Rust is the oxidation of metals. It is a molecular transformation that breaks down their integrity.
The two most common metals used in vehicles is steel and aluminum.
When steel rusts, it is from an electrolyte molecule penetrating the layers and causing them to flake off. Typically, the corrosion occurs from saltwater the most rapidly.
The introduction of galvanized steel has greatly improved the anti-corrosion properties of automobiles since the late 80's.
More and more vehicle manufacturers are turning to aluminum or hybrid panels that are a mix of metals to increase fuel economy.
When dissimilar metals such as aluminum and steel come into contact, they contaminate each other and begin the rusting process.
It is important that auto body shops isolate vehicles that have different types of metal and never use the same tools on dissimilar metals.
Even small specs of steel pitted into aluminum can begin creating that white chalky decomposition.
The paint on aluminum panels typically starts to peel off when it is likewise exposed to an electrolyte like saltwater.
This looks like white chalky residue that many people errantly believe they can simply wipe clean and paint over with no problem.
When your vehicle is manufactured, all the bare metal surfaces are primed and sealed with a thick enamel paint or powder coating that protects it against corrosion.
There are some metal parts on the undercarriage that have a clear coating or nothing at all.
Many vehicles sitting on the floors of dealer showrooms have mufflers that are already oxidized.
It is common for exhaust parts to oxidize quickly because it is difficult to retain any rustproof coating at high temperatures.
Powder coating is the primary method of protecting and beautifying exhaust manifolds and other hot parts because it withstands the heat.
Certain ceramic paints may offer limited durability protection.
Wear and tear from the road are the main causes of oxidation.
Every time you drive, small stones and particles kick up under the vehicle and open the door for penetration when they nick or chip the paint.
The front fascia and areas near the wheels are particularly susceptible.
Floorpans are prone to rust because the paint can break down from prolonged exposure to water.
Any area with a leaky seal can lead to water seepage and corrosion. This includes headlights, the trunk, window seals, and any attachments bolted onto the body panels.
Areas that receive significant snowfall are typically at the highest risk of rusting because of the brine solution used by state snowplows to reduce dangerous ice and snow accumulation.
This is why they typically advise people seeking rare car parts to search for rust-free components in the southern states.
Rust has a manner of eating vehicles from the inside out.
No matter how people may try to hide it, it has a habit of coming back. This is why they suggest that you never buy a freshly painted late-model vehicle.
It is smart to question the reason why a car or truck has had a new paint job done, whether it be relatively new or and older model.
A freshly painted vehicle can be a temporary way to hide rust repairs done or a sign the vehicle was in a pretty bad accident.
There is never any surefire way of knowing whether rust will return or not.
For this reason, there is no such thing as a rust repair warranty from a car rust repair shop. The metal is often contaminated with microscopic particles that act like seeds which re-incubate and start the process all over again.
Repairing rusted parts and treating them with rust inhibitors may slow down the process to unnoticeable levels.
However, they don't call severe rusting "cancer" for nothing. It has a tendency to spread because even one cell or other cells on the brink of forming rust can bring it right back overnight.
Now that you know that rust is more or less a Yankee problem and where it starts, let's consider how to prevent it.
Many people in the North and bad snow areas invest in additional undercoating materials.
This is usually a spray-on thick tar-like substance that adds an additional layer of protection in the underbelly of the vehicle where debris and saltwater are likely to penetrate.
This is a great investment all year round if you drive on roads that were treated with brine solution at any time of the year.
However, the brine solution has an additional curse in deer season.
The salt attracts the deer to the highways like an intoxicating drug and often leads them into the path of motor vehicles, potentially causing major auto body damage.
In the Midwest, most deer-vehicle accidents happen in October, November, and December, where there is snow and salt trucks on the roads.
Read our post about what you should do if you are in an automobile collision in Illinois here.
Some additional steps you can take are to check your vehicle for leaky seals often and spray down the undercarriage in an automatic car wash to get salt and other residues removed.
Most of the automatic car washes in our neck of the woods have a feature to powerwash your underbody.
If you can't find such a luxury, try running the vehicle back and forth over a lawn sprinkler to get up in there and wash the salt off.
If you notice any dings, nicks, or dents, you should quickly touch them up with clear-coat nail polish or the factory paint touch up kits available at your dealership in color-match kits.
This can be done by rubbing down the surface with brillo or a Dremel bit to remove any visible rust and preparing for the touch up by wiping it clean with mineral spirits to promote adhesion and bonding.
If you notice corrosion starting anywhere, you need to slow it down or stop it by taking it to a car rust repair shop that specializes in rust repairs as soon as possible.
The corrosive nature of the rust will cause the car to eat itself from the inside out, and you won't notice the rust until it's already done damage.
The rust gurus here at Todd's Auto Body have spent countless hours dealing with the difficult corrosion problems facing cars and trucks on the roads today.
We know how to isolate the rusting areas to prevent contamination from returning.
Although we cannot provide a rust repair warranty, we can promise you that we will do everything in our power to reduce the odds of rust returning (within your budget). That is the trade-off ultimately.
We can replace every panel in the vehicle and virtually eliminate the risk or use our experience to hedge against rust with a more budget-oriented wager.
Please call us or stop by today to get a free estimate on your car or trucks rust repair cost.
You can also use our Get Estimate form to get a quick estimation before you hit the road.