I were to buy this runner it would be as a project/toy rig since I have always loved the 3rd gen 4runners, yet I failed to TAE into account how difficult it is to work on a rusted vehicle.

Man am I stupid.....if I were to buy this runner it would be as a project/toy rig since I have always loved the 3rd gen 4runners, yet I failed to TAE into account how difficult it is to work on a rusted vehicle. Living with it, you take things in stride When new steel rusts in the rack inside if it does not get worked up fast enough.

Being a rust belt person, just from your pics it doesn't look that bad. But I know we have to think/view things a bit differently here if we want to own +20yr old vehicles.

In this case, say I feel the frame/vehicle will last 5 years without much investment other than routine maintenance. You're definitely better without the hassle of working on rusted parts, especially if you aren't used to that complication on your routine stuff... bleeder screws twisting off, any bolt less than 14 mm rounding or twisting off, brake/fuel lines rusting through, fuel filter fittings, parking brake equalizer rusted solid, fuel tank shield falling off, ...

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@BartMaster1234 tried to bill me for a tetanus shot he got after the first time I posted this pic. If you're ambitious and know what you're getting into, then it's fixable, but repairing all the rust on this vehicle will probably get expensive, especially if you can't do it all yourself.

On a single rusty bolt (going slow, trying not to break it, tracking down a replacement, etc.) If I were in California with my current time constraints, I would pass on this one and wait for a nicer one to come along.

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By the time the inspection was completed (and failed), I had a hole in my muffler system along with about $2,500 worth of rust related repairs for a $1000 vehicle. However, to check you're going to have to do the squeeze test between fingers and thumb on the thicker structural sections, then if you still can't determine how severe or not the rust is. It's time to get an old screwdriver out and tap (with the handle part) on the rustiest bits.

If the material is corroded right through holes will likely appear, this is not good especially in the structural sections, if this is the case then you may like to walk away from this one as welding will be required. If however it is just surface rust then a scrap off and clean up followed by an application of under body protection will suffice and your good to go.

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The seller should have no issues at all with you taping on the structural parts of the body to check its integrity. In some parts of the world where lots of salt is used in the winter, this is not unusual rust.

If you want to keep it longer term, I'd treat the rusty areas on the under body with a wire wheel brush on an angle grinder, rust converter and fresh undercoating after a thorough clean. I know that rust is a pretty guaranteed issue on these cars, and this has it, but I'm not sure if it hits the deal breaker territory or just too much to fix.

An album of photos can be found here, any opinions on the state of things (not limited to rust) would be appreciated. Well, I see at least $10- $15 grand in body work there if you have to pay someone for rust repair and paint, and want to end up with a clean car.

Well, I see at least $10- $15 grand in body work there if you have to pay someone for rust repair and paint, and want to end up with a clean car. One will be the body under the fenders behind the front tires--close fit traps moisture.

When interior panels are removed you will get a better picture of internal rust, such as the body/wheel well arc over the rear tires. And all those overlapped pieces of thin steel at various locations surely have rust under the laps that will not be easily stopped in its tracks unless metal is removed.

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