You may have heard the term ‘rust bucket’. Most frequently it’s used to refer to a car, but it can also apply to a ship, truck or even a building. It conjures up an image of an old, unloved vehicle – but, left unchecked, even modern cars are susceptible to rust. Here’s our guide to preventing it.
What is rust, exactly?
To get slightly scientific for a moment, rust is what happens when you get a chemical reaction called oxidation. Iron reacts with water and oxygen, and the result is that flaky, orange-brown coating. It’s a form of corrosion.
Dirt, moisture and rock salt can all cause rust, usually because they build up in places not reached by your usual car-cleaning routine. If a chip, scratch or damage to any painted or coated surface is left untreated, rust can develop. And even though today’s car paints are vastly superior to those of years gone by, vehicles in humid or coastal areas are also more likely to develop rust.
Keep your car clean
Whether you do it by hand, visit the local jet wash or have it valeted, making sure your car is cleaned regularly will help combat rust. While the dirt itself won’t cause corrosion, it can damage your bodywork and expose it to the elements.
If you notice tar or bird droppings on your paintwork, use suitable products to remove them as soon as you can. Take extra care in winter, too – if you’re driving on gritted roads, wash off any residue at least once a week.
It’s important to make sure your car is also as dry as possible afterwards – the underside, as well as the top. Even if the weather is warm, use a microfiber cloth to wipe moisture from areas that aren’t exposed to the air.
Carry out regular inspections
Set time aside to thoroughly check your car for rust on a regular basis. The best way to stop your car going rusty is to make sure there isn’t any to begin with! Wheel wells and bumpers are easy to overlook, so start here. These areas tend to get dirtier, so it can be harder to notice rust spots developing.
You should also check the door frames, and other places where different parts of the bodywork meet, such as around the edges of the bonnet or trunk. Remove floor mats or coverings from the footwells or storage compartments, as moisture can accumulate beneath them, and make sure they are clean and dry.
You should also check the engine and around the battery. Finally, grab a mat to lie on and check the underside of your car. It’s not somewhere most of us look too often, but it’s exposed to moisture and substances that can accelerate rusting.
Treat damage and corrosion
While you’re checking for rust, you should also look for any chips or scratches on wheels and paintwork. If you find any, repair them as soon as possible to prevent rust developing. If the damage is severe and has gone right through to the metal, you might want to take your car to a specialist body shop.
If you find signs of corrosion, you should deal with them immediately to prevent any deterioration. Minor rusting can usually be removed at home; kits containing everything you need are widely available online and in stores. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully. However, if the corrosion is extensive, you’ll need to seek professional treatment for your car.
Choose your parking spot
Try not to keep your car in a damp, poorly ventilated area as this can exacerbate rusting. Driving a car in the rain and then leaving it in the garage can encourage damp and humidity, leading to problems. You might not feel like it, but take a few minutes to remove the worst of the moisture and dry our vehicle as much as you can before going inside.