Rust never sleeps: Here's how you can protect your car
No matter what type of automotive rustproofing protection you favour (electronic, one-time spray, factory coating or annual treatments) there are large gaps in warranty coverage from even the best companies out there. First things first; if you operate a vehicle on public roads 12 months of the year, there really is no such thing as rustproofing. About the best we can hope for is to slow down Mother Nature’s ravage of our daily drivers so that the loan payments end before the sheet metal. We really can’t stop rust altogether.
All rustproofing suppliers offer pretty much the same warranty; they will repair or replace outer sheet metal panels if rusted through from inside/out and if all other guarantee conditions have been met (annual inspections, reapplications, etc.). But what about all the other steel and iron on the vehicle? Cast iron and steel suspension and steering components, fuel and brake fluid lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and straps can all be affected by rust and can bring major repair bills. Is there anything we can do to extend the life of these components?
1. Park carefully. Parking your vehicle on grass, dirt, snow or poorly drained surfaces is just asking for rust to come and take up permanent residence in your vehicle. As our vehicles spend most of their idle time at our place of residence, tackling the home-parking front can go a long way to keeping rust at bay. If you think investing in a driveway improvement is too expensive, ask your regular repair garage for some cost estimates on replacing brake rotors, exhaust systems, suspension control arms, fuel tank and the like and you’ll quickly find the financial justification. Don’t rest easy if your parking lane is paved. Old cracked asphalt surfaces can provide just as much moisture to the undercarriage of your chariot as a dirt field in spring. Even applying a layer of asphalt sealer can help out.
2. Keep it clean. Most of us like to keep the paint work and interior of our vehicles clean, but what about the underbelly? If you drive on gravel or dirt roads or take an off-road adventure from time to time, the mud and gunk that can collect underneath your vehicle will act as a moisture trap increasing the speed with which your wheels will head to the scrap yard. Check horizontal surfaces under the car/truck such as control arms, skid-plates, axles, etc. from time to time and do a little down-and-dirty cleaning when needed. If you don’t have a pressure washer, a garden hose and stiff brush will do. You may have to jack the vehicle to improve clearance, so make sure you take the necessary precautions with proper jack supports and wheel chocks and have a spotter standing by.
3. Keep it full. One of the most expensive repairs a driver can face because of rust is the replacement of a fuel pump module (the electric fuel pump and level sender unit located in the tank). While the interior parts of this piece (which can range in price from $300-$1500 plus labour) are well protected, its metal top plate and output lines are very exposed and prone to rusting. Fuel tanks and their parts can be attacked from two sources of moisture leading to rust. The first is external and the second is internal condensation caused by the difference between liquid fuel and outside air temperatures in a humid environment. Keeping the fuel tank topped off during the wet seasons can help to reduce the condensation effect. It also provides better traction in snow and on icy surfaces.
4. Blow it clean. On trucks and SUVs with large fuel tanks, the dirt, dust, and road grime that can collect on the top of the tank can lead to premature rusting of the fuel pump module. The labour involved in periodically lowering the tank to inspect and clean off its top can be pricey and can make it hard to justify as a means of extending the life of the pump module. A safe DIY method involves spraying compressed air on top of the tank while it’s mounted in its location to dislodge any debris or gunk. Use safety goggles and go easy on the air nozzle trigger as small stones can hurt when propelled by compressed air.
5. Spray it on. While no rustproofing company will guarantee undercarriage components against rust, that’s not a reason to not have the more vulnerable iron and steel parts treated. You can purchase aerosol cans of rust inhibitors at most auto parts stores, or you can have the pros take care of it for you. If doing it yourself, avoid getting any spray on brake rotors, drums, linings, or calipers. Keep it off hot surfaces such as catalytic converters and exhaust components as well as away from electrical wiring and connectors. Don’t overdo it. It’s better to perform annual touch-ups rather than try to lather on enough protection for the next decade.