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All About Rust

What is rust?

Rust is the substance that is formed when steel begins returning to its natural state (iron ore) by combining with oxygen to become ferric oxide. This chemical combining of metal and oxygen is called oxidation. The oxidation of any metal generates corrosion, and the corrosion of iron specifically is what we call rust. The steel from which cars are made is iron alloyed with a small amount of carbon and therefore may rust.
Wherever iron or steel is exposed to air (oxygen), rust is likely to occur eventually. The oxidation process is accelerated by moisture, acid rain, salt and dirt, all of which act as catalysts to speed up the rust process.

Do today's cars still rust?

Yes. Rust can begin in any area of the body, inside or out, that is exposed to the elements. A recent study conducted in America, involving 240 vehicles manufactured in the 1990s determined that 105 of the vehicles (44%) showed signs that rust had formed on the inside of metal panels. The predominant locations were the bottom seams on doors, the front seam on hoods, the lower seam on trunk lids, fender attachment points and petrol filler door areas. Vehicles manufactured today have the same construction as the vehicles studied.
Auto makers protect the outer surfaces of fenders, doors and other metal parts with a zinc coating and paint. Even though inner surfaces, such as door panels or the side of a fender that faces a chassis are coated, it is a much more difficult task to protect those surfaces from rust. Rust may begin on the inner side of the metal that is hidden from view and work all the way through the metal to the outside, painted surface, where it bubbles up and forms a hole in the steel. Rust can begin in any area of the body that is exposed to the elements.
Doors tend to rust at the bottom seam because water, dirt and other corrosive substances fall into the door through the window slot. If drain holes at the bottom of the door become plugged up, corrosives accumulate and rust begins. Rocker panels—which form the metal "step" under the door—are subject to rusting because they are at the lowest point in the car and may accumulate moisture, salt and dirt.
Any place on the vehicle where two pieces of metal are joined is a likely place to detect rust. These joints hold moisture, salt, dirt and other corrosive particles that promote rust. The fender support braces are one primary area of this type. Also, rust can form where paint chips off the outer surface of a vehicle. The front edges of hoods and trunks are common places for rust to appear because they are the most likely areas of a vehicle to suffer paint damage and because water that falls on the vehicle runs down to the edges of the hood and trunk.

Doesn't the manufacturer's warranty on my car cover rust damage?

Most guarantees limit the amount of time they cover rust damage and usually exclude coverage of rust caused by such environmental factors for example, the corrosion warranty for a popular Japanese manufacturer states that what is not covered are, "Factors beyond the manufacturer's Control… Damages and/or surface corrosion problems due to the environment such as acid rain, airborne fall-out, salt, hail, wind storms, lightning, floods, other acts of God and the like are not covered". For a different Japanese manufacturer, their warranty excludes "Damage or failure resulting from stone chipping, chemical fallout, tree sap, salt, hail, floods, wind storm, lightning or other environmental conditions". Another car manufacturer's warranty covers corrosion that causes perforation (rust through) within three years, but if the corrosion does not create a hole (i.e. perforation)-and is not caused by surface paint damage due to corrosive substances, industrial fall out, acid rain, chipped paint, scratches and the like - there is no coverage. You should review your car's warranty guide carefully to determine the extent of corrosion coverage.
How can I protect my car against rust?

Aftermarket rust protection coats the inside surfaces of metal panels to protect them from moisture and other corrosives, preventing rust from starting. This effectively seals out oxygen (air) and H2O (water) from contact with the metal. It's important to rust-protect your vehicle before rust begins. The rust-protection process does not remove existing corrosion, it does prevent future rusting.
Look for a process that uses durable, long-lasting protectant, supported by periodic maintenance, and ensure that the rustproofing is applied by professional, well-trained technicians who use custom tooling to reach and coat all rust-prone areas.
Additionally, wash your car regularly as recommended in your owner's manual, including the underbody, to remove corrosive substances, and clear the drain holes at the bottom of doors and under rocker panels. Spot check and power clean areas of your car that are susceptible to rust to be sure that water, salt, mud, dust-control chemicals and other corrosives are not collecting there.
Does aftermarket rustproofing void the manufacturer's warranty on my car?

No. The overall warranty is not jeopardized by rust protection, but manufacturers will not honor any sheet-metal claims resulting from a faulty application of rust protection. Sheet- metal claims do not pertain to any mechanical or non-corrosion claims. Fortunately, Beam provides a warranty that far exceeds the terms offered by manufacturers.
What guidelines should I follow to determine if my car needs aftermarket rustproofing?

Every car can benefit from aftermarket rust protection in two primary ways:
  1. The physical appearance and performance of the vehicle are preserved.
  2. Its resale value is increased.
If you are leasing your car, remember that you may want to purchase it at the end of the lease term. So whether you lease or own your vehicle, you should have it rust-protected if you plan to keep it for more than two or three years.

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