Car Rust and Safety

1991 Honda Accord EXR station wagon, 200K mi, bought new: severe rust on all body panels; frames from rear rocker panels up around fender by rear doors is completely gone; rust continues around wheel wells to tail lights; one rear fender has what looks like a compression fold/crack forming in middle; rust on frame members rocker panels and door bottoms. Our winters can reach -70 degrees F and metal gets brittle. Is this car safe to drive? I don’t think so; wife believes it is.

Put a pillow under your butt! It might break in half at the next railroad crossing!


I’d hate to have a door rust off during a -70 day. It surely isn’t safe.

I would take it to the wrecking yard. You’ve described a car that no longer is structurally sound.

Bouvgirl, One Cold Day Those Termites Will Quit Holding Hands To Stay Warm And That Thing Will Turn Into A Pile Of Rust Dust!

It’s better to step away from it slowly now rather than trying to be thrown clear to safety at say, 68 mph, when it immediately and unexpectedly reverts back to raw materials from whence it came, unless you’re Wylie Coyote.

You nonchalantly state, ". . . one rear fender has what looks like a compression fold/crack forming in middle . . . "
Here’s a little safety tip for you. Any situation in which one can readily apply the theories of Plate Tectonics and/or Volcanology to an automobile is really just Mother Nature’s way of politely saying that it’s time to start seriously considering, “What the hell am I doing?”

Key Words and phrases: rust, severe, all body panels, completely gone, crack, fold, frame members, is it safe? NO

I agree with the others that this car is unsafe and it really needs to make a one-way trip to the car crusher.

It’s had a good long service life and it’s time to throw in the towel when the rust gets this bad.

During this last Winter a mechanic friend of mine asked me to bring my car in to “match it up” with another of the same year & model . . . which was rusted a lot worse than mine. He put both up on the lift, side by side and began poking the “frame” and structural areas with a screwdriver with the owner of the other car watching. This convinced her to retire the car, despite the nearly flawless running engine/transmission/brakes/electrics. Rust can be a killer. The subject cars, BTW, were '89 Accords. Why don’t you try something like that instead of wondering when the accident will happen? Rocketman

Bouvgirl; it looks like you’ve reached the end of the road with this one. We have scrapped two cars in the past with similar levels of corrosion. The -70F is not as critical as the fact that the structural strength of the cars has likely deteriorated to the point of DANGER!

One car we scrapped had structurally rusted to the point that when you drove over diagonal (at an angle to the road) railroad tracks the car would flex so much it started steering in another direction.

What will be your or your wife’s undoing in the furture will be a sharp jolt or shock, not necessarily caused by a collison, that will make you lose control of the car.

The posters here are not scaremongering; your car has reached the danger point, and the sooner you scrap it or sell it for parts the better.

Rather than immediately condemn it, why don’t you take it to a competent body shop and have them look at its structural integrity. We don’t know what your idea of bad rust is. For example, what my mother thought was gone turned out to be mostly surface rust. Sanding and some paint and it is good for some more years.

Edit: Or take a picture and post it here!

Surface Rust? Sanding And Painting?

Bouvgirl can try a body shop, but I’m drawn to those key words in the original post.
Key Words and phrases: rust, severe, all body panels, completely gone, crack, fold, frame members, is it safe?

Agree; bondo and paint do not add structural integrity. I’ve seen movies of these old cars without solid frames in crash tests. Only slightly worse than some of the Chinese cars not made for export we’ve been show by other posters.

I scrapped one of my old cars when discovering the jack disappeared into the body (without raising the car) when I tried to jack up the car for rotating the tires. The attendant at the wrecking yard wondered why I was scrapping “such a nice little car”. I took out the relatively new battery and left the rest.

Thanks, but we have tried this some time ago. The body shop man said he was sorry, but he could not do any more rust repairs (We had had several done over the years.) because there was not much left of the car body to which he could attach a new part.
Just replacing one entire rear quarter panel from the roof down would cost over $4,000 for the part alone.

Good point about the bodo, paint, and integrity. The jacking points were beginning to crunch and give when I put the winter tires on last fall.

Being a physical geography (with geology) major a LONG time ago, I found your P.S. illustrative, well put, and scary.

Glad you came to the right conclusion; your car does not owe you anything and it should be gracefully put to rest after years of faithful service.

We dispense techical advice but in all cases your safety is more important than saving a few dollars by hanging onto what is really becoming a “ghost” car.

The last vehicle I had rusted out like yours was a 1988 Corsica with over 372k miles.

Every time I took it out and had to stop, I yelled "YABBA DABBA DOO!!!

The floor was rotted right through when I took it to the scrapper for 50 bucks.

Not safe, dump it before it causes someone to be hurt or killed.

Even if it was safe, which it is not, where is your pride?? Time to surprize her with a nice new shiney thing in the drive.

I Had A Wonderful Old Dodge Aries That I Drove Into The Ground.

But a little bit before that, whenever I would hit a big puddle, the driver’s side floor mat would slap the back of my left calf. It did’nt leave a mark or anything, but it was Mother Nature again, saying “Park this thing before somebody is killed.”

Rust Has Killed Every One Of My Cars, Not Engine Or Transmission Problems.

What do I think of road salt? Don’t ask.

I once had a '69 Torino with a 4 speed, thought I was the coolest thing on the road. One Summer I replaced all of the body parts which were rusty and had it repainted, dark (Presidential) Blue. Beautiful. I spent a whole weekend detailing it after it was painted, cleaning up and such. Sunday night I was ready for my first cruise . . . got in, started it put it in first, let out the clutch and the whole frot (bench) seat flipped backwards to the back seat . . . the floor had rusted through where the seat mounts were. Rust never sleeps. Eventually this great running car went to the crusher. Rocketman