Rust is the blight which effects cars around the world. If you're fortunate enough to live in a warm, dry climate like California, it's a much easier battle keeping it at bay. However, for those of us in the U.K. where the climate is perfect for honing those dark brown patches on your vehicle's bodywork, it's a real pain keeping it from worsening.
So, what causes rust on cars?
In an interesting article from PopularMechanics.com, it states; 'Rust is the layman's term for the electrochemical breakdown of iron-based metals called oxidation. In this process surface molecules react with oxygen in the air and produce a new molecule, Fe2O3, otherwise known as iron oxide'. Of course, some cars are more susceptible to rusting, especially older models which simply didn't have the same oxidisation-prevention technology that goes into many of today's modern cars, and it's always best to visit owner's website to see how the car your looking at fares over time.
So, what can be done to prevent rusting?
Should you live in a climate near to the sea, or in a country where the lay salt in winter, these can massively impact on a car's bodywork and chassis, so wash it regularly with high-quality car shampoo. If you've got a pressure-washer, give it a blast underneath too, as the chassis is just as susceptible as the bodywork to rust, if not more so.
In fact, for the underneath of the car I would use an undersealant to prevent corrosion, especially if it's a few years old. Underbody sealant comes in a couple of forms: spray or hand-paint. I prefer the spray as it penetrates more areas than you can get to with a brush, and it's way quicker too. Whichever method you use, it's a very messy job so should you want to keep clean, a garage will usually do it for £100 - £150. Well worth it, but it'll need re-coating every couple of years.
To keep your car's bodywork protected, the best way after washing is to use paintwork sealant and wax. A good sealant will last 6 - 12 months should you use high-quality wax/sealant friendly car shampoo in the meantime, and you can ensure even better longevity by using a spray wax/detailing spray after each wash, plus applying a coat of good car wax every month or two. It sounds a lot of work, but it isn't really, especially considering you're keeping the dreaded rust at bay, and therefore adding value to the car for when it comes to sale time.
Of course, should the rust have already penetrated deeply - signs of which include cracking and bubbling in the paint - you may have to have the bodywork professionally repaired in order to stop it spreading.
However, there are also other ways to stop rust happening. A stone chip or scratch can be deep enough to allow water to penetrate the surface layer, causing oxidation, making the area ugly and badly damaged. Stop stone chips from turning rusty by using ChipEx repair kits.
By getting to the area early, you can effectively protect this from happening. Chipex - sold internationally - sell a seamless car paint touch-up system which has a guaranteed 100% colour match, is simple and quick to use (see my other blog post on How to Repair Car Paint Stone Chips), and can save you a lot of money normally spent on a respray. Save yourself lots of future hassle with bodywork rust, take the simple precautions above to stave it off, and your wallet will thank you!\\
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